Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 19, 2007
Writer describes search for human completeness
Stories of love point to our human destiny
- WCR photo by Bill Glen
Michael Coren tells of the giant heart of a man called Horse.
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Many years ago, Michael Coren was in a moment of reflection sitting on the shores of the Sea of Galilee reading the Bible when a local man asked him in Hebrew, Ma shalom ha?
Coren thought it was a customary greeting much like "How are you?" But he delved deeper into its meaning and discovered it is also to ask "Are you complete?"
It was dawn and the man entered the water and swam away.
"Even for someone as dim as me, that phrase has to resonate. It had to mean something."
Coren began to apply the question to various incidents in his life because he saw it as the perfect Christian question.
The popular Toronto radio and television personality was guest speaker March 14, talking to the St. Peter Speaks (SPS) group at the Sutton Place Hotel.
SPS is a two-year-old apostolate started by Edmonton businessman Ryan Risling, designed for Catholic men and women who are leaders in the community.
Coren is also an opinionated weekly columnist for several newspapers, including the Edmonton Sun.
People continually ask him if he favours left or right wing politics.
"I don't look left or right," Coren tells them. "I look up."
He was baptized Catholic 23 years ago as an adult. He moved to Canada three years later. He would leave the Catholic Church for several years, before returning five years ago.
Jonathan and Angela
He recalled leaving high school in Britain in 1977, and one particular couple - Jonathan and Angela - whom Coren called "the most beautiful people in the school." They were smart, funny and athletic. And they were particularly nice.
The telephone rang one evening and it was an old classmate inviting Coren to a large party hosted by Jonathan and Angela. Coren agreed he would be there.
Everyone had been warned that Angela had been a teacher in South Africa, and there had been a fire in her two-room school. Jonathan was badly burned while rescuing a little boy named Joshua.
He saw Jonathan sitting in a chair in the corner of the living room, but didn't recognize him for the scar tissue. Then a little African boy came running from the small kitchen and jumped onto Jonathan's lap, hugged him and called him "Daddy." Angela told Coren his name was Joshua, and he was their newly adopted son.
Coren said the moment made his own life seem quite banal.
"They were Christians and they went to Africa to work as missionaries. Jonathan was an engineer working on water supplies for their village while Angela was teaching in the school," Coren said.
"The question 'Are you complete?' had been asked and the answer was yes."
Coren is married with four children. He met his wife while they were each attending a conference at St. Michael's College in Toronto.
After his wife took their children camping, Coren became restless sitting alone at home. He had stayed behind to work.
One evening, he went out to the theatre. Outside the theatre was a grubby, homeless man who had his right hand inside his jacket.
Coren realized it was too late for the corner store to still be open to buy him a chocolate bar, so he offered to buy the man a meal. "I'll feed their belly but not their habit," he said.
In the diner Coren wished he had given him some money. He didn't know what to say or do. He felt awkward.
He asked the man his name.
"Years of university and that's all I came up with," he joked.
The man said his name was Horse. Like the animal, Coren asked? The man said yes.
The man explained that he began to drink so much, his wife left him with their young child. Horse continually claimed it was his fault.
Horse in daughter's hand
One night, the police found him and took him away to sober him up with coffee and bread. They took him to a hospital where they told him his wife and daughter were dead.
In his daughter's tiny hand was a toy horse he had given her.
He pulled his hand out of his jacket and said to Coren: "It's this one here. I always hold it. It's why they call me Horse."
Coren asked the man how he coped.
Horse realized everything would be fine because people who cared for him at a rooming house were Christians. They told him they continually forgive him because they themselves were once just like him. When they were down, they were forgiven. They were simply trying to repay the love they had found from God.
Coren realized the enormity of Horse's heart while realizing how badly he had minimized him because he judged him by his appearance.
Horse was remorseful because he became a Christian, yet continued his ways on the street. He said he tries to do the best he can with what he has because he knows that is what God wants.
Coren told the group that we should ask ourselves daily if we are complete. If everyone thinks life is meant to be good all the time, they do not understand the teachings of Jesus.
"If you can remain faithful to the teachings of Scripture, the Church and the sacraments, you can answer yes. There is an eternity of joy and happiness with God," he said.
"He did not guarantee a good life. He guaranteed a perfect eternity."