Love, the driving force: a journey of discernment

Chronicling my formation with the Loretto Sisters (IBVM)


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Praying with the music of Joni Mitchell

While walking along Bloor Street a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a sign advertising a ‘Rock Eucharist’ at The Church of the Redeemer, an Anglican parish, featuring the music of Joni Mitchell. Being a big Joni Mitchell fan, I was immediately intrigued.

It’s rare to find experimentation like this in the Roman Catholic Mass so I really wasn’t too sure what to expect from the Rock Eucharist. I have to say that I was enchanted by it. It was prayerful, reverent, meaningful, and, yes, experimental.

The Ice Offering. In 2000, I visited my grandmother in Saskatoon and she took me to the Mendel Art Gallery to see “voices”, an exhibition of Joni Mitchell’s artwork. Her paintings, like her music, are evocative.

The themes of creation and conservation were woven throughout the liturgy, drawing from the same themes found in the music selected for the evening. We sang “Big Yellow Taxi” as the opening song, “Woodstock” as a sort of responsorial psalm, “Both Sides Now” as the offertory, “Passion Play (When All the Slaves Are Free)” as the communion song, and “Love” as the closing. The combination of the music and the prayer was powerful, and to be honest, because I found it so unusual, I was very attentive to all of the details.

Middle Point

What I found was that the break from the liturgy routine I am used to opened me up to a renewed encounter with God, hearing God speak to me in new language. It also gave me a deeper appreciation for the spirituality and soul-searching qualities of Joni Mitchell’s music. Long have I admired and enjoyed her work and to hear her music in the setting of a liturgy gave it a deeper richness for me.

Both Sides 2

I hadn’t heard her song “Love” before, a meditation on Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13). It’s beautiful and compels me to meditate on Paul’s letter myself.

Love

Although I speak in tongues
Of men and angels
I’m just sounding brass
And tinkling cymbals without love

Love suffers long
Love is kind!
Enduring all things
Love has no evil in mind

If I had the gift of prophecy
And all the knowledge
And the faith to move the mountains
Even if I understood all of the mysteries
If I didn’t have love
I’d be nothing
Love never looks for love
Love’s not puffed up
Or envious
Or touchy
Because it rejoices in truth
Not in iniquity
Love sees like a child sees
As a child I spoke as a child
I thought and understood as a child
But when I became a woman
I put away childish things
And began to see through a glass darkly

Where as a child I saw it face to face
Now I only know it in part
Fractions in me
Of faith and hope and love
And of these great three
Love’s the greatest beauty
Love
Love
Love

– Joni Mitchell

 


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The View from the Box

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I’ve completed three shifts at the UN GIFT box so far over the course of the Pan Am Games with two shifts to go during the Parapan Am Games. There have been many volunteers on hand to greet people, share information about human trafficking, and encourage people to sign our petition asking the Ontario provincial government to develop an action plan to address human trafficking.

This experience has been my first as a sort of streetside evangelist. It offered me a lot of food for thought as I had plenty of time to observe the people passing by on the sidewalk.

The first thing I noticed was how individual focused our society has become. This was not a total revelation, of course, because our society has been heading this way for a long time, but this was my first experience observing it in action for a prolonged period. Just standing on the lawn of St. James Cathedral, I got a real eyeful of the kind of society we have become.

People of all generations strode past me purposefully, avoiding any kind of eye contact, ignoring my friendly “Good morning!” and “Hello!” and completely focused on getting to their destination. Some wore headphones and sunglasses to block out the noise and the sights around them, some were busy talking on their phones, and some just didn’t want to engage.

A lot of the time I felt invisible.

(Though one instance made me laugh out loud: some guy burst out, “I have a girlfriend!” when he walked past me a second time and I said hello to him again.)

And to be honest, it didn’t bother me a whole lot. Mostly because I saw myself when I looked at these people. I am guilty of being self-absorbed a lot of the time. On my way around the city, I have dodged the energetic Plan Canada and Medicins Sans Frontiers volunteers many times. I walk quickly and purposefully, sometimes looking at my phone, not really noticing the people around me.

Standing there, as Sarah-the-streetside-human trafficking-evangelist, I realized that that is NOT the kind of person I want to be. I don’t want to rush through life ignoring other people. I don’t want to make other people feel invisible or ignored. Instead, I will try to walk more slowly (although it’s very hard) and force myself to stop and spend a few minutes chatting with the people who are trying to get my attention and see where the Holy Spirit leads.

The second thing I noticed was how open and friendly many of the homeless people in this city are. They have a voice that they want to share and it is beautiful, though usually heart-breaking. More often than not, the men and women who were living on the streets were more ready and interested to engage with me and talk than the more affluent-seeming people walking down the street. And quite often they would share their stories with me. I was moved by their openness and I sensed that they don’t really have the opportunity to talk to people who will just listen to them. No one asked me for money, they just wanted to talk. They signed the petition. They wished me good luck and then kept on with their day.

The view from the box revealed God at work in the most unexpected ways.


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GIFT Box @ Toronto Pan Am Games

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London 2012 GIFT box
http://www.un.org/wcm/content/site/sport/home/newsandevents/pastevents/london2012/template/news_item.jsp?cid=36523 

The Pan Am and Parapan Am Games are taking place in Toronto this summer (10-26 July and 7-15 August, respectively)! 250,000 visitors are expected to descend upon the city for the Games (some of them are already here – I’ve met them on the subway). With a crowd that size, this is a great opportunity to spread the word about human trafficking in Canada and around the world.

Over the next two months I will be volunteering at the UN.GIFT (United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking) box located at St. James Cathedral at 65 Church St. (King/Church) in downtown Toronto. Created by STOP THE TRAFFIK and UN.GIFT, the Faith Alliance to End Human Trafficking here in Toronto is the driving force bringing the GIFT box to Canada. Versions of the GIFT box have been featured at other international sporting events like the London 2012 Olympics and the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. GIFT boxes have also appeared in Brazil, Slovakia, and the U.S.

What do you know about human trafficking?

  • Human trafficking is the recruitment of movement of a person, by deception or coercion, for the purpose of exploitation.
  • People who are trafficked are often bought or sold for forced labour, sexual exploitation, forced street crime, domestic servitude or even the sale of organs and human sacrifice.

Did you know that Ontario has the highest level of human trafficking in Canada? 511 people reported to have experienced human trafficking in only three years. Human trafficking is an underreported activity so this number is expected to be much higher.

If you want to combat human trafficking in Canada and raise awareness of this issue, go the Faith Alliance website or look for a local organization fighting human trafficking in your city.


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Summer in the city

A good friend from Ottawa came to visit last weekend and we had a great time exploring the city together. We went to the Beaches, took the ferry over to Toronto Island, and ended the day with a delicious dinner (and decadent chocolate cake for dessert) and a play: Titanic: The Musical. It was a wonderful way to start the summer! As usual when I’m having fun, I generally forget to take pictures. But here are a few from when I managed to remember I was lugging my camera around.

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DSCN0829At the Beaches

DSCN0831My destiny! (in the amusement park on Toronto Island)

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Signs of Spring

I would like to thank the many people who have shared their support and gave me words of love and encouragement after my last post. I truly appreciate you journeying with me this year, and for supporting me. You all mean so much to me. Thank you.

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Potted arrangements for spring

Last weekend my dad was here for a visit (Hi Dad!). It was so much fun to have him visit the Abbey, meet some of the sisters (they all told him he couldn’t be my father, he looks like my brother! – I think he was secretly thrilled even though he laughed it off ), and explore the city with me. Excellent father-daughter bonding time! And he didn’t even seem too nervous having me chauffeur him around the big city. (I’ve come quite a ways since our driving lesson days – as long as I don’t have to drive a standard, of course!) But his visit certainly did make this choice I am making more real to me. No longer am I welcoming family into my own home, but to the home of many other people. The visit had a different feel than when he would visit me in Ottawa, and I think it will take a bit of time to get used to the new scenario.

DSCN0800  A splash of purple by the Abbey chapel

Spring has definitely come to Toronto in the past couple of weeks and I am enjoying every minute of it. Signs of spring abound. This past week has just been gorgeous. Beautiful sunny days and warm temperatures. I’ve been getting outside more often – exploring the neighbourhood (and making a mental note of cafes and restaurants I would like to try), and trying to get back into shape (running and tennis are back on the agenda!).

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Red celery? No idea what this is. Do you know, Master Gardener Aunt? 🙂

The grounds around the Abbey are showing their own signs of spring. From the potted plants by the entrances and exits, to the wild flowers that spring up in the grasses, new life is taking over!

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Hyacinth? They smell lovely, whatever they are!

 

 


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Searching for Spring

March. At last.

I read in the paper this morning that February 2015 was the coldest February in Toronto since 1875. This is not the kind of winter I had been expecting when I moved here in the fall. I had prepared myself for “winter lite” compared to past years in Ottawa, thinking that I wouldn’t need those pairs of long underwear anymore. But, I guess, winter is winter, and a Canadian winter generally is cold.

This weekend, though, it warmed up considerably. Still below freezing, yesterday was washed in sunshine and blue skies. It was a day to believe that spring is around the corner. I went to Cobourg to meet with my spiritual director and took a walk afterward to enjoy the bright blue of Lake Ontario against the winter sky. Sadly, I didn’t bring my camera along to capture it.

Today feels cooler and the sky is overcast. But it’s March. Finally. And I’m convinced spring won’t be too long now in arriving. I went to Edwards Gardens this afternoon for a walk. I kept a lookout for any little buds or signs of new growth. As the pictures show, I’m a bit early looking for signs of spring. Still too much snow and ice on the ground. It’s hard to deny, though: hope is in the air.

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I found the spring flowers…hiding inside where it’s warm!

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