Saturday, December 19, 2009

Me and my friends. No, I'm kidding! May we not lose our sense of ha ha this Christmas.

Merry Christmas

I awoke this morning poised to write an annual letter come blog recalling my year and sending out tidings for the feast of the Incarnation (see title). This I will do, but before so I must discharge my momentary angst.

This morning’s (December 19th) news is depressing. Coming out of a global financial crisis, which made many of us realize the need for stronger international ties –even governance- (I owe my conversion to Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate) the global community showed her incompetence in the form of a sketchy 11th hour deal on climate change. While I appreciate the fact that a deal was made, this one will do nothing to slow the polar thaw. Hardest for me to accept is the lack of enthusiasm for change demonstrated by my own country, as well as the giant directly to our south. Alberta’s tar sands have brought prosperity, but, surely, we will pay for it.

Reflection on consequence leads me to a question: Is Armageddon imminent? I try to believe that the Second Coming will be to a completed kingdom of peace and harmony, but it seems the world is racing toward total self-destruction. Perhaps we will soon identify with St. Paul and the early church who anticipated, and readied themselves, for a judgement day they believed near at hand.

As Advent people we are journeying toward presence –that is “presence” not “presents”. And presence was something I learned a lot about this year. The Clinical Pastoral Education program, endangered as the polar bear, was the most formative ministerial experience of my life to date. I spent three months at the University of Alberta hospital learning how to connect with self, others and God (and better do I see the connectedness of these three). Of cherished memory are laughs with my hospital colleagues, as well as the reality checks found in ministry and group reflection. The truth may hurt lest it also liberate.

Speaking of freedom, I said goodbye to Newman Theological College in 2009 -they even gave me a degree. Warm thoughts go out to the few friends I made through studies. Formally or informally, I consider all partners in ministry and companions on the road of life.

No longer a student, ministry, it seems, became my energy and stress this year. So fortunate was I to get out and meet new people in places such as Victoria, Calgary, and St. Albert. As anyone who has traveled knows, western Canada is a large and sparsely populated region. For that reason we experience cultural nuances from one city to the next. In every part, however, I have discovered spirits of inquiry, openness, and dedication. Resting on our basic drive to survive, which includes the urge to compete, gain and consume, is a want for inner peace and tranquility. It is the latter that keeps me employed. Thank you God for creating people in your own image!

2009 was not all work and no play. On Labour Day weekend, I attended just the fourth Dupuis Family reunion in about 20 years (Dupuis is the maiden name of my Grandma Ducharme). Always fun is it to be in the Okanagan Valley with aunts, uncles, cousins and their kin, not to mention my immediate family whom I see more often. So revealing at family reunions are the affects of nature. People get older. They get wiser. They get stronger, and they get weaker. They get faster, and they get slower. They stay up later, and they go to bed earlier. They party harder, and they party less. Praise God people change! I quote a rhetorical old friend: “If all people were the same, and stayed the same, life would be boring”.

Before signing off I must acknowledge the people who teach me who I am on a daily basis. To my dearest friends, loved ones, and especially my Franciscan community: God Bless! The Spirit of the Lord shows herself to me through you.

May the peace of the Incarnate Word be with you always!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Discovering the Other Poor

Given all that is stimulating in the universe these days, it can be hard to pick a one blog topic. One could compare this struggle with that of choosing a vocation. Having decided on (or at least parameters for) the ladder (me being a Franciscan) the single most pressing blog topic continues to allude this aspiring child of God. So, in the news….

On October 3rd and 4th we Franciscans celebrated our annual feast. A scaled down event from the 1000 plus guest affair at the Northlands Agricom last fall, 40 or so friends of the Edmonton Franciscan community gathered at the friary on Saturday evening. If Billy has not blogged about it, he should –his Vodka laced Oysters are earning he and the Franciscans a reputation. Justifiable only by faith in Jesus Christ, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8), pleasure, pleasure, pleasurable is his cuisine.

From Hedonism to Narcissism, and speaking of food, I watched “Julie and Julia” last evening. Meryl Streep’s near perfect Julia Child impersonation tested my endurance, but the film must be credited for something –it inspires me to write. Like St. Francis was inspired to doff possessions, power, and status, I am presently inspired to write. For those who have not seen the movie, I will try not to ruin it for you by building it up as some sort of masterpiece; I will say that I identify with aspiring writer/cook Julie Powel. At thirty, the young wife (not mother) realises that she, an expert at nothing, still struggles to prove herself to the world. I am not an expert at anything, nor can I claim to be an authority on very much, and I too would like to save the world. What a coincidence!

Speaking of coincidences, I delved into one of our Minister General’s writings this week and gained a new insight on gospel poverty. In a letter to “young Friars”, our Jose, OFM addresses the question: “How to be poor today?” His answer: “give priority to human relations. Do not just give things to the poor…place the person at the centre and goods at the service of your relationships with others and with God.” Need I exegete? Rhetorical question, and the answer is no.

To those who know me, and even more so to those who do not know me, I can be flippant, narcissistic, and annoyingly opinionated. Beyond other lacking abilities, my tendency to self-disclose alone will save me from ever being named a bishop in the Catholic Church. Yet I, like Julie Powel, know that something good can come from my need to be needed. As I am now (filled with faith in Jesus Christ), I am justified. From people, may l learn to love lady poverty.

Friday, August 28, 2009

And the Lord Gave Me Brothers

All summer long people were asking me why my blog was so out of date. Well, frankly, I was busy! I engaged in and completed the three month Clinical Pastoral Education program at the University of Alberta Hospital. This, for me, was a nice segue from theological studies to my next career as blogger. Do not be afraid, that was a joke. All will learn of my upcoming (and real) adventures in future blogs.
Even though there is much to tell, I would, for now, like to put aside the storied months of May, June, and July, to focus on recent history. Last weekend my good friends and brothers Daniel Gurnick and Armand Mercier made their Solemn Profession as Friars Minor (and to the western Canadian Church, God, and world) -I must throw that in there, as we are proudly a western Canadian province. The profession, as an event, was noticeably priding for friars and friends, and no doubt the families of Armand and Dan. For myself, and a number of my confreres, it capped off an inspiring retreat by our American brother Roch Niemeyer. Throughout the week, Niemeyer spoke of God, above all else, as St. Francis’s inspiration to live the gospel in humility, poverty and with love. Deep within Francis was a desire for solidarity with creation. Desire, explains Niemeyer, comes from the heart –the dwelling place of faith.
As Franciscans we are often referred to as a montly crew. No two friars are the same; no two friaries are the same. What brings us together is our shared desire to live the gospel as brothers. This life is not about fronts or practices, it is about faith. So, with this in mind I would like to share with you some photos from recent history. If you are interested in liturgical symbols (which are all good and wonderful), check out the webpage: In this particular collection I have reserved space only for photos of friars celebrating, even priding in, their brotherhood.
A common desire connects us all. May a community of peace and joy be the fruit of the faith we share.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Minister General Visits Canucklehead Bros.

Last weekend we Franciscans in Edmonton were visited by our Minister General Jose Carballo OFM. While we Canucks went out of our way to treat him and our English speaking representative Finnian McGinn OFM as guests of honour -I even vacuumed the stairs- this turned out to be a relatively ordinary weekend here at the Friary. Beyond his inspirational presentation on the state of the Order and the global Franciscan scene, Jose brought none of the stereotypical signs of sanctity that one might expect from the successor of St. Francis. Our brother Jose was as down to earth and as laid back as any Friar I have ever met. He was ordinary; only by being himself did he become extraordinary.

Like anyone else who visits the Friary, this weekend’s guests ate great food, drank good wine, and laughed their way into the world of irony. Without diminishing the philosophical insights that Jose added, I can honestly say that his best offering was this ability to laugh and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Whether sitting in our living room, dinning room, or presiding at liturgy, Jose was devoid of pretentiousness. He talked freely about his dealings with the Pope and the political challenges facing Friars in places like China and Croatia, but what inspired me was his love for life = food, drink, people and sleep. To make a long story short, the Spaniard, who has lived in Rome for many years, felt at home with his brothers in Edmonton.

During Novitiate, my assistant Novice Master Flavian Walsh said to me: “Enjoy life’s simple pleasures Pierre!” At a time when I was not feeling so affirmed by the people around me, these words were unforgetable. The Franciscan life is one of simplicity, humility, and self-giving. As characters like Jose and Flavian teach us, it involves not only being hospitable but receiving hospitality with a joy-filled spirit. The more I think about Jose and his way of being Franciscan, I am convinced that he is indeed an objectively holy and righteous man. The irony is that he is above all an authentic human being. From his oversized belly, to his humour, to his attitude, he shows all the signs of someone who loves life, food, drink, people and sleep. From his homilies, writings, and presentations, he is clearly a prayerful man too; but most importantly he is integrated, grounded in self-awareness and his relationship to the real world. All Franciscans and those discerning the Franciscan way of life should take note -be yourself! Given our important mission to preach the gospel, we best not be afraid of our own shadows. Spontaneous, liberated, and receptive, we may bring the good news to those we meet.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fort Saskatchewan Mural

Brother Boniface OFM (early 20th Century)
This is a sketch of a mural in the works in Fort Saskatchewan. The short Friar is the late Boniface Hiedmeyer OFM, and the tall guy is supposed to be me.
Me in Fort Sask. promoting our Centennial Gala (June 2008). Feel free to laugh.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Film Inspirations

On friday night I went to see a film at the Princess Theatre -I try to see everything the princess has to offer. As an independant distributer, they do not show American blockbusters; they show good films. The film I saw is a good film!

"One Week", starring Joshua Jackson, is the story of a young Torontonian who has been diagnosed with Terminal Cancer. It just so happens that he is also engaged to be married. To this point in his life, "Ben" has been the type to do what he is told and believe what others say about him. Such is evident in his lack of confidence as a singer -thanks to a certain elementary school teacher. Upon diagnosis, however, Ben decides to detach himself from fiancee, family, and medical moorings and venture accross western Canada. Along the way he discovers freedom, beautty, joy, and his true self. Suddenly alive, the new Ben Tyler is a brave and hopefilled man of conviction who is rooted an authentic sense of self.

Upon reflection on my journey to here, I can identify with certain aspects of this story. Despite having never been diagnosed with anything fatal, I have deep seated longings for discovery. For some years, these lay suppressed by fear of unknowns and a cripling lack of self-confidence. Even today I am not so sure these fears and anxieties are fully overcome. For people like me, a film such as "One Week" can be inspiring. Leading us forward to engage new challenges, and exercise our individuality through healthy relationality. While I do believe it wise to listen to the advice of others, it is not helpful to wallow in insults that immobalize. Every human being has been blessed with gifts and talents, our task is to discover them and so make ourself a gift to the world. In closing I will quote my old mentor Jean Vanier: "God wants us to be free, not merely to do what everyone else wants and become slaves to society". So, if inspired, put aside those Cineplex Odeon tickets and hit up the Princess Theatre (or your local independent movie distributer).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My First Blog

Okay! Without yet knowing exactly how this works, I have created a blog. As I understand all are welcome in this space. Let me know what you think of my soapbox expressions, and feel free to offer me advice. I am the youngest member of the province of Christ the King in the Order of Friars Minor -OFM. My feet are barely wet in ministry, but so far I love being a Franciscan. I will write more on that, and myself later. Right now I need to figure out how this blog works. Did I set it up write? Is the name cheesy, or does it suit my personality?

Pax et Bonum!