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Following the celebration of Pentecost, the Church moves abruptly into Ordinary Time. Prior to Vatican II, this lengthy season was referred to as the Sundays after Pentecost, and the continuity was clear. There were as many as 27 such Sundays, followed by the Last Sunday after Pentecost, which is now the feast of Christ the King. Today, we often call Pentecost the birthday of the Church, which on one level is accurate. On another level, it can be seen as trivializing this great feast by surrounding it with an aura of birthday cakes, party hats and streamers.
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The word "hero" is rarely used in everyday jargon. But with the dramatic events surrounding the Fort McMurray fire, the word "hero" comes easily to one's lips. Open the dictionary, and you find hero means someone who "does great and brave things." I think, however, a hero is someone who steps outside of their comfort zone to do good, to right a wrong. The element of bravery is implied.
The fire of Fort McMurray has drawn the attention of the world, and has proven again how large the hearts of Albertans are at all times, especially in moments of crisis. Over the coming months, commentators will speculate on what could have been done better and on how to prevent future catastrophes. They will inevitably draw comparisons to other fires: the Great Fire of London, 1666, where 70,000 out of the city's 80,000 residents were left homeless; or the 2011 Great Slave Lake Fire in Alberta where the entire community of 7,000 residents were evacuated.
A seminarian I know recently went to a party on a Friday evening at a local university campus. The group was a crowd of young college students and, when he was introduced as a seminarian, as someone who was trying to become a priest and who had taken a vow of celibacy, the mention of celibacy evoked some giggles in the room, some banter and a number of jokes about how much he must be missing out on in life. Poor, naïve fellow!
On May 14, in Edmonton and Calgary, Parents for Choice in Education rallies were held to protest against Bill 10 and Education Minister David Eggen's Gender Diversity: Guidelines for Best Practices. There were also much smaller LGBT counter-protests. Despite the differing signage, ranging from "Flush Bill 10" to "Everyone Can Pee," the issues are not just about bathrooms, plumbing and urination, parental rights, safety of children, how people feel, GSAs and an imperfect Bill 10. What is at stake is the very order of creation.
I hope U.S. President Barack Obama's May 27 visit to Hiroshima gives him the same gut-wrenching experience I had when I first visited the site of the first atomic bomb used in warfare. Then he will leave no stone unturned to rid the world of nuclear weapons, which have rightly been called the ultimate evil. As I toured the Hiroshima museum in the mid-1970s and saw the artifacts left over from indescribable suffering and talked to the hibakusha, the survivors, who pleaded that no one anywhere ever suffer as they did, my life changed.
As someone who is fairly well acquainted with death, stories of Jesus bringing people back to life do not sit well with me. Perhaps it is because of a rash of deaths in the lives of several friends in the last six months. Perhaps it is because I would like to see people I love, again, even though they are long dead. Perhaps it is because they remind me of old hurts in my faith and prayer life when my 21-year-old friend died of cancer, despite a year's worth of prayers from many, many faithful people across our country.
Years ago I became friends with a man who had a deep faith. Early in our friendship, he told me how his life had changed from a self-indulgent way of living to a life with the vibrant faith that was now so evident. He had been raised a Christian, but like many of his generation had left his church as a young teenager to follow the ways of his culture and generation. As a young adult, he experienced a spiritual hunger and found himself exploring many spiritual paths, none of which brought any conviction or peace.
A couple of weeks ago I attended an event at the Alberta Provincial Archives commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Edmonton Gainers' Strike. This bitter strike, which went on for more than six months and put more than 1,000 employees on a picket line, is still remembered by those involved, including many in Edmonton area churches. The strike began June 1, 1986. This was a time of economic recession in Alberta with high unemployment and reduced government social supports.