abdu’l-bahá’s visit to montreal

at the door of the shrine‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, arrived in the city of Montreal after an eleven-hour journey from Boston, on the night of August 30th, 1912. His business, far from any material pursuits, was to spread His Father’s message of universal peace, brotherhood and unity. Settling in to the home of Mr. William Sutherland Maxwell and Mrs. May Maxwell, nestled snugly onto the side of Mount Royal, he declared, “This is my home.” A hundred years later, this house is now regarded as a national Shrine, a grace conferred onto the Canadian Bahá’í community that stands unequalled among most of its sister communities worldwide. Montreal was the only Canadian city he visited during his 239-day-long journey, bestowing a priceless spiritual heritage to that city and to the country of Canada—and, at the same time, making an important and profound social statement.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá had ample reason to come to Montreal: the Maxwell family, with whom he had already been acquainted many years earlier and who would develop a unique and special relationship to the central figures of the Bahá’í Faith, had succeeded in raising up a small but active Bahá’í group there, and it was at their invitation that he made the long trek north from Boston rather than simply cutting across the west on his way to California. But beyond being a gracious visit to long-time friends, his visit to Montreal was also, in a way, an example to the early Canadian believers, many of whom came from Anglophone and Protestant backgrounds, and who carried with them, to varying degrees, the prejudices prevailing in society regarding the French Catholics of Quebec. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, known by the Bahá’ís as the Perfect Exemplar, was no stranger to making examples when there were lessons to be learned, especially when it came to social conventions. He it was who insisted on having Louis Gregory, a black American lawyer, sit next to him at the head of the table at a luncheon in Washington, D.C.—an unthinkable act in a society for which racial segregation was just another fact of life.

It can safely be said that racism is the most challenging issue confronting America, as was stated clearly in a 1991 statement by the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of America, The Vision of Race Unity. Canada’s challenges, though slightly more nuanced, are perhaps just as serious. Broadly, it can be said that intercultural prejudice—a combination of racism, nationalistic sentiment and economic and religious prejudice—is Canada’s most challenging issue. This issue was directly raised by the Universal House of Justice in a message to the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, dated 5 September 1999. As in many parts of the world, the letter explained, Canada is “affected by various social divisions… In Canada’s case, such issues tend to be cultural in nature, particularly those separating peoples of Native and European origin or those between Canadian of French- and English-speaking backgrounds.” These issues, the Universal House of Justice affirmed, are rooted in “long-standing conflicts that weaken the country’s basic social fabric.” Continue reading

victoriaville in high-res satellite photos

du haut de la montagneyay! Google Maps (and Google Earth) finally added high-res satellite photos of my favourite place in the world: Victoriaville. now you can see the house where I lived, the Victoriaville Loblaws store where I worked, the SADC Arthabaska-Érable (where I also worked), the Tim Horton’s where I stopped after getting lost on my first day in Victoriaville, Mont Arthabaska and other fascinating places. If you add MetalToad’s Flickr KML feed, you can even view some of my flickr photos of Victoriaville in Google Earth.

back from sherbrooke / de retour de sherbrooke

so I travelled down to Sherbrooke this past weekend, to visit my friends – the Baha’i youth – and to welcome back Catherine and Geneviève, who’ve been serving in Gabon for the past eight months and a half. It was a treat and a pleasure to see every one of them – I truly enjoyed myself, and felt none of the anxiety I sometimes experience when I’m in social situations. I think I must truly love these youth. I’m certainly proud of their level of energy, their great love for each other, and their willingness to bend their efforts to fulfill the Plan of God for this Day. Remember the Canadian Baha’i National Convention, where Baha’i institutions announced their intention to establish 40-odd intensive programs of growth across Canada to help meet the goals of the current Five Year Plan given to us by the Universal House of Justice? Sherbrooke’s Baha’i community is among those targeted for growth. And to know the Baha’is who live there, you know they’re ready. The love and devotion expressed in that community is awesome. I just hope I can share a part of their path.

C’était avec une grande joie que j’ai pu me rendre à Sherbrooke cette fin de semaine pour célébrer le retour au Canada de Catherine et Geneviève, deux jeunes baha’ies de l’Estrie qui sont parties au Gabon pour presque neuf mois pour enseigner la Foi baha’ie et servir l’humanité. Il y avait plein de monde là pour fêter leur retour, y compris la famille, leurs amis du cégep et de l’université, et bien sûr une gang de jeunes baha’is. Et bien sûr il y avait plein de bouffe (du barbecue, sous une averse de pluie). On a beaucoup jasé, et puis bien sûr on a pris le temps de regarder tous leurs photos du Gabon en format diaporama, avec leurs commentaires. À la fin de la soirée, on est allé voir des films on s’est loué un X-box on a enlevé les tresses à Catherine et on s’est couché tard. Le lendemain, après un bon déjeûner, du bon jasage et un fracas au Pictionary, moi, David et Karine ont repris la route pour Ottawa.

Ça me fait remémorer mes années de service au Québec de revoir Cat et Gege, de les entendre raconter leurs histoires de bonheur et de malheur. Il y a quelque chose qui se passe quand on est pionnier pour sa Foi qui provoque un changement, non, une transformation profonde, et ce pour tous et chacun sans exception. Ça m’a vraiment touché d’être ramené à réfléchir sur cette transformation en l’observant dans les autres.

Cette transformation intérieure dans nous-mêmes provoque des changements externes, bien sûr – on devient plus à l’aise avec le service parce qu’on connaît ça. On comprend mieux ceux qui souffrent, qui se sentent seuls ou désespérés, parce qu’on a vécu ça. Et, du moins je l’espère, on comprend un peu mieux ce que ça veut dire d’aimer Dieu et de s’en remettre à Lui. Tous ceux qui songent à servir en tant que pionnier, et même ceux qui se demandent s’ils auront jamais la force ou la foi ou le détachement nécessaire pour une telle affaire, faites-moi confiance – allez-y, et mettez le doute à côté. Et ceux qui ne peuvent pas? Participez dans les programmes intensifs de croissance, joignez-vous à un cercle d’étude, ou, si vous êtes animateur, offrez-en un à votre cercle d’amis qui cherchent à connaître la foi baha’ie, ses écrits et ses principes. Chacun de nous peut laisser son empreinte et contribuer au Plan Divin.

C’est tout pour l’instant, mais gardez l’oeil ouvert pour des photos de la fin de semaine sur mon site flickr!

concours de pompiers

allez voir ça – à Victo ils ont eu un concours de pompiers d’à travers le Québec… ils ont plein de photos. voilà un autre article à propos des compétitions, et puis un autre au sujet du défilé mouillé… ça paraît peut-être bête de souligner tout ça mais bon… j’aime bien suivre les nouvelles de Victo… et puis au travail je suis entouré de femmes qui parlent très souvent de pompiers (qu’ils sont beaux ces pompiers!) alors ils vont bien aimer ça…

ah oui et pendant que tous le pompiers étaient occupés avec leurs olympiques, un bâtiment de ferme a brûlé jusqu’aux cendres… tous les bêtes qui s’y trouvaient sont présentement en route vers le McDo.

and just in case you didn’t understand all that, it was about a weekend-long firefighters’ skill contest in Victoriaville. aaaaaaaand while they were all busy competing, a barn burnt down and grilled a bunch of cows… trip to McDonald’s to celebrate, anyone?

histoires de chez nous / random tidbits and such

C’est de moins en moins souvent que je mets à jour mon site avec du matériel franco pour mes amis du Québec, et j’en suis désolé… mais par exemple, vous allez peut-être aimer ce qui suit – il s’agit de quelques histoires reliées aux baha’is du coin de Victo:

So here’s a few interesting things I’ve come upon lately…

Last but not least… sometimes we work all day at the office, rushing this way and that, and when we get home our brains are mush and we don’t have the energy to lift a finger. Likewise, sometimes we’re so run down by the anxious, frantic pace of life that we’re too tired to serve humanity or teach the world about the Baha’i Faith – and all we want to do is rest. And then we read something like this and we get back up off our butts and get real.

Right?

teaching trip wrap-up

Martin called today while on his way to a Teaching Committee meeting, asking how my trip went. I said it went well, and the wrap-up would be posted on my blog soon in case he wanted a full story. He said he didn’t want to have to read through my long posts, and would I please give him the abridged version. It went something like: “It was good, I went to Drummondville, then Victoriaville, met lots of folks, got caught up, helped out, and oh yeah, talked to a few people about Bahá’u’lláh.” So, if you’re looking for the short version, there it is, you can stop reading now – otherwise, keep reading.

Sunday morning, after a long day of hauling shingles around in the oppressive heat on top of the roof, I woke up to more crazy Shih Tzu tongue, more stomping around, and sounds of breakfast and pleasant socialization upstairs in the kitchen. I groggily eased myself out of bed and checked the time – #@%@*&, it’s not even 8:00!!! – and ambled headlong into a nice, refreshing shower. Today there was a different crew; Laurent stayed in Warwick for the day, and Chakda (Geneviève’s brother-in-law) was preparing for his thesis defense back in Sherbrooke. Instead, we had a slew of hefty, pure-laine Québécois neighbours from down the street helping us out, along with Benoît and Aurélien, a local Baha’i father-and-son team. Aurélien recently celebrated his 19th birthday; I gave him a copy of the Adam Crossley / Nine Point Landing CD I got at Unravel the Mysteries (I hope he likes it). Anyway, I hauled away and played gofer until around noon, when it was time for me to start packing up. Before leaving Victoriaville, though, I sat in on the 19-day Feast and told everybody stories of how Baha’i activities are doing in Ottawa, as well as showing them the pictures I took. It was beautiful. Victoriaville Feasts are small, to be sure, and a little disorganized compared to Ottawa Feasts. But that’s a temporary condition. It took over sixty years for Ottawa’s Baha’i community to grow to the point it’s at today. These folks are just setting out on their journey, and there’s a long road ahead of them, filled with divine confirmations just waiting to rain down on whoever puts their trust in Bahá’u’lláh and steps out into the arena of service.

One thing I learned during this trip is that progress can be slow, but it happens. While I was in Victoriaville pioneering my time pioneering (in case you’re wondering, that’s Baha’i shorthand for “going somewhere and staying for a period of time to help advance the progress of the Baha’i Faith”), everything seemed to go so slowly and I always wondered when things would finally get moving. I didn’t realize until now that things have been moving, in God’s time. Sometimes people do their very best to make things happen their own way, to convince others that theirs is the way to go, and so on – and meanwhile, God’s plan is in motion, setting things up in the background, making things happen slowly but surely, changing hearts one by one, a little at a time. We can either help that process or hinder it, but in the end, God’s will shall be done.

Going on this trip renewed my confidence. Bahá’u’lláh writes, “The source of courage and power is the promotion of the Word of God, and steadfastness in His Love.” It gave me courage to be able to tell people about His message for humanity. Sure, I didn’t do a perfect job of it, and I could have done more of it, more frequently, with more zeal and vigour, but I did what I could. I got to encourage a lot of my Bahá’í friends who were downhearted, and bring some light and joy into their lives. I got to be a “servant of the servants”. That meant a lot to me, and it made me feel like I was really making a difference. Beyond that, it just felt good to do – it felt right, like I was fulfilling my life’s purpose. That’s a great feeling. As well, going on this trip restored much of the confidence I lost after leaving Drummondville last year in the throes of a crushing depression. I felt the difference between then and now – and all the healing that’s come since last summer. I realized, I CAN do this. I CAN live my life in accordance with Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings. I felt intensely thankful.

Sahba suggested to me that I could get some Ottawa youth together for a teaching trip in the Drummondville/Victoriaville area sometime, perhaps during the summer. That could be interesting… it’s not too far from Ottawa, it’d give people a chance to practice their French, and it’d be easy to hook up (since we already have an ‘in’ with those communities already)… even better would be to have some of the Baha’i youth visit one of the native reserves out that way. There’s a pow-wow in Odanak in the first week of July… sound interesting, anyone? Let me know and we’ll hook something up… I was already planning on going down there and joining in for a day. Inshallah.

Ok, Catherine’s going crazy on me so I think I’m gonna have to go. Otherwise she might start attacking my keyboard and making me type all sorts of random letters. So, in conclusion I wish you all a good night, a pleasse aof gseok okergk, gerso[,gas’; sagl,regs,erl’,reagr4eyhagy89a 98 earha r hearjae rjejraHBRRE%HYU%$

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