Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The life of a Brother in Toronto

It's been a long time since I've written on this blog. My apologies for the delay! I guess, you can say I've been a little busy, but also, shockingly, I think I've lost a bit of my desire to write in the past little while. I don't quite understand where this is coming from other than the fact that I have a lot to do, but I can't forget that during my pilgrimage, I was given a bit of a revelation: There are many things I could end up doing as a Jesuit, but there's only one thing that Christ really seems to be calling me to do with all my heart, and that is writing. The reason for this is that there is still a dream that I cling to that I can impact the world, and help create social change as a Jesuit, and I don’t see myself achieving this in better ways than through my writing. It may be just a dream, but at the same time, I find myself in a position -even in here in Toronto- where people turn to me for help, where they depend on me, and are even helped by my actions. SO it's not a pipe dream, it's the reality of my vocation. I make myself available to people, which means that I can and do help more than I can ever immagine. Furthermore, I know that my writing has impacted people in the past emotionally, or otherwise. So why wouldn't I come back to it? No reason. I guess that's why I'm here this morning!!
It's now time for the Toronto Vs Montreal segment. Some dramatic pictures to illustrate this segment:

                                                                               T Dot



Toronto is a lovely city, and even though I miss Montreal...actually, there’s no even thoughs here..I miss Montreal. Toronto is still and will always be a lovely and inviting city with lots of diversity and culture. That doesn't change the fact that Montreal just has more charism, more energy, more colour. I guess that's my own bias. This is why I put this survey on my Blog. I was talking to someone about Bagels recently, and it dawned on me that I had heard of a debate in Montreal as to which place had the best bagels, but could not remember the results of that debate, so I leave it up to the people to resolve this one!!

 But back to my Toronto Vs. Montreal  point, there’s no question that I miss lounging around on St Catherines on a Friday night, or that I’m annoyed I couldn’t be in town for the Arcade Fire concert, or that I long to be closer to my family, or even that there’s a part of me that has died when I left McGill Choral…I can’t deny any of that. However, Toronto is a city with great charm, and thanks to the Jesuits, to my Toronto family,  to the Newman center, to a little Movie called Scott Pilgrim vs the World, and to Ted’s perpetual flair for adventure, I have found my niche here as well: Like Montreal, Toronto is a great walking city; It tries to rival Montreal in terms of fine dining (Does very well in some departments, and not so much in others –that’s my way of saying that nothing can come close to rivalling Schartz, at least, not in Toronto!-);It has a great cultural scene ( The one thing Montreal does poorly in, Toronto is great at: Musicals!!!!) and does have interesting history. I mentioned a movie though…Scott Pilgrim was not only filmed in Toronto, it’s based in Toronto and largely filmed with Canadian actors with a large American contingency as well! It’s the first movie I saw at the house this year…I just stumbled upon it..I had no idea what it was going to be.  It turned out to be a lovely tribute to this city, a very funny movie, but also a very artistic approach to storytelling. If you’ve not seen it yet, and are looking for a cute story and a creative film, I highly recommend it.


  There are other things I really love about Tdot…the CN Tower that changes colours at night, the same passion for their hockey team that Montreal has for the Habs (doesn’t make me want to cheer for them, but I still respect the passion!! I was elated that the Flyers took them down a notch or two on Monday!!). But what’s helped me above everything to see the human face of this city, is my apostolate. It’s interesting: we all have very different apostolates. Adam and Santi work with the youth program of one parish, Ted works with immigrants, the other guys work with Catechism or RCIA or liturgy in various parishes around the city.  I was the only one given a genuine street ministry, and I’m quite honoured by that. I work at a soup kitchen every Monday. The place I work at is the Brothers of the Good shepherd. It’s a place started by a religious community, that still has a good presence of priests and brothers, although I think it’s mostly run by  non-religious these days. They get something like 1000 people every day. They are by far the best organized community soup kitchen I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen many in my life. They compost food and recycle things; they have 100s of volunteers every week; they also have apartments for guys trying to reinsert themselves in the world. It’s  a wonderful operation. Most importantly for me…it’s a connection I have to the real world. These are not men and women that spend their days talking about philosophy and theology (as the people in my environment do. It’s important to do this too, but it’s not the real world for me)…they’re trying to survive…they do their best. But what amazes me every week is that despite their hardship, they have more faith in God than most people I encounter. I’ve argued this in a previous blog (or maybe it was in a homily. I say homilies rather frequently here! ) but it blows my mind that while there are people out there, “occupying cities” around the world or sipping tea in a trendy place in town, who claim they could never believe in God in a world filled with injustice, the people who most beautifully believe in God in this world, are those who suffer injustices and marginalisation . So while young people reject God because of their strongly voiced objections vs the injustice and while they speak of the bleakness of the world 24/7, the people I meet at the center, who may not be sure from day to day where their food will come from, seem to have an insurmountable amount of hope. My theory as to why this occurs? The ones who complain about capitalism or the state of the world don’t have to depend on the kindness of strangers to survive every day. Or if they do, they’re not aware of it (that would not surprise me. Atheist are affected by God just as everyone else is...they just don’t know it!!) When one has to start depending more on others to survive, perhaps one develops a bit more a sense of gratitude for life, and one learns to see God in that hope, in that gratitude. That’s my Catholic/Jesuit interpretation of the situation.

 The impact this experience has had on me, is that, as I’ve said, it’s kept me grounded. It’s reminded me that, outside my little Catholic world, there is a whole society of people in pain, suffering, alone, yet still full of peace, hope and love for others. It also forces me to be more than just a student. My studies are important, I’m getting good grades and am learning a lot about my faith and the experience of religion and about being a Disciple of Jesus Christ, but it’s when I come to this place that I learn what true discipleship is. Giving my time to serve others, but also receiving from them all that they have to offer. It’s a humbling and beautiful experience.

 The final piece to my Toronto Jesuit experience lies at Newman Center. Originally, when my superior asked me what I wanted to do for Apostolate, I mentioned that I’d love to work at Newman. I have a feeling that my future vocation will be largely built around helping university students make sense of their faith in a complicated modern secular time. My principal desire is to guide them through their spiritual struggles, but also to give them a sense that there’s more to life than studies…. that a true Catholic faith should be expressed in Social Justice, not just going to Church every Sunday. Anyways, I digress. My superior told me that it may be a good idea to experience something

Different, so that’s how I ended up at Good Shepherd’s, and I’m glad I did. However, I didn’t let that prevent me from interacting with the Newman crowd. I’m just surprised how quickly it happened. I have one little lady to thank for that.

  Sonal is an MDiv student who has 3 classes with me. We get along very well and have gotten along since day 1, but it’s not in class that I met her, but at Newman. She’s one of the Campus ministers who also lives at the Newman center with all the other student campus ministers. Eventually, she began to invite me to lunch and supper and study sessions at Newman. I’ve gotten to know almost everyone there pretty well. There’s many opportunities for ministry, but I’m mostly there for friendship, and if ministry comes out of it, then, praise be to God. I’m mostly happy to have met such a good friend as Sonal so quickly. School has barely started and we were already talking like old friends!!

Anyways, that is my life in Toronto. Lots of good friends…a wonderful community at home, and a very inviting and friendly one at Newman as well.challenging work academically and apostolically… but a tremendous

Sense of joy and peace that accompanies the whole thing. I’m blessed really.

 I’m thinking really hard about all of you out there. God bless you all!