I began doing some research as to where the differnt temples were situated in the city of Montreal. Who were the monks in charge. What language did they speak and was it possible to go and chat with them.
There was a Franciscan who told me that years ago he tempted the same initiative and sent out invitations but hardly anyone came. I asked him “did you go personally to meet them and invite them?” He did not and so it was obvious they would not respond to something they knew nothing about. Now it was different mainly because of the historical event which took place in Assisi in October 1986.
I dont drive a car and I had to plan the routes to take across the city by bus and subway and the best means of getting there. Appointments had to be made and I learnt a lot by just telephoning.
Sometimes I telephoned one place and the phone was answered by someone who spoke neither French nor English and they left the phone while searching for someone and the phone was maybe in a dining hall or on a wall in the kitchen and so I was aware of lots of activities going on. One had to be patient.
The temples in Montreal are places where the communities meet not only for the prayers on the week-end but if you can imagine some people from far away places like Vietnam and they had just left a village torn away by war and violence and suddenly found themselves living in a North America city for the first time, hearing a language they were not accustomed to and being totally disoriented and just try to be in their position for a moment.
The only place where they felt some comfort, a place where they could speak and be understood. A place where they saw images and heard songs and prayers that they had been accustomed to all their lives. This was their temple and it was a safe haven to go on the week-ends when they were off work or school. There after prayers on Sundays, they had a meal prepared by their own and it was a joy to find they could do so peacefully.
For most displaced immigrants, the house of worship and the community hall attached, was the most secure place and a source of strength and comfort.
If I had to do any efforts to invite them to come together for a cause which meant so much, then it was obvious I must go to the temples and must gain confidence with their monks and spiritual leaders and with this in mind, I set out.
At times I went and sat in their temples and listened to their hymns and sermons. How could I invite them to come and offer prayers in ours if i had never been to theirs? To me it seemed so obvious.
I was coming to them as a monk myself, as someone in their eyes, as a spiritual leader of a Catholic community and to most of them it was weird. One monk told me that any contact he had with a Catholic priest or monk in his country was an attempt to convert him.
He had to be sure I was not inviting them into a trap. Would they have to pay me something to come to our monastery and how much? was a question one Buddhist monk asked.
The spiritual leader of a Sikh Guruwardha (temple) asked me if I was really a Catholic and if i was, he wanted me to bring him a letter from my superior showing where i was delegated to prepare such a meeting. Evidentally I had such a letter and I brought it and showed him before he would accept. This man eventually and to this day, became a good friend.
I made some very good spiritual friends and brothers among these people. I think of the Venerable Geyshela Kenrab who always called me his brother and who passed away some years ago on the Feast of St Francis!
I think of a Native Leader, John Curotte who also invited me to his house and intriduced me to his wife and family and who passed away a few years ago.
I remember so well the Venerable Thich Thin Nhi who became very ill and was sent to be taken care of in a Vietnamese comunity in Australia.
I remember some who passed away over the years and the good raport we had with one another. they all became friends and I felt at ease and welcome to visit them in their homes and communities as they were in ours.
Later, in other blogs I will take time to tell a few stories and show pictures of some of these wonderful human beings who I know one day i will meet again.