The Montreal Peace Prayer in the Spirit of St. Francis (continued)

In the previous posting of H.H. the Dalai Lama, the photo was taken :
From Tsem Rinpoche Website: photos of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. “On 27th May, His Holiness the Dalai Lama paid a visit to Vienna and while he was there, His Holiness attended Mass and visited the St. Stephen’s Cathedral!”
 
 
(Continuation of the Montreal Inter-faith Peace prayers)
 

 It is good to say:

All during those years of the Inter_Faith Peace Prayers in the Spirit of St Francis which we were asked to do for the Franciscans in Montreal, were done without any financial benefits from outside.
 
Some have asked, “how much were the Franciscans paid to promote those meetings? 
The answer is “Nothing!”  We never asked for any financial help neither from the Govt. of Quebec nor any other!
 
All the bills for the rental of space, for the hiring of a sound tecnician, for the rental of mikes and loud-speakers and for the catering of food, all the expenses incurred over the years, were all budget approved and paid for by the Franciscans, accountancy at the Office on Blvd. Rosemont and approved by the Minister Provincial, Fr. Gilles Bourdeau O.F.M. and after him, by his successor, Fr. Regent Raymond, O.F.M.
 
I owe it to the Franciscan friars to make it clear, so that in years to come, no one can accuse them.!
 
The work that we did to help the Franciscans of the Maltese community in Toronto was also supported by them. They paid my train passage and I had room and board  in their parish during that time.
 
Every time I was asked to help initiate the event in Montreal, or elsewhere, it was done without any financial aid from the Govt. or outside.
 
And the biggest event which I worked on, was in demand and collaboration with the Tibetan community when I was asked to design and co-ordinate at the request of H.H. Dalai Lama, the Inter_Faith ceremony at St. Joseph’s Oratory.
 
 We were not given any money and we were not paid. The committee had a bill to pay for the use of the Oratory. Neither the Franciscans  nor I had any financial benefits for this work
 
 In 1998 A Commission for Inter-religious Dialogue (DIM) produced an article written by Fr. Benoit Standaert, osb.
It was titled “The Interreligious Space”
 
“…..2, By introducing the category of the “Jesus Space” Fr. Benoit hopes to find a way out of the present impasses. For him, the term “space” refers to everything understood by the Paulinian Greek expression ‘en Christo’ or ‘en Kurio’
 
It refers to the living out of Christ, who is perceived as freedom, grace., justice, wisdom, light, pardon, redemption, peace. The realisation of this ‘space’ takes place by all kinds of means, e.g. the “lection divina’, sacramental life, the prayetr of Jesus, silence, psalms, veneration of icons, etc.
 
3. Startinfg from the “Jesus space’, it must therefore be possible to encounter whoever lives in the “Buddha space’ since the two spaces do not constitute a threat for each other on the life level. The two spaces could thus provide for an enlargement of respective horizons.”
(Fr. Benoit Standaert osb   “The Interreligious Space”)
 
 
 In the spring of 1993 on an occasion of a visit of H.H. Dalai Lama to Montreal, I received a visit from a Tibetan gentleman Mr.Thubten Samdup who was Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama  and chairman of a Tibetan commitee.
He said that the Dalai Lama was coming to Montreal and he was asked if there was something he would like to see during his visit. He said that he would love to take part in an Interreligious Prayer gathering. Thubten then said to me that he was enquiring around the city and he was told to see me.
 
I was then a member of the Montreal Inter-Faith Council and I invited him to come to our next meeting and make a request for that, which he did.  I just listened and they accepted and looked at me and said ‘Rolph can do it!”  That was not the answer I expected but they insisted and I said I will do so, provided that all the members there present would come to represent their respective faith groups and it would save me the trouble of running around finding people. The only delegates I did specifically go and invited, were the traditional elders who I knew from the Khanawaki Community.
 
The ceremony was scheduled for 6:30 pm on the 22nd June, ’93. I wanted it to be in the spirit of what Fr. Benoit referred to as a ‘religious space”.
 
It was going to be simple and I decided there will be no chanting and prayers of each group otherwise it will be too long. The format was that all the delegates should meet in the sacristy and from there we will come in procession into the basilica up the main isle. I suggested that some Tibetan instruments be played on tape. It would have been too costly to hire an organist and the Tibetan committee already had a price to pay for the rent of the space.
 
Leading the procession would be Br. Francois bearing incense, and following would be Geyshela Kenrab Gajam from the Tibetan temple in Montreal followed by the Inter faith representatives, and finally the president of the Oratory and the Dalai Lama with the Cardinal Turcotte.  There will be words of welcome and then a word from the Dalai Lama then the delegates would be invited to come up one by one and meet him with a traditional exchange of scarves.  Then will will have a moment of silent meditation and that will be the end.
 
It all went as planned. The church was packed to capacity. There were many young people and those who could not find seats, were seated on the floor. There were quite a few thousand people present. I remember one morning some time before, I received a call from Cardinal Turcotte’s office and I was told that the Cardinal was wondering how come he did not see any posters or anything advertising the event. I mentioned a small article had appeared in the English Newspaper, ‘the Gazette’ and that was enough.
 
All the delegates we invited showed up. I was the only one who knew the names of them all and so i was assigned to introduce them one by one in the sacristy before the entrance procession. And at the particular moment also for the exchange of scarves. After they had all receieved their scarves, I gave him my scarf and introduced myself.  He got up from his chair and hugged me and held my hands and kissed them. It was quite a humbling experience. He was beaming and evidentally very pleased
 
At the end of the ceremony I beckoned to him to follow me and I led him back through the sacristy where the plain clothes special police awaited to lead him through a back door and over the other side of the mountain.  Crowds were already gathered and pushing and trying to get into the sacristy and I had to ask one of the police officers to explain to them that he had already left.
 
It was a memorable experience.

Aside

 
 
 
 
When we begin a story, we owe it to the listeners (readers) to finish and so I am due to finish this his-tory of the Montreal Inter_Faith Peace Prayer in the Spirit of St Francis which I was entrusted for several years.

The first part of which, I just told you about … posting in January 23.
 
For the next year, 1988, there was now a brother who happily offered  his help. He was br. Francois Paquette and he had just finished his noviciate.  Before entering the Order, Francois was working as a psychologist and held a very demanding post in a Health Service center in Montreal (CLSC). He was in charge of a huge department and having his co-operation, I could fully trust him with lots of responsabilities and so we worked well together.
 
Francois willingly took over the logistics of things like finding someone who did the sound equipment and recorded the prayers. This was no easy task setting it up in our chapel considering special speakers for the voices and also the musical instruments of the Hindus and Sikhs.
 
He also saw about finding a good caterer and seeing about the lunch which was served after the prayers and  about having the prayers all printed and nicely put up in programme leaflets in both French and English so everyone could read. He also arranged for ushers to welcome the different delegates when they arrived for the prayers etc.
 
Francois was much younger than myself and he was jovial and  was not shy and so he was well liked by the members of the different temples we visited. He also had initiative and it was he who at times would suggest things like…..”lets take some chocolates for him” .  His help was a boon and I could not have done it all those years without him.
 
I appreciated him even more after I had a heart problem one year and I was worried as we came closer to the date of the event, but he assured me that everything will be all right, and it did…except one minor event that happened. 
 
That year I wanted to move the prayer outside the monastery. I felt that following a custom I saw in the US where Native peoples had a place they called “meeting place” and where the different tribes met to discuss and negociate etc.
 
So I found a space in a College down town. It was actually a stadium and there I had in mind that we the Franciscans would not be hosting the prayer but we will all be hosting to one another. I also wanted the groups who had been coming every year, to maybe feel the incentive to offer hosting another year,the event in their temple. That never happened. 
 
In this year the CTV people were interested and came to film and there was a space in the middle of the hall where we would enter in procession coming up the main isle.  I dont know what happened to my head but instead of coming up the center aisle, I took another route much to the disappointment of the camera men.
  It was weird and Francois said nothing then but after the prayer he asked me “what on earth happened?” We ended up laughing our heads off!.
 
Francois had a driver’s licence and we could borrow the use of a car on occasions so going out to the different temples was much easier especially as now we could drive to the Native Indians reserve which was out of the city and not easily accessible by public transportation.
 
All this requires so much planning and co-ordination and he was completely at ease running around doing it all. My job was mainly to make sure we had a choice of delegates from the various temples etc and also the format of the prayer which I tried to change each year so that it would not be boring.
 
This Inter-Faith Prayer became an annual event not only here in Montreal but also in Italy and elsewhere and the Franciscan Maltese community in Toronto at the time, called and invited me to help them set up one there. 
Here in the city, some schools and some parishes also got the initiative to hold a similiar event and many a times I was invited to help them set it up.
 
I was invited to attend a meeting in California and I suggested to our Provincial that Francois be sent in my place. He had to give a report as to how we worked here in the city of Montreal. He went and made quite an impression.
 
The Franciscan Head Office in Rome had now opened up a new activity which was strongly encouraged by Pope John Paul. The Franciscans were founding an International Committee on Dialogue with other Religions and were looking for a young dynamic brother to be in charge.
One of the head men in it, attended the meeting in California and saw Francois and was impressed.
 
 The Franciscan International Committe for Dialogue had an elder at the top but his turn was up and so they needed a replacement and I got a phone-call one day asking me about Francois and If I could recommend him.. I strongly recommended Francois and after some consultations, he was selected. It would mean that he would still live here but he would have to travel a lot.
Francois now became to Director of the Franciscan International Committee for Dialogue and I was nominated as the Canadian representative. This led to conferences overseas. I will talk about this in another posting.
 
I do believe that it is of vital importance to state facts of events and things we were responsable for creating and work which was assigned to us during our life. It is less painful than having other people with good intentions, write about it not knowing all the facts.
 
Its somewhat like a baby is born and grows up and somewhere in life someone speaks about this child and gives a wrong family heritage and gives another name to who his father is and mis- informs the public and the false information spreads and the mother has no means of correcting it.
At another time I will show some photos of those years, photos I have, but they need to be  scanned. 
 
 
 

JaNaGaNaMaNa-AR RaHMaN’z

Video

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Thanks to Jahnabi Barooah’s Blog
Below are the lyrics, followed by a translation:

Jana-Gana-Mana-Adhinayaka Jaya He / Bharata-Bhagya-Vidhata / Punjab-Sindhu-Gujarata-Maratha / Dravida-Utkala-Banga / Vindhya-Himachala-Yamuna-Ganga / Uchchhala-Jaladhi Taranga / Tava Subha Name Jage / Tava Subha Ashisa Mage / Gahe Tava Jaya Gatha / Jana-Gana-Mangala Dayaka, Jaya He / Bharata-Bhagya-Vidhata / Jaya He, Jaya He, Jaya He / Jaya Jaya Jaya, Jaya He

Thou art the rulers of the minds of all people, / dispenser of India’s destiny. / Thy name rouses the hearts of Punjab, Sind, Gujarat and Maratha, / Of the Dravida and Orissa and Bengal; / It echoes in the hills of the Vindhyas and Himalayas, / mingles in the music of Yamuna and Ganga and is chanted by / the waves of the Indian Sea. / They pray for thy blessings and sing thy praise. / The saving of all people waits in thy hand, / thou dispenser of India’s destiny, / Victory, victory, victory to thee.

Aside

The Franciscan fraternity in which I lived in October 1987, was maybe the smallest of all. We were just 3 friars and we rented an appartment on the top floor of a building in a residential area. The other two friars were professors at the University of Montreal. The elder one, Fr. lucien La Belle had specialized in pedagogy and he was now well retired. The other friar was Fr. Richard Bergeron and he was still teaching, at that time he taught in the faculty of Theology of the University of Montreal and his subject was Christology.

   These friars had been observing me at work all during the months which led up to the event of that first Inter-Faith Peace gathering and that day after the prayer I came home to their encouragements and good  words.
 
The next morning Fr. Lucien took up the newspaper from the doorstep and he exclaimed “Wow, hey brother, you made it on the second page of the Devoir!”  
In those years, Le Devoir was the newspaper of the intellectuals, the folks who frequented the Universities and the business and political clients. It was not the newspaper of the blue collar man of the street.
 
That this newspaper should have an article with photo on their second page about some Franciscan initiative, something religious, was quite rare, but anyway, there it was, a picture of a Buddhist monk, the Venerable from a Vietnamese temple and myself during a moment of the prayer.
 
The phone was quite busy that day and among the calls and letters which came afterwards, there was one letter from our General In Rome, one from the Bishop’s Office in Montreal expressing a desire that the event be done every year and and also one from the Council of Churches and the Ecumenical Center also expressing their desire that we continue to do this event each year.
 
I never expected all this and it gave me added conviction that our intuitions were right but all through these results, I never once felt that it was ‘my initiative’ or that it was something that we the Franciscans should ‘possess’.  
 
I remember again what Shakespeare had said about this world being a stage and we were the actors. I was put on stage to act my part and now I was off stage and life in its reality was resumed.
 
There was, some months later, an Ecumenical prayer gathering for unity, a prayer in which representatives of various Christian Churches got together to pray for Unity, and it was held at the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral and I was invited.
At the end of the service, father Denis Livernois, who was the President of the Montreal Council of Churches at the time, came over to me and asked me not to leave as he wanted to introduce some people. 
 
So I waited and he came and introduced me to the other members of the Council and he said “meet br. Rolph, he is the Franciscan I was telling you about” and then he explained that they wanted me to come to the next meeting of the Council as they had a proposition to make.
 
I did not have a clue of what it was all about but i attended and there that morning at the meeting they spoke of the initiative they were encouraging.
Montreal was creating its first Inter Faith Council and they wanted me to be their representative at this Inter-Faith Council. I was briefed as to what it was all about and I asked them for three days before I could give my full consent and accept. Of course I spoke with our Provincial, Fr. Gilles Bourdeau and he insisted that I accept.
 
I served on that Council for six years and then I resigned because I thought it was time they had new blood. The thing is, some people join such like organizations and stay on it and use up the chair until they die! I feel we owe it to the young people to give up such seats and allow them to get involved!
 
My life at this Franciscan friary with the other two friars did not last long as on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) of that same year 1987, a fire broke out in the attic and the place burnt down. Actually, I wrote about it already in a previous page.  The fire was due to faulty wiring. The temperature was some 20 degrees Celsius that evening when the fire started.
 
Some of the material, photos etc,. concerning the Prayer of that year were destroyed yet we were able to recuperate some photos, due to the generosity of friends. I will scan them and post at another moment.
 
Those were very important years in my life as I was put on a series of Inter-Faith activities for the Franciscans and attended Conferences in Europe and I even went to Trinidad to do some research in that field and later on in Rome I met the Pope John Paul, this man of such great intuition and intelligence.
He was so full of dynamism in those early years of his pontificate and in later years I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw how terribly afflicted his body was by his illness. I do believe that had he not been shot and been through such an ordeal, his body may have aged and suffered less severely, but who knows?
 
I would like to now quote an article from Catholic Culture.org

“Pope Benedict XVI has asked the world’s religious leaders to join him in Assisi in October 2011, in a joint prayer for peace.

During his Angelus audience on Sunday, January 1, the Pope announced plans for an inter-faith gathering to mark the 25th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace organized at Assisi by Pope John Paul II.

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger had expressed serious reservations about the 1986 gathering at Assisi, and chose not to take part in the inter-faith event.

But with religious violence flaring around the world, the Pope said that it is time for honest religious leaders “solemnly to renew the commitment of believers of all religions to live their religious faith as a service to the cause of peace.”

Pope Benedict announced his plans for the Assisi pilgrimage during an Angelus address in which he strongly emphasized the need for a positive appreciation of religious freedom. The recognition of religious freedom is a precondition for peace, he said, explaining:

 

Today we are witnessing two opposing tendencies, two equally negative extremes: on the one hand laicism which deviously seeks to marginalize religion and confine it to the private sphere and, on the other, fundamentalism which seeks to impose it on everyone by use of force.
Wherever religious freedom is effectively recognized the dignity of the human being is respected at its roots and, through a sincere search for truth and goodness, moral conscience is fortified and the institutions of civil coexistence strengthened. For this reason religious freedom is the highway to follow to build peace.

Earlier in the day, the Holy Father had presided at Mass in St. Peter’s basilica for the feast of Mary, the Mother of God. In his homily during that Mass, the Pontiff underlined the main theme of his message for the World Day of Peace, celebrated on the same day. Religious freedom, he said, must be honored if the world is to know true peace. When religious freedom is denied, he added, other fundamental human rights suffer as well, and peace is jeopardized.

The Pope observed that “in the face of the logic of war which unfortunately has not yet been completely overcome, only God can profoundly touch the human soul and ensure hope and peace for humankind.” Referring to his World Day of Peace message, he said:

The world needs God. It needs universal, shared ethical and spiritual values, and religion can offer a precious contribution to their pursuit, for the building of a just and peaceful social order at the national and international levels.”