Calgary youth visit the Montreal Shrine

Posted: 2019/06/24

A group of youth from the Rundle neighbourhood in Calgary, Alta., visit the Shrine in Montreal as part of a special program of visits organized by the National Spiritual Assembly.

The National Spiritual Assembly recently announced the launch of a “special program of visits to the Shrine in Montreal, blessed by the footsteps of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in 1912 and referred to by Him as His home.”[1] In February 2019, the first formally-registered group visited the Shrine. This article draws on the piece “Calgary meets Montreal!” written by Golgasht Mossafai and published on www.bahaimontreal.org.

A group of 18 youth from the Rundle neighbourhood in Calgary, Alta., travelled to Montreal, Que. to visit the Shrine and to learn about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s time in Montreal – the only city He visited in Canada. They were the first group to take part in the National Spiritual Assembly’s new program and were lovingly hosted by the Montreal Bahá’í community.

Amelia Hedley, who was visiting the Shrine for the first time, said the significance of the experience was heighted by being there with her neighbourhood team. It encouraged them to pray together and deepen their friendships. They were also treated to a special itinerary, including a gathering that invited them to reflect on how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s example enlightens their work in the neighbourhood.

The friends spent much of their time in the Shrine, devoting themselves to prayer and meditation in that sacred spot. Amelia shared how she felt a sense of majesty and peace in visiting a place that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá graced with His presence. The group also went on a special tour that retraced some of His movements. They began at Windsor Station, where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s train arrived from Boston, Mass. on 31 August 1912. From there, they continued to St. James United Church, on St. Catherines Street, where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave a public talk on 5 September 1912. Here, they read one of the talks that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá delivered while in Montreal, published in the volume The Promulgation of Universal Peace.

They also visited the Basilica Mary Queen of the World, with its majestic green dome. Here, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stopped and, standing in front of the entrance, said to the friends who accompanied Him: “Behold what eleven disciples of Christ have accomplished, how they sacrificed themselves! I exhort you to walk in their footsteps. When a person is detached, he is capable of revolutionizing the whole world.”[2]

The final part of their tour was a visit to the Windsor Hotel, to which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá moved on 2 September 1912 after spending His first few nights at the Maxwell home. On the afternoon of that day, eminent professors, pastors and members of the press gathered at the hotel. A Toronto Star Weekly reporter asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá if He intended to visit Toronto or any other Canadian city. He replied that it would be impossible but added: “You can tell your people that your country delights me. It is a beautiful and prosperous land.”[3]

In addition to visiting these sites, the youth spent time with the Montreal friends, attending a devotional gathering at the local Bahá’í Centre and a study with youth. “It was so unifying,” Amelia explained, to “see we were all doing the same thing.” She felt privileged to be able to walk where the Master had walked, and to view historical landmarks associated with this significant time in Canadian Bahá’í history. She said, “[I]t was quite special to go as a team, to build that solidarity of the group and to reflect on that same spirit.” They returned to serve in their neighbourhood revitalized.

“I have sown the seed,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said upon His departure from Montreal, “You must water it. You must educate the souls in divine morals, make them spiritual and lead them to the oneness of humanity and to universal peace.”[4]

Those wishing to register to visit in a group should apply by email to montrealshrinegroups@gmail.com. Individuals wishing to visit the Shrine can do so during regular opening hours, which can be found at www.bahai.ca/bahai-shrine-in-montreal.

[1] From the National Spiritual Assembly to the Bahá’ís of Canada, 6 April 2018

[2] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá quoted by Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani, Mahmúd’s Diary, p. 228

[3] Will C. van den Hoonaard, The Origins of the Bahá’í Community of Canada, 1898-1948, pp. 49-50

[4] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá quoted by Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani, Mahmud’s Diary, p. 249.