Our first Camino de Santiago pilgrimage had been in 2010. Marie and I hiked some 700 km over a 29 day period from Pamplona to Santiago. I have already blogged about this journey in great detail here. In 2011, we were excited to embarked on our 2nd Camino – this one at the Galilee Retreat Centre in Arnprior, ON.
Fr. Jack Lau, OMI, Spiritual Animator, led us in a “virtual pilgrimage” at Galilee and on our own path in our local neighborhood. The idea was to walk everyday in a reflective way, reporting our progress, thoughts and observations, over a 3 month period. The goal was to bring the unity of Body, Mind and Spirit together.
Fr. Jack would send out a prayer or reflection that we were to keep in mind as we walked each day. We would monitor our distance and thoughts and report back to the group, whenever we felt like sharing. For example in the month of August I logged 146 km and reported back several times. Fr. Jack would acknowledge our messages and respond with prayers and encouragement. There was signage up at Galilee so often Marie and I would walk the lovely grounds there in silence and appreciation.
During this period, it was a bit of an upheaval time for us. We had sold our house in Ottawa, were living in a small RV and waiting for our new house to be ready in Arnprior. Dave’s mother passed away at this time. Hence the meditative walks, inner spiritual growth and stirrings and the frequent communications with Fr. Jack and the group were very helpful.
Here is a example of a typical message from Jack:
I sent out earlier a reflection from an El Camino Pilgrim which was powerful and so will leave you with only this prayer from the Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hahn. Buen Camino, Jack,omi
To meditate does not mean to fight with a problem. To meditate means to observe. Your smile proves it. It proves that you are being gentle with yourself, that the sun of awareness is shining in you, that you have control of your situation. You are yourself, and you have acquired some peace.
We had a sharing night where those who had done the Camino in person before talked about their experiences. And at this time many of us we were being formed as Oblate Associates by Jack. It was the best of times! Thank you Fr. Jack for your spiritual guidance, creativity, love and leadership during the years you were here at Galilee. It was 10 years ago last month that you were called back to the U.S. to continue your ministry there. Miss you still!
The story on religious participation in Canada could not be bleaker. According to the Global national news last night, only 18% of Canadians remain religiously active or committed. Furthermore many Canadians no longer see religion as beneficial to society. While tolerant, they feel discomfort about organized religion. The full story can be read here: https://globalnews.ca/news/8759564/canada-religion-society-perceptions/
The reasons for the decline of religious participation in Canada are numerous. Youth are no longer instructed in the Faith at school or at home. The abuse scandals that rock the Catholic Church have resulted in much pain and shame and caused many of the flock to leave. The notion that Islam is a violent religion bent on world domination, has been sown by the media. Rigid pro-Trump views of the “religious right” have spilled over over into Canada causing much political division and negative views of religion. Pandemic authorities made things worse for believers by classifying religious ceremonies as “non-essential” services. Some faithful are still afraid to attend an indoor service and may never come back. The rise in the west of consumerism and neoliberalism with its cult of individualism means: I define what is wrong or right for me personally. Anti-authoritism and lack of respect for differences is rampant in social media.
Canadians see evangelical Christianity (e.g., Baptists, Mennonites, etc.), Islam and Roman Catholicism as the least beneficial to Canadian society. The younger the age group, the more strongly opposed they are to such institutions. While tolerance continues at present, is it just a matter of time until open persecution of members of these groups becomes socially acceptable? Sadly, it seems in the case of Muslims, such persecution has already begun in Canada on a regular basis.
So what are we religiously still active to make of this? Is the end of public religion as we know it, just a few short years away? When us old folks die off, will that be the final blow to organized religion? Will faith without buildings or people to fill them mean the end? I SAY FIRMLY NO! There are many positive happenings, please read on.
When we were in Mexico this past winter we attended a non-denominational evangelical church, because we were invited to by friends and the service was in English. As Catholics, it was great to experience the emphasis on the “word of God” and the great 35-40 min sermons that ensued by some great preachers. What was also unique and edifying was the fact that the service was held out-of-doors in a multi-purpose event facility rented to us on Sundays. It was a beautiful jungle setting and often there were gorgeous flowers for taking home that were left from a wedding held the previous day. This was a faith service without a building.
When in Winnipeg recently, we attended St Kateri Tekakwitha RC church which shares their building with a local Mennonite church community. In fact Lutherans had originally built the church but when their numbers declined, they sold the building and it became a multi-congregational facility.
Another positive development in my view is the proliferation of online religious services. In addition to regularly attending Mass, I watch EWTN daily Mass from Alabama, St. Michael’s Cathedral Masses from Toronto, Holy Cross Church Sunday Mass from Kemptville, ON and even the occasional service from St. Paul’s Presbyterian, my childhood church in Ottawa. I recently saw the Chrism Mass from the Pembroke Diocese without having to drive there. Wow! These have greatly enriched my lived religious experience. I imagine many of you have similar experience too. Hence accessibility to religious services is greatly enhanced now for all the committed, the curious and those seeking.
The last thing I wish to say on this subject (apart from sorry for the long post) is to ask the question “What are we being called to?” IMHO, to a new form of Church, a new form of religion. Whether it be attending small group services in peoples’ homes or outside, watching religion online, sharing a church building with other groups, going on a religious pilgrimage or spiritual retreat, private prayer and meditation at home, people today are still seeking healing and the Truth. Perhaps the need now is more than ever. Hence as children of God called to worship Him, the future is just as bright with or without the buildings.
Having just returned from 3 months in Mexico, I am convinced we have to totally rethink our lifestyle in Canada. In Mexico our default mode of transport was our feet. We walked everywhere and when we couldn’t, (too far, with friends, grocery runs, etc.) we took a bus, Uber or cab. Yes, I can hear the yeah, buts….it’s different here.
When we got back to Winnipeg, we saw the 8 lanes of bumper to bumper traffic on Portage Ave going zoom, zoom, zoom and it suddenly dawned on me. We have to rethink and change our lifestyle, no matter how uncomfortable this will be. In Canada our default mode of transport is of course the private car powered by hydrocarbon based fuels. For those of you who already ‘get it’, ie what follows from this, congratulations! For you others, please read on.
As I learned from Mark Carney in his recent book Values, in order to limit global temperature rise to 2 Deg C from pre-industrial levels the world has a global carbon emissions budget. That is in terms of the amount of GHGs (greenhouse gases like CO2) released. These gases absorb or reflect heat back to earth causing increasing global temperatures which are leading to rising sea levels and more frequent raging wild fires, extreme heat events, droughts, floods, tornados, etc..
In fact each country has its own “carbon emissions budget“ and Canada is using its up already whether we are cognizant of this or not. We have to start designing communities so that the default mode of transportation can be walking and public transit again. A private car would only be used when other options are not viable. e,g, a road trip, commute to work. Apart from the GHG saving effects, we have found we are happier and healthier whenever we walk somewhere or take public transit- it simplifies things.
What about airline travel and discretionary cruises etc.? Economics can handle this in my view by increasing the cost of carbon emissions significantly thus deterring more and more of us from these types of activities. Heating your house you say. Zero emission electricity is the long term answer. Intercity travel? Busses, trains and zero emission cars.
Progress is being made. The cost of batteries, solar cells and wind turbines has fallen dramatically. Carbon capture technologies are proving more feasible. Companies and governments are starting to publicly explain how and when they will attain net zero operations. Incentives to purchase zero emission vehicles are here. So before you hop in the car without thinking, how about considering other options … such as walking more often.
Today after church, we went to Bucerias with Don and Heather for breakfast to thank them for their kindness to us. They have been picking us up, organizing the weekly Ernesto’s dinners, inviting Dave to golf, taking us grocery shopping and including us in their circle of friends at church. They have been coming here since 2006 and are very kind.
We went to the fabulous Delicias Mexicanas restaurant. Things started off badly. We arrived at 11:50 but got no service for 30 minutes as they were really busy. When Juan finally arrived at our table he told us breakfast service was now over and asked would we like lunch? We were a bit upset but went with the flow. Some delicious coffee arrived followed by a great taco salad lunch. Yum.
Afterwards, the owner of the restaurant, a man named Abraham comes by and asks how we are doing. We thank him for the wonderful food. He then tells us his story which is somewhat familiar here.
Abraham had moved from Mexico to California and for 14 years lived the life of a Californian – 2 cars, nice house, conspicuous consumption, go, go, go. He came to realize that his stress level was too high trying to hold it all together. So he returned to Mexico … and started up this very successful restaurant here.
Now, he says his stress level is much lower, he is relaxed, having fun and even makes more money. Listen to your body and follow your dream was his implied advice. When I remarked that he has a very biblical name, he said yes, but that he is only the father of one child, not billions. We all had a good laugh and he let me take his photo. Thanks Abraham for the life lesson and Don and Heather for all your kindness
We’ve all heard how Mexico is a dangerous place to visit. Well, after several months here in now our 3rd year, we can report by way of anecdotes and observations, what Mexicans are really like.
Yesterday we took a cab home with our groceries. The driver invited Dave to sit in the front passenger seat for the extra leg room. He soon asked our names, where we were from, how many grandkids we had, etc. Dave asked him the same questions. It turns out it was his birthday so we sung happy birthday to him. He pointed to a copy of the Bible he had on his dash saying this is his God. We had a ball and he taught us some Spanish on the short ride home.
On a Friday pm, our electricity was suddenly cut off in the condo. Turns out the owner had not paid the electricity bill on time. Our property manager got involved. The bill was paid quickly but it was too late to get the service man back to turn on the power. So she drove us to another (5*+) condo where we spent the night free of charge. In the morning she arranged for the power to be restored and all was well again.
Playing golf the other day, we noticed that the foursome in front of us had 2 cadies when only 1 is needed. Our Mexican caddy explained to us that the group were rich Mexicans who like everything handed to them and that futhermore, they usually don’t tip like you nice Canadians (and Americans) do.
Whenever we go to Vidanta, the huge Disney like timeshare resort nearby, the staff always salute you when passing by touching their heart and saying hola. Even on the street outside, Vidanta employees on their way to and from work and construction workers make this kind gesture. It is very likely a marketing ploy Vidanta trains its empoyees and contractors to do. Very nice. But we have also been told stories by timeshare owners of law suits because they did not get what was promised them. We have noticed Mexicans like to tell you what you want to hear, especially when it comes to sales.
Mexicans we have met here are scrupulously honest (e.g., a taxi driver brought my backpack back), dedicated, hard working, family oriented and fun loving. They appreciate our tourist presence. They are humble. There are exceptions of course. We feel extrememly safe and privileged to experience their beautiful country, their culture, and the best weather ever.
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”. Heb. 11.1
Bucerias (boosairreeus) is a town in the NE corner of Banderas Bay about 6 km along the beach from our place in Nuevo Nayarit. It is also known as “BCrias” as there are a lot of Canadians from BC here in winter. The other day we paid a visit.
Known for it’s cobblestone streets, fab restaurants, authentic Mexican culture and festivals, it is becoming more chic. We bused down to the new walking path at the end of our street and walked the 20 min trail. Along the way we chatted with someone who said Bucerias is all different now and will be gone by next year.
The first place we came to is the beautiful Royal Decameon all-inclusive resort. Such gorgeous colours, it is huge and very inviting. We continued on downtown and the construction noise and dust soon began. There are several high rise condos under constuction. Even a nice boutique hotel we stepped into had major renovations going on with grinding and dust. The old wooden foot bridge to the market is being replaced with concrete and steel.
Yes, the Bucerias of the past is no more as it transforms itself to a trendy beach front resort town with upscale boutiques and fewer local vendors. We walked through the square and looked into Nossa Senora de la Pax church. Beautiful, peaceful and timeless. No change here. Each year there is a huge religious festival named after the church with brass bands, dancing horses, endless food stalls, toys and kids everywhere. Sadly it was cancelled again this year due Covid.
We went on to Fat Boys seafood restaurant on the beach for lunch. It was worth it. Fabulous fish and fajitas, great friendly service, right on the beach! It was really relaxing after all the noise and dust. We lingered before slowly walking back on the beach to the square. We hailed an Uber and headed for home, satisfied after a great outing. It is indeed a changing world and Mexico is caught up in it too.
I found this book to be hot and cold. The summary of philosophical thought from pre Greek to the 20th century was excellent. I kept falling in love with progressive philosophers from Plato to St Augustine, Immanuel Kant to Soren Kierkegaard to John Paul Sartre.
I learned that if St. Thomas Aquinas had chosen Plato’s philosophy to integrate into the Catholic faith rather than Aristotle’s, women would likely be treated as equals in the Church today. Plato saw men and women as equals while Aristotle thought women were incomplete men.
The fictional content of this book was confusing and boring. It was hard to understand what was going on between Alberto the philosophy teacher, Hilde his 15 year old student, her Dad and Sophie another 15 year old and her Dad. It seems Sophie (or was it Hilde?) existed as a dream in the mind of Hilde’s Dad (or was it Sophie’s dad?). It all seems superfluous to what is a great summary of western philosophical thought. I give the book a 3 star rating which otherwise would have been much higher.
A wonderful book on the importance of prayer in Christian life. It tells the story of a Russian peasant who wants to learn how to pray without ceasing. He wonders the country in search of a mentor who will instruct him and subsequently learns the Jesus prayer: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
The author quotes extensively from the Philokalia, the Bible of Orthodox Spirituality. There is plenty of practical instruction on how to develop contemplative interior prayer, its benefits and how to overcome obstacles. If anything, there is perhaps a little too much repetition making it hard to finish reading.
It certainly convinced me of the importance of regular prayer if one calls themselves a Christian. Regular prayer is perhaps the most important aspect of living one’s faith. I found the book refreshing and very well written. 4.5 stars. Well worth the read.
When I was 4 or 5, I looked out the window of our house on Mountainview Ave in Ottawa’s west end and saw two boys my age doing somersaults in the front lawn across the street. I was recovering from a cold or flu and mom would not let me go out that day. I could hardly wait to join them. When I did, I met Bill Cross and Charles Moore for the first time. We became good friends.
A few years later, when we were bored one day, we asked my dad if he would light us a bonfire. He said no. So the 3 of us went off in the field with matches and some paper. Bill, the leader told us what to do. We lit a small fire in the dry grass. Charles and I were scared and started to put it out. Bill wanted us to wait a bit and when it grew larger said OK put it out now! But It was too late – we had set a grass fire which raised toward the back of some nearby homes. The fire was quickly extinguished when the men of the neighborhood got their garden hoses out and sprayed the approaching flames. Charles and I felt we were innocent and that Bill had been the instigator. Well my parents were having none of it and forced me to walk around the neighborhood and apologize. Not sure if Bill or Charles had to do this as well.
We lost touch with Bill a few years later as he was really smart and went off to the gifted school. Charles and I continued on as the best of buddies.
Charles dad operated a Texaco service station on Carling Ave near Richmond Road. We would go out there for visits on hot days and have a coke for 5 cents out of the old water cooler machine. Charles would then take me out back and show me the dodge power wagon truck his uncle would use to clear snow in winter. My dad worked for the city as a lawyer and liked to play golf so this was all new and exciting to me. Charles and I were always attracted to each other by what we learned from the other.
He would come to my house and we would play trucks and cars and blow off firecrackers in the garden. At his house, he had a record player and we would listen to Elvis Presley and Gordon Lighfoot. Charles was lighthearted, carefree and well spoken. I was more shy, serious and later on, bookish.
One day my mom asked me to bike up 3 blocks to the Stevenson farm and pick up some eggs. I was busy playing but good natured Charles said he would borrow my bike and raced off to do it on the rough road. When he came back, most of the eggs had broken in the wire basket and were now dripping down over the spokes. Charles scratched his head in disbelief. As we grew up we were in cubs together and scouts. On Christmas morning he would always call me with the question “What did you get?” Such is the relationship of good friends.
Many years later Charles drove out to visit me in Vancouver in a van. He brought out my grandmother’s coffee table for me. When he arrived one leg was broken as he had apparently sat on it in the van,. On that same visit we went to see James Brown at an East Hastings night club. Charles acting suavely said let me buy a round. The waiter returns with no beer saying your card was declined. I bought the beer that night. Such was my relationship with Charles.
In grade 6 or so Charles put up his hand and asked Mr Earl “What is x?” in math class. “Well Charles, x is a variable with an unknown value…” says Mr Earl. Charles replies “but sir, what IIISSSS x?”. It was an existential question which caught us all offguard and marked the highwater mark of Charles’ career in math. In high school Charles went into the trades program and I into arts and science. We remained the best of buddies as opposites attract. But things started to change. Charles had cars and girlfriends. He was eager to help me find a girlfriend too. There are many tales I could go into regarding this aspect.
In 1972 (50 years ago!) Charles and his beautiful wife Heather drove me and their friend Leslie to Florida for a short vacation. The windshield wipers were not working and Charles had to stick his head out the window at times to see, but somehow we made it safely. It was a memorable trip being my first exposure to palm trees and big ocean waves. We enjoyed the Kapok Tree restaurant, visited Cape Canveral, Bush Gardens as well as the Daytona speedway. Wow!
I was the best man at his wedding to Heather. He offered me some edible hashish just before the dinner. I do not remember much after that including my congratulatory speech. Charles was my best man at my first marriage. He stole the spotlight with his good humour and tales of “peckin Morgan” which he called me at the time. “peckin Moore” I called him right back. The girls loved him.
After that we lost touch in our mid 20s. When I came back to Ottawa – in 1982, I saw him once or twice but we were both into 2nd marriages with kids. I saw him a couple of more times since then over the years. The last time was about 4 years ago when he told me he was battling prostate cancer but was upbeat about it.
I went to see him a month ago when I learned he was in hospice. He said he could no longer walk due to extensive radiation treatment but was in no pain. He said he was very proud of the many lifelong friendships he had. We said our goodbyes by reminicing a bit. I could not believe he was about to die. He was very focussed. I mumbled something like “hang in there buddy” as I left. Charles passed away on New Years eve. I am still totally devastated.
Where did it all go Charlie Moore? I am forever grateful for our friendship.
We’ve been in Mexico a week now and things are beginning to settle in. There were big crowds for New Years which have since disappated – it’s easy to get a shaded seat at the beach or pool now.
Mexico has officialy entered its 4th wave of the pandemic with Omicron variant cases now rising quickly and hospitals gearing up. You can tell who are the Canadians down here – they’re wearing masks, even on the beach.
Actually Mexicans are very respectful of the rules about wearing masks and physical distancing. The difference here vs Canada is that we are always outside here so feel a lot safer.
There have a been a few minor mishaps. The first is that Marie’s yoga mat was no longer in our storage locker – so we had to go to Walmart to get a new one lol.
The second was a little more disappointing. We did a huge Costco shop the other day to stock up on food and drink. Dave purchased a premium bottle of tequila. The taxi we took home was small so we had groceries stuffed in the front seat as the trunk was full. The prized bottle of tequila was up front for safekeeping. After we got home and unpacked everything, somehow the tequila was missing. Dave forgot to check the front seat and the taxi must have driven off with it lol. Not to worry. We found ample tequila supply at Walmart and are again enjoying the occasional margurita by the pool!
On a more somber note, Dave’s longest and dearest childhood friend Charles Moore passed away on New Year’s Eve after a long battle with cancer. He will be missed by his many friends for his infectious good humour and constant smile. Condolences to his family.
We are waiting for some of our friends to arrive in the next few days. Some have cancelled but the diehards like us are all coming as usual. That’s it for now, hasta la vista amigos! Stay well!