Catherine Doherty on "Being a Prayer" Print
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 19 September 2010 17:51


An LA friend sends this rare and wonderful video of Catherine Doherty, founder of Canada's Madonna House, and one of the great pioneers of the lay apostolate.  She is speaking in 1979 to a group that many Catholics around the blogosphere today would regard as an oxymoron:  Eastern Catholic Charismatics.

And why not?  Eastern Christianity possesses a remarkable and deep understanding of the Holy Spirit.  The Church is so much larger than our shibboleths!  It was so unexpected, I couldn't help but laugh.

Catherine is radiant.   but her accent is not as strong as I had thought from biographies about her.

And boy, had she earned the right to speak about God and being a prayer.  What a life!

Born into the lower ranks of the Russian nobility, Catherine lived through and survived the Russian Revolution, wealth and dire poverty, near starvation, immigration to North America, being a battlefield nurse in the First World War, the Spanish civil war, the Nazi invasion of Poland, an unfaithful and abusive husband, life in the segregated slums of Harlem, and violence at the hands of well-to-do, white Catholics in the American south.  She was married twice - once miserably when she was only 15 years old, and again very happily at 43. In a note that sound so very contemporary, her only child was abused by a Catholic priest in his boarding school and she knew nothing about it.

Catherine was a big woman with an in-your-face personality and an out-of-the-box call from God.  She founded two movements: one was a pioneering civil rights movement in the US, which she was eventually forced to leave, and the second, Madonna House which she founded at age 51 and which continues to flourish today.  Throughout her life, she inspired ardent devotion and fiery opposition while she lived the inner life of a mystic.

She strove to bring together the Russian Orthodoxy of her childhood with her adopted Catholicism and lived spiritual ecumenism.

Watching the video will be well worth 6 minutes of your time.