Saturday, May 1, 2010
His Eminence Marc Cardinal Ouellet
Archdiocese of Québec
1073 René Levesque Boul. Ouest
I had an interesting conversation today with a colleague at work. My steady job is secretary in a Roman Catholic Parish, (St. Patrick’s, on de Salaberry street just nearby) but I moonlight on the side as a tour guide to make some extra money and to meet interesting people, both colleagues and tourists alike.
This particular gentleman was a fellow Anglophone, originally from the Protestant side, who like many of his and my generation, had either rejected the tenets of the conventional Christian faith that they’d been brought up with, gotten involved in various forms of counter-cultural behaviour such as drug and alcohol consumption, travelled, wandering all around this great big planet of ours in search of answers, and, in his case, had finally found a suitable solution: He had converted to Islam.
His quest for meaning and sanctification in life had never been fulfilled by what probably seemed to him to be a very stuffy, perhaps even, in his opinion, hypocritical, and ossified conventional Christian faith, which in those days, was on the decline in the western world, especially in Québec city.
Like many of his generation, especially from the baby boomer generation and down to this day’s cohort of the population, people feel that conventional Christianity is just not delivering the goods, so to speak, from the point of view of giving meaning and depth to their definition of sanctification.
It’s as if the march towards post WWII secular technocratic material prosperity has completely left our civilization’s institutions, including those of a spiritual nature, devoid of any deep sense of sanctification. These ‘seeker’ people, as I call them, named after the song of the same name by the Who, a rock band of that era, seem to be looking for a form of spirituality which is still imbued with a sort of mystical, ancient, esoteric, and exotic form of sanctification, the kind of which only seems to be obtainable from the strange and sacred rites of a faith which comes from a far off land. The further off, the better, it would appear.
I get the impression that going to Mass on Sunday, and singing in the choir, or serving Communion, reading the lesson, being part of a Bible study group, and staying after Mass in the Church hall for coffee and biscuits, chatting with the elders like old Mr. and Mrs so and so, just doesn’t seem to turn their crank, or give them an adequate sense of sanctification in their daily life.
Whereas, in the case of this gentleman, Islam, and its believers, which he met in Senegal, were, to him, very authentic and welcoming, and their faith obviously seems to have had the requisite level of sacredness and sanctification to it to appeal well enough to him so as to persuade and convince him to convert. Meeting a Moroccan woman and falling in love with her didn’t hurt either.
So where does that leave us as Québecers, both English and French-speaking, in regards to trying to re-sanctify our own faiths? I think that we have to re-establish, especially on the French side, a strong link between the Roman Catholic faith, and the preservation of a distinctly French-speaking civilization in North America.
Throughout the last 50 years, ever since the winds of change seemingly swept across our society all of a sudden, with the coming of the Quiet Revolution, various things have been attempted, with varying degrees of success, but, in my opinion, mostly failure, to supplant our faith with other things as our society was re-engineered from its rural, pastoral roots, into the post-modern, urban, secular, consumerist technocracy in which we live today.
In the first part, people like Paul Guérin-Lajoie, and others like him, including Jean Lesage, and René Levesque, and the so-called ‘équipe du tonnerre’, thunderously presented us with the modern-day welfare state for us to worship and sanctify as our new God. This ‘progressed’ so much that it inevitably led to rising nationalist sentiments, which caused the emergence of the sovereignty-association movement, the election of the PQ government on November 15, 1976, and the first vote on secession in May of 1980.
After that new ‘religion’s’ bubble was burst with the defeat of that option in that referendum, a lot of Québecers hopped on the bandwagon of the light of the next passing ship, which was consumerism, materialism, and capitalism. Many of them cut their hair, and hopped on the ‘beau risque’ band wagon with the election of Brian Mulroney’s PC governments in 1984 and 1988, hoping they could channel their nationalist energies through the federal system and make some money in the private sector at the same time.
When Mr. Mulroney’s proposed constitutional reforms failed to materialize, in the form of the Meech and Charlottetown Accords, which were in large part aimed at accommodating Québec’s nationalist aspirations while keeping us in Canada, the flames of this ‘religion’ quickly got extinguished, and the flames of the old nationalist ‘religion’ got fanned again, coupled with a recession in the 1990-92 period, as well as a conflict over the use of language on public signs in Montréal, turned this latest rise of nationalist ‘religious’ fervour into a particularly language-driven debate.
Language alone, and the defence of it, was going to guarantee our survival, as a civilization in North America, it would seem. Then the more strident proponents of the nationalist ‘religion’ whipped up everyone into a frenzy, got the PQ elected again in 1994, had another referendum on secession on October 31, 1995, whose pro-Canadian side only won by a slim 0,4% margin, then everybody collapsed into a generalized post referendum mode of exhaustion.
People just wanted to get on with the job of living, and getting along with each other. Nobody even wants to talk about anything related to religion or anything radical. When going out in public, especially in polite company, there’s a distinct sense of malaise amongst people as soon as the conversation turns to the topics of religion or politics, and there’s always somebody in the group who tries to change the subject, especially when tempers start to flare, and voices start to go up.
This is where I feel that a renaissance of our Catholic faith, coupled to its relationship with the preservation of a French-speaking civilization in North America is crucial. Just how we should go about doing this is another question. For sure, we must somehow underline the sanctity of our faith and its deep roots in ancient Middle Eastern civilization.
Children and young adults today start watching movies and travelling, as well as watching video games at a very early age. These media are full of images and depictions of either medieval-style battles between good and evil, as well as all sorts of phantasmagorical depictions of the sacred and the profane, with heroes in all sorts of sacred quests for sacred ‘grail’-like objects, or to defend a sacred land against an evil force, etc…
Therefore, young people have, from an early age, an innate sense of the sacred and the profane, and can usually tell the difference between the two. If, in some way, we were to present our faith, along with its sacred objects, such as vessels, crucifix, vestments, etc, as well as giving a positive impression of the faith in our schools when members of the clergy present themselves in class to explain the faith to children in the context of their new Culture and religion course, then perhaps some of them will be motivated to start coming to Mass, and to begin the journey of faith themselves.
Whatever the case may be, we need some more pro-active ‘marketing’. The Muslims are buying up old French-Canadian convents and turning them into Muslim centres for the propagation of the faith and education, giving all sorts of lectures and conferences on Islam. How will this impact Québec’s social fabric? How many people will be converted by this faith, which actively denies the existence of the Trinity, and marshals all sorts of dubious historical arguments to back up its claims, which would be susceptible to convincing vulnerable people, the likes of which I mentioned in the beginning of this piece.
In conclusion, speaking of this gentleman, he now has a steady job at a local hospital, and goes around proselytising the Muslim faith in schools for the new Culture and religion course in Québec, as a shining example of a local person who converted, and who’s found peace and serenity in doing so, (and who, by the way, preaches with all of the fervour of the converted).
If there is any way that we as Québecers can rebuild the traditional link between the Roman Catholic faith and the French language, then I think we’d be on the right track, and will have gone a long way towards guaranteeing the survival of our civilization in North America, as opposed to navigating by the light of every passing ‘religious’ ship, which is what we’ve been doing for the last 50 years. As Monseigneur Laflèche once said ‘la langue c’est le gardien de la foi’, One could easily turn that around and say that ‘la foi c’est le gardien de la langue’.
If we’re really interested in ‘la survivance’ here in this ‘Nation’, we need to not only conserve as historical curiosities in museums, our religious heritage, but we must fight to also promote our religion as an instrument of national survival, and prosperity. Marie de l’Incarnation, Jeanne Mance, Bishop Laval, Catherine de Longpré, and all of the others who came after them, did not come to this land of destiny and bounty, only to see their work abandoned because of a lack of faith, practice, and fervour of said faith.
I’m sure the faithful, wherever they are can come together to make this happen. In anticipation of your response, your Eminence, I remain, faithfully yours in Christ.