Have you ever seen God? Would you know what to look for, if you knew for a fact that He would show his face? Do you know for sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists?
Of all the meetings that I have been going to over the last five and a half years, there is one true location that God seems to make his presence known to people in attendance. That meeting would be Tuesday’s Beginners. St. Leon’s is a hallowed church in Westmount. And the members of our meeting never shy away from the spiritual and better yet, none of our members take for granted the fact that they can talk about God as they would any other subject.
Our meeting has been in existence for over 56 years. Several incarnations later and decades following we have seen people come, and go and come and go and come again… And I can tell you with certainty that I have seen God move throughout the room. There is just a feeling, a visual of light that comes from above (the church) and comes down through the ceiling and rests in the middle of the room.
People are having spiritual experiences, and we see it happen week in and week out. People remark that they feel so safe and comfortable in our room. And we find that slippers come back to us to restart their “journeys” after periods of further alcoholic experimentation. Another woman returned to us after a decade of struggle. Today’s topic was “what do you do to guarantee your sobriety?” Nothing guarantees our sobriety better than intensive work with another alcoholic.
My friend KEN came up from Toronto – one of my readers here at my blog. We met some weeks ago at the memorial service for his brother Craig, at St. James United. I had invited him to a meeting when he came to visit. He came to our meeting today, and what a joyous time we all had. We get visitors from all over the world – come to our meeting, and they all leave with a sense of calm and sober understanding.
The last visitor who came to our meeting and told us that God did not exist and that he was a confirmed Atheist, left that meeting and never returned! ‘Coincidence?’ I think not.
On the way home tonight I was walking with Louise and I told her about my perception of God’s power and light finding its way into the meeting and she said to me, “You aren’t the only one to say that, many people believe that God visits our meeting because we honor Him and we talk about Him and we pray to him unified and believing.
So many people have come through our room, and we are as constant as the North Star. We are a place of safety and love. We are always welcoming and spiritually centered, even when we run insane and crazy, the one true fact is that I believe that tonight, like may nights before, God came, saw and shown his light to those who were there.
A woman who had returned spoke of God to me after the meeting. And I told her “you saw the light, have you!” He was here; he is always here, because we seek him with sincere and humble hearts. We gather in his name, there is not one non-believer in the group. Yet we don’t push religion – or faith. But we speak boldly about a Higher Power, who just happens to be God for many of us.
I have seen him change hearts and heal lives and He has made people well, and sober. He has carried their burdens and held them when they wept. He has blessed so many with good things, and people come to express gratitude for all great things, and we all know that there are no coincidences. Everything happens for a reason. People are put into our paths for specific reasons if you are able to divine those reasons as the need arises.
I see the face of God in the people I serve. I see the Christ in those who struggle and I see the spirit in those who have been renewed and healed. Look out into the trees and see his divine hand in creation, in the fall, see him paint the city in colors as bright as the sun. And in the Winter I wait for the silence, for that one true night when the clouds fall and the hush falls over the city as the first flake of winter snow falls, I rush outside and I welcome the voice of God as he whispers to the city… “I am here…”
I have seen him, and I know his voice…
And if you hear his voice today, Harden not your hearts.
I’m reading again, “I Heard the Owl Call My Name” and I am in the mindset to write about the custodianship of the living earth. The earth is in a shift, I think we can all agree on that – and attention is now on prevention and maintenance of the earth as it exists today. I have written recently about the fact that many people in my own community are not “Being Maintained” by anyone, they are lost among the crowd, banished to sidewalks, doorways and shelters. What can I do to change that? Write…
What if the governments of the world decided to stop warring and fighting amongst themselves? How much money would we have to spend on other things like food, shelter and water? I heard a comment on late night radio last night that
“There will be wars fought over drinking water!”
I am sure that there are some who think about the Order who seek to bring down the number of earths inhabitants by the millions. There is a surplus in population in certain areas of the world, and for some that is too much, and they would rather see them eradicated than to house and feed them.
The earth is sputtering on its axis. Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Hurricane, Oceanic changes to salinity and food source and the cooling of warm water fisheries all over the globe are causing catastrophic changes to major areas of the worlds oceans. How many more signs do we need from Mother Earth to tell us that something is wrong? And if we don’t stop with our preoccupation with war, division, killing and ignorance, that when “IT” happens we will not survive whatever IT will unleash.
I know better than to sit in my what if’s and coulda, woulda, shoulda! I can look out my windows from here and see trees and grass and the mountain off to the North. We can look out at our world and know that there are forests and people and animals who live amongst that forest. Forests are burning – trees are dying – infestations of beetles are killing swaths of forest across Canada, borne on the winds moving West to East. But I wonder what haven’t we done as custodians of the earth to try and mitigate these things from happening.
What if, The Almighty came down from heaven and told warring factions to lay down their arms, and those in power were removed and power was granted to the masses to govern themselves and the wars stopped all over the earth, not just in certain areas. All the warring areas on the globe. What if we heard from on high that “they” believe that wars fought over ideologies and factions needed to end today, right now, for us to stop killing each other and become custodians to one another. How would that change the face of the earth?
Is there a way for the world to get up and state unanimously that the wars should end? Can we impeach presidents around the world, in countries that are sponsoring, funding and are waging wars on other peoples? Do you see what I am asking here?
We truly need to depose several key world leaders, and the American President AND his entire cabinet need to be removed from office, sooner than later. Because America has been hijacked and “Nazi Control” is becoming an adjective to explain George W. Bush.
Mr. Bush, we are not With you –
And We Stand Against You!! It is time to leave Office…
DO WE want to maintain another Hitler in office? Do we want this man making law and imposing unconstitutional amendments upon his people and the world? Because if he does it – the world is watching and you know, the only reason Hitler was so successful at what he did in the Holocaust, was because the people listened to him, and if the American President can do what he is doing, that gives free reign to other leaders to do the same!!! Bush still has the ears of many world leaders, who are not MAN or WOMAN enough to say NO! We will not follow you. So what do we do?
There are some in power who would see people determined to be locked down and subjugated. That is already happening all over the globe, in many countries. Darfur, Sudan and in other areas of Africa, people are corralled into camps, with no water, electricity or better yet SHELTER. People are being slaughtered by militia men. We need to stop them and the killing needs to end. Genocide is happening in OUR time once again, and on many fronts, we must stop the genocide because:
“We Have Failed to Remember
and We Have Failed to Never
Let It Happen Again”
In the Middle East, the most contentious area of the globe, not to mention Iraq and the Fertile Crescent area of the world including Afghanistan, the militias and the Taliban are trying to eradicate (on a mass scale) entire peoples akin to the likes of Adolf Hitler. If we prayed for the savior to come again and save us, this would be the time and the place.
We must now act, decisively and verbally. We need to lobby those who are in power to do the right thing. We need to Impeach the President. We need to stop the killing in Darfur, we need to stop the wars in the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan. We need people on the ground who can be trusted to help reconcile the factions that are fighting with each other and those factions who have fighting going on within themselves. We need ambassadors to get in the game and negotiations must be made to end the worlds strife and wars. If we don’t start this now, WHO is going to take our place later to hold those in office accountable for
“Crimes Against Humanity”
It’s not about who – but What is in this photo, read on…
There are too many people around the globe, being ignored. There are entire continents and nations of people that need to be cared for, not to forget those people in warring countries who need to be fed, re-housed and repatriated back to where they came from, those who had to flee to save their own lives. Rich countries sit back and say “we are doing all we can for those inside our borders.”
Yet on the European continent we know for a fact that there are disenfranchised peoples, in the millions, who are not being cared for properly because of the arrogance of status, ethnic superiority and ignorance to accept everyone for who they are not what form of dress or religious affiliation they identify with.
It comes down to the people to start the tide of Anarchy and Dissension. It is time to take back our land and our government from those who have taken it from us. They have been poor stewards of the land, the environment and of peoples. We must stop this – there is too much conflict in the world, so much that any “other” needs are being ignored at the expense of the whole, for a chosen few.
It Is Time to:
Bring the Soldiers Home – Stop the Wars. You either follow certain prescriptions here: (1) You bring ALL warring leaders to Justice, (2) Let them kill each other and save us the headache, or (3) You bring ‘Just’ Diplomatic Solutions to Warring Factions and Areas – and Sit Down and HAMMER out Peace Agreements and Co-Existence Clauses.
Isn’t it time to sit down and think and come to the realization that what war has done for the last 4 years has NOT worked, so let’s allow the Diplomats to work on Peace.
The Mission is NOT Accomplished.
Peace and Democracy has not been attained and WON’T be attained with the present course of action. WAR does not create Democracy – it Breeds Contempt, Rancor, Hatred and brings Division instead of creating Unity.
In Stopping Wars, Governments Agree to Equal care to all Soldiers repatriated home and for their families. And Agree to Rebuild war torn areas with the funds used to carry out war, and Care for those most affected by the war in their Respective regions.
This applies to Canada and the United States and All Countries involved in wars worldwide. It is NOT Unpatriotic to stand against WAR!! It is NOT Unpatriotic to stand against a President or a sitting Prime Minister.
Democracy is built on the premise of government for the people by the people !! Well People need to start speaking out for Change…
The ‘People’ are being AND have been hugely ignored, save those who support the puppet in office and his cronies he protects. The Ship is Sinking – and is Going down. Who is going to save us? It comes down to us, those of us who are writing around the world, to speak up and ask each and every one of our readers to join this movement. To call your leaders and rulers to task, to make them accountable not only to you the citizens of the country that you reside in, but also to the immigrants who have resettled there as well. Leaders need to be accountable to the earth as well.
Or We Shall Pay when Catastrophe Occurs
We cannot remain self absorbed and self centered. We must step beyond the borders of nationalism and ethnic superiority. We all must be made equal, in that we must begin to love and take care of each other and to become custodians of the world at large, and it begins with me. It begins with you. It continues with US. We must, with a resounding voice say “we have had enough of this…” It is time to end this.
Before We Kill Each Other Trying to create Peace !!!
We must become better custodians to the earth. If we stop the raping and pillaging of the land, we must stop the wars, we must stop the killing of innocents. We must stop the tide of suicide bombers. West and East must come together. The West and The East must agree NEVER to wage war again, however possible that is… We must find peaceful and RIGHT means to the future sustaining of the worlds populations. We MUST find an earthly solution, if we must, a heavenly solution.
“We Have Failed to Remember
and We Have Failed to Never
Let It Happen Again”
You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes and a no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter
Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At Home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,
Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.
Survival in Auschwitz
As part of the Live Earth concerts, people are spreading the word about ways to be part of the worldwide effort. I have signed the PLEDGE
Please go to www.liveearth.org and take action yourself.
You can see all 8 Live Earth concerts live and on demand at http://www.liveearth.msn.com – and you can take action there, too!
Thank you so much.
- Christ the Redeemer, Brasil
- The Great Wall, China
- Machu Piccu, Peru
- Petra, Jordan
- The Roman Colloseum, Rome
- The Taj Mahal, India
- Chichen Itza, Mexico
Global vote picks Seven Wonders
The Great Wall of China is among the modern-day Seven Wonders
A non-profit foundation has named the Seven New Wonders of the World at a ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal. The Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu in Peru, Brazil’s Statue of Christ Redeemer, the Colosseum in Rome and Jordan’s Petra all made the list.
The Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza in Mexico and India’s Taj Mahal were also picked, but England’s Stonehenge and the Eiffel Tower in Paris missed out.
Organisers say about 100m people cast votes over the internet and by phone.
The New7Wonders campaign is the brainchild of a Swiss man, Bernard Weber, who has had a varied career as a film-maker and museum curator.
American actress Hilary Swank said at the presentation ceremony: “Never before in history have so many people participated in a global decision.”
Organisers say the contest was a chance to recognise the achievements of societies outside Europe and the Middle East.
There are fears the ruins at Chichen Itza could have too many tourists
The original list of seven wonders was established more than 2,000 years ago by Greek scholars.
It included the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, the ancient lighthouse outside Alexandria, the great pyramid at Giza – the only survivor – and three other long-vanished edifices.
The campaign has been some six years in the making.
But the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) – which has long had its own World Heritage List – has criticised the organisation’s approach.
Unesco argues that the list is very limited. Its own World Heritage List numbers sites including 660 cultural and 166 natural.
Success in the competition will not be popular with everyone.
Archaeologists said the Mayan ruins, at Chichen Itza in south-eastern Mexico could be hit by an avalanche of additional visitors and that the extra wear and tear could force authorities to limit the tourist traffic.
It has been a quiet day today. I have the house to myself. I got some much needed chores done around the house, with musical accompaniment. At 5:00p.m. eastern time, Madge played Wembly in London. It was a great set from Madonna. She sang “Hey You” with a young peoples chorus, “Ray of Light” and “La Isla Bonita” and finally “Hung Up.” It was like going to the concert itself because she had all her dancers, props and even the stage set up for the runway portion of her music. Fantastic. I only video taped the last number.
If you are interested you can visit the “Live Earth.Org Site”
We started watching the concerts last night from Sydney. It is time to get conscious and start making a difference. I am waiting on the new Canadian Tire to reopen up the block before I start my Summer renovations. The “Tire” is upgrading and doubling its size in the mall, and we have some much needed renovations that need to happen as the sun has charred all of our window blinds and they are falling apart. Light bulbs need to be replaced and the new “green” bulbs are not cheap. But nonetheless, Montrealers are very active in the recycling and green initiatives. So we do our part. I don’t have a car so my carbon footprint isn’t that BIG!
So what will you do to change the world? And have you started? Share with my readers what you have done to help the planet. Comments are open and always appreciated.
The unassuming building hides among the homes that line the street where my former High School is located, Palmetto Senior High. You’d never know such a church exists until you happen upon it driving down 120th street. Since many years there are tall sentinel palm trees that line the streets adjacent to the church grounds. This most peculiar “space ship” looking church would gather thousands upon thousands of parishoners over the years.
This would become home for many, and later a place of education for students. An aspiration that was the brainchild of one Rev. Father James Fetscher. The leader of a rag tag bunch of men who knew their faith and led us through life with their wisdom, faith and love. Many of us came to know God here, and many young people came to know the love and forgiveness and most importantly the “acceptance” of Jesus, no matter who we were or what road we traveled.
The landscaping around the Church and school site lends to the natural beauty of the plants and trees and also accents the neighborhood and this oasis of spiritual life is an amazing retreat away from the world outside not far away.
We would walk up the street from the High school and have lunch on the grounds every day during the school year. The proximity of sacred space to the profane world of life and school lent to the fostering of a spiritual life and practice. As long as one kept their minds and hearts on the life of Jesus once could not go wrong.
Looking from the West end of the courtyard and the (then) Religious Education and Youth Ministry offices this is the courtyard of St. Louis Catholic church. I spent many a day and night sitting in this courtyard with my friends, with ministry leaders and fellow parishioner’s who attended mass in this amazing church. The architecture is unlike any church many had ever seen. It’s modern lines and circular and dome themes are prevalent all over the church campus.
There is a noticed departure from sharp lines and corners, the builders of this space, moved away from the “square – box” method of church building when the new sanctuary was built. All the outdoor accents and seating have curved edges which invites people to sit and linger. To gather and converse. To the right of the photo you see a raised seating area, where many of us met to travel around the city on ministry projects and retreats all over the world.
We celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Church outside in this square when I was a teen ager. Imagine the congregation being seated in the square and the celebration of Holy Eucharist in the open air, it was quite an amazing time in our church history.
The Great Doors – each door with its own religious themes replaces wooden doors over the years. Under the most amazing domed reception area outside the main sanctuary and chapel and Blessed Sacrament Chapel which is open twenty four hours a day with someone always praying before the Blessed Sacrament.
Inside these doors sits a baptismal fount / fountain which gurgles with the flow of blessed water for the worshipers in the church as they come to mass. A very holy “oasis” amid the architectural masterpiece that is the main sanctuary of St. Louis.
A very special anecdote: The battle of the aspersorium (L), aspergill (Eng). When the four horsemen where together on the altar, Fr’s Fetscher, Kish, McGowan and Fr. Radloff, on certain holy days when the blessing of the people with holy water would take place, it was a battle of the men to see who would drown the other in Holy Water. As each High Holy Mass was celebrated, the ‘main’ celebrant would usually change. So each would have his turn in dowsing the other with massive amounts of Holy water from the aspergill. It was a hoot to sit on the altar and watch this little ‘in house’ competition progress over the years.
This is the main sanctuary. The most amazing Holy Space ever to be built. Built in the spirit of the Roman Amphitheater style, there is not one bad sight line in the entire space. With the sanctuary in the “round” and banked as the amphitheaters of antiquity, the worshipers are witness to the theatrics of the Holy Mass.
To the right and left of the brick altar area are large blank walls, as I began to attend church here, there was the move from hand held lectionaries-missals and song books to a more multi-media savvy congregation. With hands free worship there wasn’t the need to take the focus away from the action going on – on the altar or within the sacred space.
All of the spoken words, prayers, responses and music and as well, audio visual accompaniment for the mass are projected onto the walls (left and right) of the altar. This audio visual lends to the complete participation of everyone in the worship space. No one is preoccupied with looking down into some book or missal. All eyes are front and center, participating in the rites of Holy Mass and the celebration of Eucharist.
Lighting is a very important component to worship in this space. As you notice in this photograph, light is concentrated on the altar itself, and the congregation is darkened to bring lighted accent to the location of celebration, the ‘focal point’ of the Eucharist, the altar and the main celebrant. Over to the far right of the altar, located off screen is the band pit where the light controls are located. As mass progresses from start to finish, the lighting in the entire sanctuary moves. Lighting is the indicator of movement, and in this space with the wood accents and white walls, light and shadow play off each other as mass is presented each weekend.
Tucked in between the levels of the aisles, are the entrance doors, for entry and exit and also to the left of the altar stones in the funerary doors which allow access for the caskets of the deceased to be brought into the sanctuary for blessed rites of Christian burial. The immense size of the main sanctuary lends to fantastical processions on high holy days and the procession of ministers on any given Sunday.
A wedding procession of a bride through the space to meet her husband at the central point directly in front of the altar bricks is just an amazing vision. Circular lines of the space lend to the flowing of people and ministers throughout the space. There are no sharp corners or the interruption of the flow of people and holiness.
The lighting moves from the main sanctuary to the celebratory area, where the celebrant, lectors and the cantor take their places during mass. Above and behind the main altar you notice the gold colored wall which houses a projection room above and behind the altar space. This back lit screen also adds audio visual accompaniment to the mass.
On any given Sunday you will see the liturgical theme of the day, the liturgical color of the Christian Liturgical season and also progressive slide shows during High Holy Days and celebrations. The ‘Easter Vigil’ is the highest liturgical celebration in this space. Mass on Holy Saturday is the most cosmic and most amazing presentation of high mass theatrical worship I have ever witnessed. The sacred space decorated with the most beautiful of trees, flowers and religious items is just amazing.
If you notice high above the altar upwards towards the ceiling, a notch, following with straight architectural lines of the building, there is yet another space for liturgical decoration. You see the yellow fabric behind the very large cross that hangs behind and above the altar. At the uppermost area of the sanctuary is the highest point of access in the sacred space.
During Advent and the Christmas season, you will see Christmas trees there, high above the altar, as they are also decorated aside the altar proper on the ground level. As you must ponder, with the wide open spaces here in the main sanctuary the eyes are drawn to multiple locations in the sanctuary, as there is much to see. It is a veritable feast for the eyes on any given Sunday.
As the ceiling is formed in wood in circular patterns the cement architecture is in round forms as it encircles the whole of the uppermost sanctuary ceiling. As one looks up at the spectacle of the most beautiful wood form, during the Christmas holidays, you might find an angel hanging over the sacred space, trumpet in hand, announcing the coming of the Christ child. She is a most beautiful angel.
The cross that you see hanging above the altar once stood on the altar during lent. There were years when the passion play was performed on Good Friday, and one of our members, we used to say, “he looked like Jesus,” would play his part. And one would swear that with the lighting technology and the meaning of the mass, that he was actually crucified on that very cross. I remember sitting in my pew weeping for Jesus on that most Holy of days.
The architecture of the sacred space, the interplay of light and shadow and the music of the season and the additional choirs and congregants inside the space made worshiping God and the celebration of the Eucharist an amazing weekly mass event. There has never been another Catholic Church, that I have ever seen built nor operated as this unique church has for so many decades.
To the right of the altar space is the lectern for the cantor or music minister and farther to the right you will see the seating area for the elderly and the handicapped. They are situated right close to the altar which is very important to those who come to hear the word and celebrate in the Eucharist. There is also a cry room, which is located to the upper far left of the frame. There is an old anecdote of the Rev Fr. Fetscher.
On any given Sunday, the good father would be preaching, as he walked around the sanctuary, a child would begin to wail, as the acoustics of the room lends to the reverberation of sound throughout the domed wooden structure, like a divining rod, the good father’s hand would rise as he continued to speak to the congregation, until he zeroed in to the exact location of the wailing child, as the parents attempted to quiet them or move as quickly as possible to the cry room, or out of the church completely, so as not to interrupt the train of the good father’s thought on the topic he was preaching on at the moment.
What is lacking in this new architecture is the lack of ‘old church’ visuals. The absence of statues, a tabernacle and candles as we would see in any given sanctuary in Montreal, in the Gothic and cathedral style church in this historical city of faith. The tabernacle was located in the chapel, then as I see in the photographs to follow, it must have been relocated into the Blessed Sacrament Chapel located in another area of the building.
You will see candles in use during mass and also during Advent. But there are no standing candles in open space within the sanctuary. Fire and soot from candles burning does not lend to the wood building of the sanctuary and the clean lines of the white washed walls.
I have served on this altar as an altar boy, a seminarian, lector and Eucharistic minister. It is a most beautiful vision to stand upon the altar and look out at the massive community of worshipers there to celebrate Holy Eucharist.
The Chapel of St. Louis Catholic Church. These are the stained glass windows that bank the rear wall of the chapel and looks out to the parking lot and new covenant school. Each of the windows has origins in biblical scripture. I want to say that, if memory serves, but don’t quote me on this, but these are images from the book of Revelation.
Somewhere in my mind is a memory of this being mentioned to me at some point of time. In the chapel is where morning masses are held along with the recitation of the Holy Rosary. Funerals are also held in the space, there have been musical accompaniment in this space. This is the space where we buried my paternal grandparents, when Roger and Paul were still music ministers at the Church.
This is the Sacred Space altar and lectern in the chapel. This chapel is also situated in ‘the round.’ the theme of circular space is repeated in all the main buildings in this specific building housing the main sanctuary, chapel and sacristy. There is a logical progression of ever changing architecture on the site moving from the primary sanctuary location which housed religious education, to this sanctuary space which is themed in the circular domed spaces.
As I look at this photo, observing the interplay of light and shadow, you have three elements. The light above the crucifix, the shadow on the walls to either side, and the light that streams in the windows in front of the altar space looking on. With circular space and the accent of internal lighting and the addition of natural light in the chapel and in the hallways of the building, the ‘drama of the spaces’ is made even deeper.
Different from the box – cathedral type church spaces we have here in Montreal, streaming light travels in one direction and towards the floor in our churches. With more rounded buildings such as these, light bends across, down and around the spaces, which brings movement and action to a quiet and sedate space. You do not see modern ‘churches in the round’ in a city steeped in architectural history.
As on kneels before Christ on the cross – you can imagine that – He is there, in the flesh, as you look upon his face, more than once, I imagine in my minds eye, that he is there alive, and beckons us to see Him in his most powerful state, that liminal space between life and death, where we are called to pray and believe that He will rise again on the third day. The crucifix sculpture is one of the most striking images of Christ I have ever seen.
The tabernacle was once located behind the altar beneath the most beautiful crucifix I have ever seen. This most lifelike representation of Christ on the Cross is amazingly detailed in size and scope. To the left of the crucifix is a painting of the Blessed Mother and child. In this sacred space you will find more conventional ‘church’ representations of religious artifacts. It is a most beautiful room to sit and pray, by ones self and ‘in community.’
When I was seeing Fr. Jeff for spiritual direction, some years ago, I would meet the daily group of people who attended the morning mass and we would recite the scriptural rosary every morning. It was an amazing way to star ones day, as the sun rose out of the east, the light would filter in the stained glass windows and illuminate the chapel, those seated in the chapel and as the light changed and light and shadow played off each other to lend such dramatic mood to the sacred space.
So this concludes a tour of my home parish of St. Louis Catholic Church in Miami Florida. I will be adding some more spiritual stories from this place to my ‘pages’ in the coming weeks as I compile my spiritual stories for my next publishing project.
I wanted to say that I agree that “we” are killing our own, in our own communities. The focus of Gay Pride has moved from a “Pride” event to an obnoxious event of pretty buff men who do designer drugs and drink massive amounts of alcohol and try to “Out Queen” the next. The competition for beauty, wealth and attraction has overshadowed the real reason that we celebrate Pride, at least in my opinion having lived with AIDS/HIV for now 13 years. Things were very different a decade ago. My views on Petty, Pretty and Petulant comes from early observations here in Montreal. My visits to TO have all been good. I mean my Montrealer friends go to TO for Pride – they totally ignore Pride here in the city, because it has become somewhat of a joke.
Men who wear leather here think of leather as a fashion accessory not many leather men I know here have any real concept of what it means to me or to the Leather Community at large, but there are some exceptions. Leather here is not the same context as Leather in other cities. My experience of Leather is specific to a time and a location. Leather men here do not like me because they say I am opinionated and rude to the community. Everybody has opinions.
I saw a report on CTV News Net this evening that Toronto is spending upwards of $400,000.00 CAD on advertising for Gay Pride Nationally and Internationally.
Montreal, on the other hand, has nothing on the table as far as I know. Since funding has been cut Provincially. Our Gay Pride has been cut down, moved back on the calendar and it seems very muted from years past. Pride is changing in our fair city. But our Gay Pride is so fractured that I won’t be attending this year once again, because I don’t identify with the Pretty, Petulant, Obnoxious Gay Community. I just can’t be bothered to celebrate Community Pride when the community at large has offered nothing but division and political strife (in our immediate community).
I guess with age came wisdom and living with HIV/AIDS for so long, knowing what Pride meant to me and my community when AIDS and Death was staring us in the face, the celebration of family, friendship and community meant more to us then, because we knew many of us would not live to see it the following year, all that has changed.
The respectful “Pride for Life” has turned to a Pride of materialism and addiction, of division and hatred amid our own ranks, and the disrespect of those who are living with illness (HIV/AIDS) by those who are not is outrageous. That is why I do not celebrate Pride because the community that once was, is no more, and since I am clean and sober and my focus on life has changed since I got married a few years ago, being a Queen for a day doesn’t matter as much to me anymore, because there are far better things for me to spend my time doing, like writing, education, support and living each day for all it is worth.
So I am posting a piece of the article I wrote for Best Gay Blogs today and it is also posted on my blog as well, you can come read the rest of this post. I saw a discussion about PRIDE in the future, “Will we have Pride in 20 years?” I agree that the further gay makes it into the everyday lexicon of acceptance, we will begin to assimilate into community and the need to differentiate ourselves will become pointless.
I am a great supporter of the labeling of sexuality and life to end. Over the last 40 years I have watched what labels do to people across the board.
Nowadays when I work with young people “coming out” I tell them to go out into the world and not worry about differentiation and labels. Find a place to live, a good job and someone to love who will love you in return. And disclose only what you need to – to those who need to know.
How much easier life would be if the world was not so caught up in divisive labels – if we learned to live together in harmony, religiously, sexually orientedly, racially, and personally and politically. There is so much division in the world, that I sometimes wish that the LGBTQ people in the world would begin to change the world in ways that regular people could not.
We have seen so much hatred that couldn’t we at least begin to work to build communally and earthly, instead of worrying about differentiating ourselves from the whole of humanity? I mean, what if Pride became a unifying festival instead of a divisive one – we see this division happening worldwide in cities that LGBTQ Pride events are causing such problems.
If we were proud and knowledgeable you’d think that in today’s day and age, we would find a way to build bridges in communities instead of creating brush fires all over the world. So here are some of my thoughts on Pride as they came to me the other day…
Speaking on the subject of Deitrich Bonhoeffer…
A discussion was entertained in class about faith in action, as a model of discussion after viewing a film on Bonhoeffer and his thoughts on church and discipleship.
“Cheap grace is grace without the Cross of Christ, Costly grace is earned through the Gospel. Nothing can be cheap that is costly bought.”
What is the Word of God? Answer: What is it we are called to do? Ethics are an act of faith. The old ideas of ethics are out the window as times have changed. Sometimes we must compromise our understanding of ethics to do the right thing. The purpose of ethics is to change the world for the better. Nothing in the scriptures of Christ compels one to destroy the world.
So one of my classmates asked “Why is faith so weak?” My answer to that question was this. In today’s fast paced – got to have it now – the quick fix path please – how many men and women of faith are actually going to invest ample time, talent and treasure to the works of strong and active faith? There is no economic win fall in active faith. There is no economic payout for the work of active strong faith. And if there’s no win in it for me – then why bother.
NOT MANY would invest in Strong Active faith.
Another classmate speaks up and says – the Evangelicals have money and they have active faith. Yes, they go to church, they get their literal judgment and they give A LOT of money to political parties to get them elected and maybe some will sponsor a child in a third world country or better yet, they might do something small “in town.”
YOU WANT TO END THE WAR IN IRAQ…
The Evangelicals and the Fundamentalists will pray and pay and elect their chosen ones to office AND then they send their children to Iraq to fight the war for George W. Bush. Because George W. Bush is a faithful Christian Man who knows best, RIGHT!!!
I PROPOSE that we ENLIST every Evangelical and Fundamental Christian MAN in the United States (EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM) and we send THEM along with their children to fight in Iraq.
Sure as Shit this war would end – and very quickly.
We could clear out the Red States of all of their men and when they start dying by the thousands you know their wives and daughters will STOP this WAR outright…
You want to see Strong Active Faith, Send all the men who voted for Bush INTO harms way and see how long the killing lasts!!!
Ethics… Do you think Bush thinks about Ethics as he sends our young people to die, do you think he thinks about ethics in killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and occupies their country? Does this war sound a little Hitlerian to you???
The only reason Hitler succeeded in doing what he did was because people listened to him. Even today the people of Great Britain and the United States are listening to a Mad Man. We are killing generations of people and we are killing our own in this needless war. So there is massive killing on both sides. Is this Ethical, I ask you!!!
And Hitler was found in a ditch, covered in Petrol… burned to death…
Do you feel guilty about your SUV? That long distance flight to a vacation hotspot? Living in a big house?
Well, you should – and I really don’t see how, with all the ardent clerics of the great global warming crusade sermonizing at full gear, you can not feel guilty.
Well, help is on the way – or more accurately – it’s already here. Keep that SUV; drive it even more; add a few rooms to that monster house; and fly, fly away.
Carbon offsets will allow you to maintain your prodigal lifestyle – and – they will minimize or neuter your environmental guilt.
As with all truly monumental innovations in hypocrisy, carbon offsets had their grandest showcase debut at the Academy Awards.
At this year’s gala, the most pampered and overpaid people on this green planet were not given their usual 100,000 dollar gift bags just for showing up. Instead they were give a special glass sculpture, encased in which was a carbon offset certificate for 100,000 pounds of … CO2 – the dreaded greenhouse gas.
Thus if Brad wants to fly by private jet, or Paris wants to hop back and forth to Europe, or Jen wants to add an Escalade or two to the Prius fleet, they were assured that somewhere in the world a band of peasants would be planting some trees, or installing low energy lightbulbs to offset the celebrities’ carbon-burning ways.
The band Coldplay, even earlier, promised to have planted 10,000 mango trees in India to offset the carbon costs of producing their new CD. It was known as the Coldplay forest. By the way, it came a cropper. The band found it couldn’t manage a forest in India while on tour in North America. Imagine – a rock band not able to juggle silviculture and music making.
And now here in Canada, Air Canada – always on the tip of progressive social action – is going to give you the option of “volunteering” a carbon offset fee. Since air travel is a major source of global warming emissions, Air Canada now lets you pay a fee for feeling guilty about filling up their planes. Well, as someone has already pointed out – they charge for meals, pillows and headsets – why not put a surcharge on the guilty consciences of all those people in the middle seats.
WestJet by the way, was way out in front on this. WestJet doesn’t put the conscience fee on the customer – WestJet buys the indulgence for you. This is better than Coldplay.
The great thing about carbon offsets – aside from the fact that so far they are not regulated – is that they put a price on environmental guilt. And so far, that price is not high. 20 bucks will buy you about 4,400 pounds of CO2. Just think, as you taxi in to Vancouver airport after a flight from St. John’s, somewhere in Honduras, or India, someone is hammering away at a new windmill, or planting more mango trees, so that you can step off the plane with a self-satisfied smile on your face – because you have “neutralized” your carbon footprint.
Carbon offsets are the way to go. Do everything you have ever done. Do more if you can. You can buy forgiveness from poor battered Gaia, and feel like Leonardo di Caprio on the bow of the Titanic – king of the global warming world – if you have absolved yourself with 20 bucks to Air Canada, or a carbon offset certificate from the legion of companies now in the hot air conscience business.
For the National, I’m Rex Murphy.
A snapshot of what was added to my Mission Statement above…
All I need is some serious investors that want to help me build it. If you know anyone with a cool few million dollars to spare, let me know.
**Updated May 9, 2007**
We Now Have a floor plan drawn out for designers and real estate companies. It is quite incredible. I sat down and sketched out what my vision of the location will look like. I know what colors will be incorporated and I am thinking of getting some of our “urban artists” to paint murals on some of the interior walls. Oh, this is going to get exciting.
Imagine the following: We call this the Camille Levesque Centre.
I find myself drawing out floor plans, decorating the space in wondrous colors and comforts of home. On one floor a dedicated space to a “Club Room.” A club room for recovering people that opens at 7 a.m. and stays open until midnight. Manned and staffed with a kitchen, coffee bar, facilities and comfy sofas, tables and chairs.
Where we would host meetings all day into the night (Imagine a dedicated meeting space in the same location every day, throughout the day). This DOES NOT exist in Montreal, but it does in Miami and is a very big draw to recovering people.
Imagine that there are offices to be housed by facilitators and recovery advisers. My office, open to anyone for spiritual direction or counseling. We would have outreach for kids in distress, for Pop’s kids to come and rest. We’d have an open kitchen to feed people who needed it. We’d have dedicated space for child care for parents who need to come to a meeting and need to keep their children and young people occupied for an hour or so.
We would offer HIV counseling. LGBTQ support for young people and adults. We would have a gathering place to have meetings and support for these very important groups. having personal experience in these areas gives me insight to what I know is important, and to build a space that I would want to visit. There are so many areas we could hit all at once in one comprehensive location.
Does this exist in Montreal? No it does not. But we can build it…
With all the recovery experience I have had since 1994, I have seen countless “recovery rooms, spaces, rehabs and such and so forth.” We would combine the best concepts in our location that I have visited and been part of over the last 14 years. In one area of the building we would have a dedicated chapel for prayers.
This is such an amazing concept and brings with it such promise.
I have floated these ideas to my home group participants and they all think that this is a wonderful idea that should be realized. This is more than ‘church’ this is Home. A place that I could build and coordinate and build into a community home that would rival any spiritual/recovery center in the city. I have people already lined up, who would work for me where ever I set up shop. I have people who would utilize the space immediately, upon opening. The desire exists in our community, all it would take is someone to build it and I want to be that someone.
We would have a youth center where we would offer bible study and religious education and counseling services to the community. Young people could come and be fed spiritually in safety and serenity. Just imagine the possibilities…
Those are my ideas today…
I’m tired, it’s been a long day…
Come on, folks, let’s build this dream center. It will change the face of Montreal in ways we could never imagine. I know how to do it, I have the inspiration to create this and the desire to see it to fruition.
One solid foundation of any young persons life, is that of Youth Ministry. It was the one place where kids from different backgrounds, lives, and ages came together once a week to sing, to congregate and to celebrate what it means to be a young person and a Christian. For many of my friends at that time, broken homes was something of a phenomenon. Everyone I knew during those days had parents either coming to, deep within, or on the outs ‘of’ divorce. I was stuck somewhere in the mix of ‘they have no clue what to do!’ They will either kill each other or they will end up in separate ends of the house until the end of time. But I digress…
We had fearless leaders, who took us on journeys of personal growth and discovery. We were taught the ABC’s of Christianity, and back then, when I was a teenager, disclosure of ones ‘following of Jesus’ was damn near impossible to maintain, because you know those ‘Jesus Freaks!’ I look back on that time in my life and it pains me to think about it. How hard it was for Christianity (the being born again in Christ) life was so foreign to kids of the 80’s who were all about rebellion and Satan and all things ‘profane!’
Yes, even at the high school I attended we had our cliques of people. The preppy boys and girls, the jocks and the sporto’s, the sinners and the titty girls. We had our local 214 dead heads who smoked pot in the parking lot. The geeks who gathered in the science labs, and we also had our share of ‘Satanists.’ This was serious business. These guys were not fooling around with the dark arts, they ‘were’ the dark arts incarnate.
They at one time had such fear running throughout the school that teachers were afraid of them, one case in point, I had an amazing Algebra teacher who just had a new child, and these kids threatened to kill that child and the teacher. This was no simple kids threat. Needless to say they posed quite a conundrum to the ‘new Christians coming up through the ranks.’ They haunted and shadowed us like demons where very we gathered to pray and read our bibles. I took a bible study class in a high school setting in my junior year of high school. And I am rambling…
I’m headed for the ‘Born Again’ theme.
After these past years in the pursuit of sobriety and then the years spent acquiring a four year degree in the study of religion, I have some hindsight to a specific period of my life and I can look at my youth as a ‘burgeoning’ young Christian boy, I can appreciate what it must have been like for the first Christians to identify themselves on a wide scale within a society and community of ‘others.’
They took us away to Camp Get Away for weekend sojourns with our friends, peer leaders and leaders. Trusted servants to the church community, who took time out of their busy lives to feed us spiritually. They ask me, if there was one time you could return to, as it was, to relive once again, (like the diet Pepsi commercials) it would be to my years during high school, because it was so hard, and so difficult, but at the same time so sacred and the most incredibly amazing time of my life.
The program followed you through your first year in the youth group where we were the newbies on the block. Each year a new crop of kids were brought to Christ through a finely orchestrated plan of action that was the Youth Ministry of my home parish. That was 10th grade, the same year I was confirmed into the Catholic Church.
I remember the night – that first night, after a four hour bus ride far away from the lights of the big bright city, we got to the camp, lit by candle light. It was the most incredible time of my life. On that weekend we were broken and brought to the Master through talk, testimony and service. We learned what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus, that meant something particular at that time, seeing that so many of us were living in homes that did not bode well for the fostering of Christian youth trying to follow the message and teaching of Jesus.
Can you imagine what it is like to come home from a weekend at Camp Get Away – bible in hand, profession of faith on your lips, and a testimony before two thousand people sitting in the church upon our return to hear a parent say “Jesus Christ, what have they done to you?” Imagine how hard it was to maintain Christian values when your parents constantly fight, your father constantly up your ass with his hatred, bigotry and racism and disdain for all things noble and Christian and Holy!!
Not to mention the life you were re-entering back in school on Monday morning, when you tell your friends that you met Jesus over the weekend and wasn’t it swell!! As they roll their eyes and walk away in disbelief, you try your might to stick with your friends that went to school with you – that just came off the mountain, with that glow of Jesus still alive on our faces and in our hearts.
The finding Jesus on the Mountain experience was the most incredible point in my young life. Short lived as it was, I had the youth ministry to help me along the way. A haven of sorts that I, we, could go to and hang out on any given night – all night in some cases. We used to find ourselves sitting on the hoods of our cars in the parking lot of the church until all hours of the night talking about life, safe within the property of Mother Church. The chapel was open all night long, the blessed sacrament always there to give us strength.
Not long after our first ‘Mountain Experience’ we were invited to return to that mountain to get another glimpse of the Holy of Holies, through the veil of the Holy Spirit. We packed hundreds of kids on 5 mega size buses and made the trip to Camp Get Away again. The second time up the mountain was so much sweeter because we knew where that ‘mountain’ was now. We learned about being ‘baptized in the spirit’ and we were all there in that ‘Upper Room’ waiting for that Pentecost to come for us too. The Spirit would be called down upon us and we would see and know for sure the Love of Jesus once again.
The second time coming ‘down the mountain’ was not as painful as the first time, because we now knew what to do to maintain that ‘mountain top’ feeling when we got home. We had begun to build that community of faithful kids that knew where to find each other at any time of day or night. We created safe places for each other. I spent A LOT of time in other people’s houses and bedrooms during those years of my life, because my father went through a very ruthless period in his life. I knew too much and he had to stomp me every chance that he got. God bless him…
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path…
There happened to be one particular portion that made this journey into Christianity a little softer. That was the dawn of Contemporary Christian Music. Singers like Amy Grant, (whom I am listening to at this very moment on my pod), The Imperials, and groups like Petra and many others. Contemporary Christian music was the soundtrack to our lives back then. We had a DJ that carted hundreds of ‘records’ (yes we had records back then) with his stereo and turntables to Camp Get Away and he would serenade us with Holy music that was uplifting and sometimes painful.
Much of the life of a young Christian boy or girl was shaped by the music that was the backdrop to any retreat. Even today, if I hear a particular song, (I collect Contemporary Christian Music from the 80’s) I will be transported directly to a specific point in time – I can see it, feel it and can describe in fine detail exactly who I was with, what was going on and why that piece of music impacted me so deeply.
Where do you hide your heart???
The entrance to any meal was met with – Come on in the Waters Fine, Leave on shore your troubled mind…
Amy Grant was one of those artists that was coming up the pike when I was a teenager.
My Father’s Eyes, was one of the first albums we all had to have because she was the singer that led us into our Christian lives. We used to sit at each others houses just listening to her sing, because that music was played during Camp Get Away weekends, and music had instantaneous capabilities of transporting you right back up the mountain, as if we were standing there right now.
Sing your praise to the Lord …
One of the duties that I wish I had the ability to do today – would be to take young people up that mountain to find Jesus – like I found him so long ago, because today I can share a complete journey of coming into my own ‘Christianity.’ That journey started over 25 years ago. What a journey it has been – what a life it has been – and Jesus is as alive today for me as He was then.
I have come full circle now. That first introduction to Jesus in that church as a child, by my grandmother on the sanctified day and hour, grew to a high school boys meeting Him once again as a teen ager, and now as an older adult I understand what Christianity means to me as the man I am today in the words I teach my fellows who stand on the path with me.
In a Little While – We’ll be with the Father Can’t you see him smile…
I have decided,
I’m gonna live like a believer,
Turn my back on the deceiver,
I’m gonna live what I believe…
More tomorrow… maybe
Some People should not comment at all. Because some of you haven’t followed this story since the beginning 4 years ago. This is not a misogynistic writing but the truth. I dislike this lesbian because she has issues with me and other students. So thanks for the comments I am just not going to publish all of them. Don’t comment unless you know the background of my writing. (Jeremy).
As I ponder the first episode of what I wrote I want to write more. To explore the emotions of being a part of, to be heard, to be seen and to listen, most of all. The meditation began with a ball of yarn. The first person shared what they remembered and passed the ball of yarn to the next person in the circle.
I was third in line. I remember the night I got the email announcement from Father Ray. I was sitting right where I am sitting now, and I read it – I was shocked with the finality of it, the fact that I had not seen her in a few days. And I shared with the group my first years of being a student. How sister made me feel at ease, and welcomed. She made each of us fell as if God was right there that we were safe and sound. Sister had a huge heart of unconditional love. She saw no differences in us, as humans yet each of us were unique unto God. That our feelings and emotions mattered to God and to her as a spiritual mentor of faith.
And as students in the department of religion, there are many of different faiths, and that was ok too. God listened to us and heard us, no matter the creed we professed. inside her office there was safety and serenity. Pray she would tell us, in whatever words we needed to use.
Unconditional was important. There was no ego nor stature, no God to impress with lofty words or ego driven existence. Sister had no ego, just faith and that is what she taught each and every one of us. She did not feel that BIG-ness was important. She was a small but compact servant of God. She loved us for whatever person we were. She did not cop attitude nor treat anyone any differently and that was important. God was God and would be God unto the end of time. She made us feel that she cared for each and every one of us.
And in fact several people shared on several parallel claims, she will not be replaced and there will never be another like her in the Chaplaincy department and that is a great loss to the students of the university, because there is no one left, to share faith unabashedly with students. Our Catholic priest who comes to us now, is new to the fold, and he has much ground to cover, yet he is willing to share of himself freely and openly whenever he can. Yet the position held by sister Micky will never be filled as she filled it when she was alive.
And for me, that was my greatest worry. What will those young people do without sound and saintly God advice, faith without parameters, love without conditions? None of the other chaplains will touch a student with faith questions, because they don’t have the capacity to sit with a student and hear them out completely and who can offer faith based counsel without an ego, attitude or pomposity. That is where the chaplaincy now stands, at a door – a crossroads – a fork in the road.
Many students now must seek counsel within its ranks. We, the elders of the group must stand ready to do the work we are now called to do. Nobody trusts anyone else with their souls, their hearts or their issues. This is a fact that was related to me after the day had ended. “People are fakes, they don’t have patience nor understanding. There are too many attitudes involved. Time as a precious commodity would be wasted on people who do not give a shit about the students, but they can abuse their positions in order to protect their well placed and built facades. Sad but true.
We are called to Love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We are to Love God, with all our heart, all our strengths and with all of our hopes. Sad, that there is no one left in chaplaincy who can do that without impunity. We are powerless to change administration, nor positions currently held by certain chaplains. But we can speak with one unanimous voice and say, we will not go quietly. Our group will persevere, we will go on, and we will care for each other because we must, lest our band of faithful Christians be put out on the street and I will not let that happen.
There is more to God than Patriarchy, There is more to God than institution. Many of our young people have been burned by both. Most of our followers are women. Very big hearted women who buck the system and question authority. This is a volatile mix for the director of chaplaincy, she being a woman, a lesbian of the highest degree. She has no patience for many of us. She has denied us our place at the table, she is arrogant and she doesn’t see that her “fuck you” attitude has been noticed and reported. That does not bode well, although she would never admit to that. Once again, today she verbally and actively spoke the words to all of us in attendance. We noticed too…
We should pray for wisdom – we should pray for grace. We should pray for those young people who, in the coming months will make a place for themselves at the table of faith. I will do what I can, because I was present and I listened to each of them, and I told them that the first thought that came to my mind, on the night the news came was, “what about them?” What will they do? I know the answer to that today. We can do anything we set our minds to doing.
I’m not a misogynist, just a gay man with good observations skills…
Come, let us be on our way…
At Step Three, many of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him:
“God I offer myself to Thee – To build with me and do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy Will. Take away my difficulties, that my transcendence over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love, and Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always!”
We thought before taking this Step, making sure we were ready. Then we could commence to abandon ourselves utterly to Him.
As Bill Sees It, pg. 210
It seems as of late that the importance of being honest and forthcoming is lacking in many men and women. I’ve been trying to find my way through the battle field of emotions as of late to try and find the right words to explain where I am on the journey. I guess it is time to move on from the old and find something new. The journey and the landscape is changing and I find myself wanting to move forward. So with that, we say goodbye to the old and the known as we begin to walk in a new direction. It is time for change. It just seems the more time I spend praying and meditating, the clearer the voice becomes. Sometimes we grow past people on the path, and that is not our fault. What people think of me is none of my business. Growth comes whether we want it or not. I remain on the path, but I am evolving.
“Sometimes we grow past people on the path, because they are not actively seeking to grow. And at times that puts us at odds with those who think we owe them more than they expect”
Don’t sweat the small stuff…
Tonight on The CBC News I saw an interesting report about Rory Stewart, author of The Places In Between. A remarkable book about one man’s journey on a walk across Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal. There are far greater things to be done, and projects to get excited about and things that need to be done to help the people of the world regenerate and preserve the valuable history, traditions and practices of indigenous cultures and peoples.
You can read the review of this book HERE at the New York Times, Book Review.An excerpt for you: “So is “The Places in Between” — a pipsqueak title for what is otherwise a striding, glorious book. But it’s more than great journalism. It’s a great travel narrative. Learned but gentle, tough but humane, Stewart — a Scottish journalist who has served in both the British Army and the Foreign Office — seems hewn from 19th-century DNA, yet he’s also blessed with a 21st-century motherboard. He writes with a mystic’s appreciation of the natural world, a novelist’s sense of character and a comedian’s sense of timing.”
Joint Project Seeks to Revitalize Kabul’s Art Community
Kabul: Online Report: Here.
The neighborhood of Murad Khane in Kabul’s Old City was once a wealthy area of merchants and members of the royal family. But after 25 years of war, most of the homes have been abandoned and left to ruin. A new project begun by President Hamid Karzai and Britain’s Prince Charles seeks to renovate the area and make it a cornerstone for Afghanistan’s revitalized arts community.
Deep in the market of Murad Khane a radio crackles through the streets while silver workers sell their wares, fortunetellers leaf through astrological books and pilgrims line up outside a Muslim shrine. Murad Khane is rich in culture and full of elaborate houses, but it has seen better days.
A few hundred yards away, laborers are busy digging up 25 years of dirt and garbage that has piled in the streets. This is the first stage of a renovation project to breathe life back into Murad Khane, which has been devastated by almost continuous war since 1979. So far the workers have removed 350 trucks full of rubble, dropping the level of the street by almost two meters.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Britain’s Prince Charles dreamed up the project last year, when Mr. Karzai visited Britain.
The work is being done by the Turquoise Mountain Foundation – an Afghan organization dedicated to preserving the country’s unique architecture and arts, with funds from the prince’s School of Traditional Arts in London, and from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and from a Jordanian group.
|Rory Stewart (L), British head of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation with, with Afghan participants|
Former British diplomat Rory Stewart heads the project, and he has gathered together Afghanistan’s best artists to train craftsmen who could renovate the damaged structures.
Walking through Murad Khane, Stewart describes its vitality and importance.
“Murad Khane is first historic settlement on the north bank of the Kabul River. It was founded in the mid-18th century, it is a classic miniature Islamic city. We have here two mosques a public bathhouse, two shrines, and a lot of trades and shops,” said Stewart. “This is a classic Central Asian combination of religious institutions, civic institutions and commercial institutions working together.”
The Turquoise Mountain Foundation pays half the rebuilding costs for a house and the homeowner the rest. By the end of the project, as many as 55 homes could be renovated, with some buildings used as artists’ workshops and art galleries.
But renovating these old structures is no easy task in a country so recently consumed by war. Engineer Rahmattullah Oryakhel says much effort was taken in finding artists who remember the old designs.
“Restoration of old buildings is difficult and time-consuming,” said Oryakhel. “The biggest challenge is how to keep the original condition of the building. This requires skilled craftsmen, knowledge of materials and good supervision.”
|Afghan wood carvers|
The restoration of the Old City is just one part of a plan to revitalize the arts in Afghanistan. Besides woodworkers and engineers, the Turquoise Mountain Foundation also employs calligraphers and pottery experts. Eventually their works will be sold at art exhibitions and in galleries. The organizers see the plan as a way to generate income for the artists and boost Afghan culture.
At the workshop where the craftsmen are putting together shutters and window frames for the homes in Murad Khane, Turquoise Mountain administrator Ben Gauss talks about the project.
“This is a really good project because it gives skills and jobs to people that previously didn’t have them while at the same time rebuilding the city, in a way that can help Afghans connect with their past and make them proud of it,” said Gauss. “It would be a shame if their culture was lost.”
|Afghan wood carver|
In the craft market in Murad Khane, residents say that rebuilding the neighborhood will be good for their heritage and tourism.
“These buildings were constructed long ago, even before there were maps of the city,” said one resident. “They are rebuilding them to help local people and promote tourism. During the Taleban time most were destroyed. But when they come back the tourists will also return. I think this will help us.”
Three decades ago Murad Khane was scheduled for demolition by the Soviets. Age and war left it a crumbling ruin, likely to be torn down and replaced with Western-style villas. But with some help from President Karzai and Prince Charles, the embattled neighborhood stands a chance of surviving another century.
Reports like these inspire me to speak up and to want to do something really worth the time and the effort.
Our Blog is going to be moving away from old topics and we are going to begin reporting news that is “building”and “supporting” we will talk about how people are making a difference in the world. It is time to stop talking about doing good things, it is time to stop talking about being good, it is time to stop talking about misery, war and tragedy.
We hope you will enjoy the presentations coming over the next few weeks.