Monthly Archives: September 2016

Percherons, Clydesdales and Belgians

We attended the 153’d annual Carp Agricultural Fair on the weekend with some friends. We fell in love with the draft horses!


A draft horse is a large horse bread for work. There are several breeds all known for there strength, patience and good temperament.  Used less for farm work these days, they are used for driving carriages, for breeding and for horse show purposes.

There were a quite a number of draft horse competitions.  We saw the 6 hitch horse show competition.  There were 22 entries for a total of 132 horses who came from Quebec, New York and Ontario.  It was an absolutely beautiful show.


We saw 3 breeds in action: Percherons with their strong war like appearance:




Clydesdales with their beautiful pom pommed ankles:


… and palomino-like good looks:


The Belgians took first place this year – such majesty, calmness and affection.



But my favorite remain the percherons – these dark horses break your heart for their gentle obedience, vast strength, fierce pride and showmanship.



There is lot’s more to see at the Carp Fair.


Dog jumping contest


Huge harvester

An assortment of “hit and miss” gasoline motor powered pumps and grinders from long ago.

We also saw Tracey Brown of the former award-winning Family Brown country music group, sing.  We will be sure to bring Wyatt and Jackson our two grandsons next year.  They will love it too!


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The Cariboo Mission Residential School

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This is a gripping and balanced account of the history of St. Joseph’s Mission near Williams Lake, BC from its establishment by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1867 to its take over by the Canadian Government in 1964.  Margaret Whitehead is a trained historian specializing in Church studies – specifically Oblate and First Nations history.  As an Oblate Associate and former B.C resident, I enjoyed learning more about this part of the Oblate missionary story in Canada.

The Oblates built this mission as a base for evangelizing and educating the Carriers, the Shuswaps and Chilcotin indigenous bands.  Early on, they encouraged what had been migrant groups, to settle near to the mission and so they could be taught how to grow corn, vegetables and raise cattle to better sustain themselves.

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St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School for girls

They also taught these natives about God and the Catholic faith.  Only after behaving well (no intoxication, no seeing the Shaman or wild dancing and singing) for a whole year, would they baptize those who consented.  Progress was slow at first, particularly with the aloof Chilcotin.  The Shuswap and Carrier bands already believed in a deity and life after death, so they found the Christian faith not unsimilar to their own.

In 1890 both a girls and boys residential school was established at St. Joseph’s to teach trades and English to the children.  Initially skeptical, First Nations parents were wary of sending their children to these boarding schools where the elements of their local culture and language were repressed and free spirited children were confined.  With good intentions, the Oblate Fr. and eventual Bishop Paul Durieu implemented a rigid system that made use of spies, capital punishment and fear to impose a European colonial type education (the only one they knew), on indigenous students that in the process discarded their cultural heritage.

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There were many runaways and the occasional deaths due to exposure or disease.  Gradually however, the benefits of learning to read and write and speak English were seen as assets by the natives and enrollment increased, albeit as decreed by law.  One of the darkest times for Canada was the government’s banning of the Potlach ceremony where a (rich) host group would hold a big feast and give away all their possessions to their friends, to obtain greater glory.  The Oblates opposed this practice on moral grounds because they thought it undermined the economic well-being of the natives, encouraged wild practices and posed a health hazard to children.

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Vancouver Sun photo of the abandoned boys residential school near Williams Lake, B.C.

In the words of Bud Felker who attended the St. Joseph’s Mission school in the early 1900’s: “I tell you, no fooling, it was a pretty good school….I meet some of the Indian men who went to school with me and they say ‘Not too bad a place that Mission School.'”  According to the author, the younger generation did not agree.  They resented the part played by the Mission in undermining their cultural heritage.

9.5 out of 10, a very well written and researched account of raw Canadian history.



The Oblates of Mary Immaculate are holding their 36th General Chapter in Rome right now.  Here is a link to a video prepared by the North American Region provinces entitled Missionary Journeys that offers much insight and hope:

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God does not rescue – He redeems


This is one of the powerful messages Marie and I took away from our 2016 OMI Lacombe, Ontario District annual retreat with Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI.  “If you consider Jesus’ life, he lived it robustly, enjoying people, hospitality and even wine.  When it came to his death, he was not rescued by God.  Rather, he freely gave it up.  Three days later he was resurrected offering us redemption from our suffering. You have to go through the nasty middle part to get to the glorious end, just like Jesus did.” counselled Fr. Ron.

Jesus’ life is thus a metaphor for our lives. We too will suffer and die.  However if we believe in Him, we too will be redeemed and have eternal life.  (John 3:16 and 36).  How then should we live our life?  Robustly like Jesus.  How then should we die?  Freely and happily like Jesus.

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The Oblate Cross

This metaphor explains a lot of things – like why bad things happen to good people, why there is so much suffering, death and evil in our world.  Why abortion and assisted suicide are morally wrong. Where is God in all this pain we often ask?  God is in the victim says Fr. Ron. e.g., in a helpless baby; in a child who dies of cancer or is tragically killed in an accident; in an aging person who is ill and suffering much pain.

When we let our lives flourish, yet are willing to give them up, a big challenge becomes finding the correct balance between “giving our lives away in sacrifice” and “letting our lives flourish.”  Jesus led the perfectly balanced life where he loved to be with the poor and heal them yet enjoyed the good things in life such as being anointed with expensive perfume by Mary Magdalen (John 12:1-8).

Mary Magdalen anoints Christ’s feet

Conversely, if we die embittered and angry unlike Christ, we will not only not be rescued but we also will not be redeemed nor receive eternal life.  The purpose of life then becomes not just to seek unity with God but also to prepare oneself for a happy death.

The secret of the cross: God does not rescue – He redeems.

Thank you Fr. Ron and all my Oblate brothers and sisters.  This was a powerful message on how to live and how to die.

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Photo courtesy Paul Howard


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Ordination to the Diaconate


Our friend Guy Dacquay was ordained as an RC Church Deacon this past weekend in the Archdiocese of Ottawa.  I have known Guy for 25+ years since we met at Measurement Canada many years ago.  We do not see much of each other these days but do keep in touch on spiritual matters.  He and his wife Christine are Franco-Manitobans hailing from the St. Boniface area.

A permanent deacon in the RC Church provides a ministry of service to the community.  Currently men are ordained as deacons but I believe ordaining of women to this position is actively being considered.  With proper authority, deacons preach, teach, counsel and assist the bishop or priest in liturgical celebrations.  More importantly they minister to the shut-ins and destitute by taking the Eucharist to their homes, visiting the sick, marginalized and dying and evangelizing e.g., in prison ministry.  They baptize, witness marriages and preside at funerals.  They promise “obedience” to the Bishop and his successors and are married, widowed or single.  The spouse of a deacon in formation is deeply involved in the program.

Permanent deacons are appointed to a particular parish based on the expressed need and, in some cases, based on their particular preference.  Some parishes have 1, 2 or more deacons and some have none.  Our parish, St. John Chrysostom has 1 permanent deacon and 1 transitional deacon who will eventually be ordained a priest.  Men about to retire are prime candidates for the 4 year formation program but there are many younger deacons as well.  One Priest we know who shall remain unnamed calls them, tongue in cheek, the “freakin’ deacons”.

We enjoyed the ceremony.  The cathedral was hot and crowded.  There was a reception in the basement following where we could chat with friends.  It was great to be there to celebrate with Guy and Christine.  Guy is retiring from Measurement Canada next June.  Wishing you both well in your ministry.  Congratulations my friend!


Notre Dame Cathedral dating from 1842


Gothic revival style was refurbished about 10 years ago


Archbishop Prendergast, S.J. delivers his homily on the family


Laying prone before the altar


Associate Rector Fr. Geoff Kerslake and Auxiliary Bishop Christian Riesbeck, C.C. look on


Laying on of Hands


Christine and Deacon Guy Dacquay




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Jesuit Spirituality for Today

Book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin

This is a popular book on contemporary spirituality by Jesuit James Martin.  He is a popular communicator who appears on CNN and is an editor of America Magazine:

I learned a lot from this book – a guide to understanding and applying Jesuit spirituality in everyday life.  I must say I was surprised at the light hearted way that (many) Jesuits carry themselves.  There are many humerous anecdotes that liven the discussion:

“A Franciscan, a Dominican and a Jesuit are celebrating Mass when the lights suddenly go out in the church.  The Franciscan praises the chance to live more simply. The Dominican gives a learned homily on how God brings light to the world.  The Jesuit goes to the basement and fixes the fuses.”

Jesuit spirituality is defined as “Contemplatives in action who seek to find God in all things by looking at the world in an incarnational way, and in their quest, realize their desire for freedom and detachment, which helps them move even closer to God.”

I particularly liked his discussion of the various paths people take to God.  I find myself respecting each of these paths by no longer seeing any path as better than another:

  • Belief for those who have Faith in God (and never wavered)
  • Independence for those who make a conscious decision to leave organized religion
  • Disbelief, those who have arrived at an intellectual conclusion God does not exist
  • Return, those who have returned to their Faith in a newly committed way
  • Exploration, seeking growth through interaction with other religious traditions
  • Confusion, running hot and cold with their Faith

His discussion of “chastity” vs. “celibacy” is a real eye opener.  Religious order priests make a vow of chastity – abstaining from any sexual activity.  Diocesan priests vow only to not get married.  There is a big difference and the RC Church seems in no hurry to clarify this ambiguity.

There is much practical advice on the Examen (examination of conscious), the Spiritual Exercises, how to make better decisions through discernment and how to become the person God wants you to be.  There is a lot of emphasis on defining your desires at each stage of your life and then seeking God’s support through prayer in achieving them.

My only regret is that I wish that I had read this book some 40+ years ago when I was starting out as an adult…  A superb book to read for anyone at any age, 9 out of 10.

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Click on the Facebook link below for some accompanying music to this post.


Marie and I attended the 41st annual Fiddlefest in Pembroke, ON on the Labour Day weekend.  It was a lot of fun.  Our good friends the Clarkes have been coming since 1983.  We joined them and partook in the beautiful family like experience that this event has become for us.

Amateur musicians- fiddlers, guitar players, bass players, mandalin, piano, singers and celtic dancers come to Fiddle Park by the hundreds to sing, play, dance, joke and party.  The way it works is that different venues establish themselves around the various RV sites in the park.  Roaming musicians drop in for a few songs here and a few songs there to perform with each other for the shear love of the music.  There is a fee for camping of course but walk in entry and the music is all free!


A random gathering in the day


Maggie and Debbie welcome a newcomer to start off


More musicians come


And more


Mini Pearl makes an appearance


We adjourn and wander around  bit


Then return for a nightcap singalong

There is lot’s more to do in beautiful Pembroke too – like visit the farmers market for some fresh produce or home made preserves.


Meet up with friends and see some neat cars.



Rest up a bit before the fun begins again.  I am goin’ to learn me a song or two for next year. We most highly recommend this best of the Ottawa Valley event.








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