Archive for October, 2014

On Wednesday I was traveling to Niagara Falls to the Mt. Carmel Spiritual Centre.  The Clergy of the Diocese where I am a priest gather annually to spend time together in contemplation, in worship and in continuing education.  A colleague and I were driving together and did not have the radio on.  It was only over lunch with another colleague that we learned of the shootings at Parliament Hill.

Canada has always been known as a safe place to be.  Our reputation is one of tolerance and collegaitlity.   We are a polite people.  On Wednesday we stepped outside our comfortable place as spectators to terrorism and became entrenched in the centre of abject fear.  A lone gunman opened fire and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo was killed while guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Monument in Ottawa.

Only days before Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was run over by a speeding car.  He was deliberately run over.  Because he wore the uniform of a Canadian Soldier.

This kind of hatred is enough to strike  fear in the hearts of most law-abiding people.  We feel afraid to go outside, afraid of what the world is becoming, and especially, we are afraid of the stranger.  And that is exactly what we should not be doing.

The role of Sgt at Arms is one that is primarily ceremonial.  The job of the Sgt at Arms is to protect and keep order at meetings of a deliberative body, such as the House of Commons.

While the soldiers who guard the National War Monument and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier carry unloaded firearms, the Sgt at Arms has a sidearm at the ready.  On on Wednesday, the Sgt of Arms for the House of Commons, Kevin Vickers calmly drew his weapon and ran down the hall upon hearing gunfire.  Members of his security team shouted where the suspect was hidden and without hesitation Vickers put himself before the suspect while firing his weapon.  Once the suspect was on the ground the rest of the security force opened fire.

Magazine empty, Vickers returned to his office to reload, ensuring that all was safe and the threat contained he returned to the room where the Prime Minister and his cabinet were contained and told them “I engaged the suspect and the suspect is dead”.  The entire room is said to have erupted in cheers.  The next day when the Sgt at Arms entered his post at Parliament Hill in the House of Commons he received a very long standing ovation.  He looked visibly moved and humbled beyond words.

We, as Canadians owe all men and women who promise to protect this wonderful country of ours.  Whether they are in uniform or not; whether they are in the military or other security force, they risk their lives on a daily basis.  It is heartening to hear of the actions of the Sgt at Arms.  For him it was just another day at the office.  But a day like no other he has witnessed before.

With Remembrance Day only a couple of weeks away, the poignancy of the two military deaths resonates loudly.  The heroism of the guards who stand day after day at the National War Memorial show us that they will remain on guard for us. I have always been proud to be Canadian.  I abhor violence and consider myself a pacifist.  And yet, I can’t help but be moved to tears at the selfless actions of Sgt at Arms Kevin Vickers.  He did what needed to be done to protect his Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the countless others who were at the Parliament Buildings that day.

No matter how many times we say it, thank you is not enough.  This country owes a great deal to a man who was simply doing his job.  No matter how many honours Vickers receives (and I am certain there will be many) nobody will be able to adequately express the gratitude we feel.  Any attempt feels ineffectual.

I was elated to learn that the War Memorial guards returned to their post and that the entire area was once again open to the public.  We refuse to live in fear.  We stand tall against those who would harm us, regardless of how that harm is presented.  We will not fear the stranger.  The men who ran over and killed Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and the man who shot and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo will not be named in this blog.  They don’t deserve recognition.

Rather, I bring the names of the two soldiers who died for our peace-loving country.  And I bring the name of Sgt at Arms Kevin Vickers before you as another example of bravery in the face of hatred.

Being Canadian means many things to many people.  Most recently we have learned that being a Canadian is about standing up for that which we believe and preparing to give our lives, if necessary.  We have also learned that being a Canadian is about standing up for hatred and terror by staring it in the face and refusing to run in fear.

“God keep our land, glorious and free.  O Canada we stand on guard for thee.”  Amen

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The month of October is turning into a logistical nightmare.  Our Diocesan Clergy Conference is generally held in late September, but because of the Guest Speaker’s availability, it was changed to the end of October.  And that’s great.  The Rural Ministry Symposium runs every other year at the end of October.  And that’s also great.  Traditionally I take 10 days vacation around thanksgiving.  And that’s awesome.

However, this year, they all run together.  I came home today, a day early, to get laundry done, see my family, and clean the house.  Yay.  I leave on Wednesday for Clergy Conference which concludes on Friday, then I preach on Sunday and am heading out for the Rural Ministry Symposium a week from tomorrow (Monday).

Insanity.  Trying to get anything finished is daunting.  The 10 days I had away are already wearing thin.  I don’t know if I need more time in a day or a better way of dealing with the increasing pile on my plate.  Perhaps I need a bit of both.  Anyway, I have a very little bit of downtime before I’m back on the run again.  Thanks be to God, I have a reliable vehicle.  Who’s theme song for the month of October is…”On the Road Again”…

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Just over a year ago two baby boys were born in the same day.  Chances are many more than two babies were born, but these two babies were born to people I knew.  One baby, E, was born to two loving parents.  Over the first year of his life he flourished as he learned to smile, to roll over, to pull himself up and to walk.  Seeing pictures of him on Facebook made me incredibly happy. In comparison, H was born to a loving mother and community.  His father had chosen not to be in his life; but I don’t believe that he wanted for love.  Shortly after H’s birth he developed a fever and infection but it was too difficult to diagnose.  At two weeks old he was transferred from the city hospital to the children’s hospital in another city.  He was attached to machines that flushed his kidneys and fed him.  At three weeks I baptised him in one of the isolation rooms at this hospital.  And at 28 days he died.

Throughout the first year of E’s life I so badly wanted to meet him, but I was afraid.  When the community gathered for H’s Celebration of Life I wasn’t sure how to navigate the waters before me.  It was uncharted territory.  But through the grace of God and love from many people, we gathered to remember a young life that was once vibrant.  Last Saturday E and H turned a year old.  For E it was a celebration with family, food and love.  For H it was an Anniversary Celebrating his first birthday.

In my homily at H’s celebration I mentioned E and his family.  I bought a gift for E’s birthday many months ago and have still not given it to him.  Yes, I have been busy, but the reality is that I’ve been scared.  So very scared that I may, in some way, harm E.

When I held H in my arms I whispered to him that I would love him always and teach him of my friend Jesus.  The same holds true now.  I do so very much love him and instead of teaching, I am learning about Jesus through H.

In the midst of planning H’s service my friend and parishioner B left this life.  His last two weeks were very difficult.  He was ready, in every way, to die.  But his body wasn’t ready to let go.  Eventually he did slip away peacefully and while we celebrated that he was free from the agonizing pain that had racked his body for months; he was now free.

I met with the family and discussed details that B had shared with me.  We filled in a few spaces and decided what it was that needed to be done.  On the day of his service I took a deep breath and realised that I was not alone.  I remembered that this service was for B.  I knew what needed to be done.  HIs family spoke affectionately about him.  We told stories, we laughed and we cried.  And we gathered to say goodbye (for now) to one we love dearly.

It is my hope that B and H have met.  It is also my hope that H and E have met.  I am going to write E’s mother a letter to explain why I have been such a negligent friend.  And I will gather all my strength and set a time to go and meet young Master E.  Who’s life has been everything that a young life should be.

Perhaps we can chat about our friend Jesus.

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