A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘religion

[LINK] “When I was 18, I went on a vision quest that changed my life “

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Toronto Life shared First Nations educator Eddy Robinson‘s account of how his experiences of First Nations spirituality changed his life. There’s definitely something to this, I think, about the transformative effect of the processes and procedures involved. My memory of the time spent in a Mi’kmaq sweat lodge while during field research for an undergraduate paper is one of my fondest of my young adulthood.

I didn’t have a happy childhood. My Cree father, a residential-school survivor, and my Ojibwa-Anishinabe mother split when I was three and sent me to live with my grandparents. I slept on a cot in their living room, and my little brother’s crib was in the hallway. When I was 10, I moved back in with my mom in a subsidized housing complex at Pape and Danforth. We argued all the time. A few months later, I reconnected with my dad, who was living in Sault Ste. Marie. When I was 14, after a particularly nasty fight with my mom, I hopped on a Greyhound bus and went to stay with my dad and his girlfriend. That didn’t work out, so they put me up in a tiny one-bedroom apartment and bought me groceries once a week. Soon I was drinking and smoking weed. I was arrested several times—for stealing, for fighting, for selling drugs—and spent four months in juvie. Eventually, I was remanded back into my mother’s custody. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but I knew she’d let me do what I wanted.

When I moved back to Toronto at age 15, my grandparents insisted that I prepare for my confirmation at St. Ann’s Catholic Church near Gerrard and Broadview, where they were parishioners. The church has a Native People’s Parish, which combines Catholicism with elements of Indigenous spirituality. The church leaders incorporate sage-burning ceremonies into Mass, for instance, and translate hymns into Indigenous languages. As part of my confirmation, the priest insisted that I go on a vision quest—a ritual that lasts anywhere from 24 hours to a week. You’re left alone in the wilderness without food or supplies, and you pray to the Creator for guidance and wisdom.

On the night of my vision quest, I set up my tent at Dreamer’s Rock, a sacred place on Manitoulin Island. I was skeptical. 
I just thought I’d be abandoned outside, bored, hungry and alone. To my shock, I had a vision that night. It was an old man, standing beyond my tent. He looked like he was beckoning me. I didn’t recognize him, but I believe he was a manifestation of First Nations culture—my culture—which was waiting for me to embrace it.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 18, 2017 at 8:30 pm

[ISL] “Keeping the faith: How some churches stay busy after Christmas”

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CBC News’ Nicole Williams reports on the struggle of Island churches to have parishoners who attend holiday services attend non-holiday services, too.

For many Christians, attending church is a biannual tradition on two major holidays: Christmas and Easter — but many churches would like to see people in pews for the other Sundays of the year.

“We had over 600 people,” said Karen MacCannell, a pastoral associate at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, a Catholic church in Cornwall, P.E.I., of Christmas weekend.

MacCannell said big crowds are typical at Christmas and Easter, where they need set up extra seating and even an overflow room in the church basement.

But it’s not so much the case the rest of the year.

“It definitely fluctuates,” said MacCannell.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 2, 2017 at 6:15 pm

[LINK] On the growing popularity of the cult of Santa Muerte

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The National Post shared Ruth Sherlock’s article, originally from The Telegraph, noting the rising popularity of the cult of Santa Muerte in Mexico. This can be seen as a reflection of grim times, but I also choose to see it as a fascinating case study for sociologists of religion.

Holding a scythe in one hand and a globe in the other, the Santa Muerte could be easily mistaken for the Grim Reaper. But to her supporters, this skeletal saint, nicknamed “skinny woman”, has the power to heal illness, bring prosperity and even help them find love.

Known as the patron saint of violent drug cartels for her relative tolerance, Our Lady of Holy Death is perhaps the fastest-growing religion in the Americas.

When Jasmin Marquez was sentenced to life in prison but freed after only a year, she attributed the “miracle” to this smiling skeleton.

Standing reverently before the shrine of the Santa Muerte, she carefully lit a cigarette and let it burn without toking. “It’s for her,” she explained, in a whisper so as not to disturb the other worshippers.

[. . .]

“From Chile to Canada, Santa Muerte has no rival in terms of the rapidity and scope of its expansion,” said Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint.

“In 2001, when devotion to the folk religion first went public in Mexico, Saint Death was unknown to 99 per cent of Mexicans. In just 15 years Santa Muerte has attracted an estimated 10 to 12 million devotees, primarily in Mexico, Central America, and the U.S.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 1, 2017 at 10:16 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Atheist United Church minister starting new secular community in Toronto”

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The Globe and Mail carries Michelle McQuigge’s Canadian Press article looking at the efforts of non-believing United Church minister Gretta Vosper to set up a branch of a secular community movement in Toronto. I think this makes sense; I think she would be better off doing this than she would be in occupying a leadership role in a religious movement she is fundamentally opposed to.

A minister deemed unsuitable by the United Church for declaring herself an atheist is now at the heart of an effort to establish a type of church-style, secular community in Canada.

Gretta Vosper is one of about 10 founding members of Toronto’s Oasis Network, believed to be the first of its kind in Canada and due to launch in February.

Oasis communities, which have sprung up in several locations across the United States, are non-faith-based groups that try to draw people together based on five broad-based principles.

Among them are notions that reality is best understood through reason rather than religious insight, and that the world’s problems are best addressed by people rather than divine intervention.

Vosper sees setting up the community in Toronto as a natural extension of the work she’s already doing at one of the city’s churches.

The United Church criticized Vosper for declaring herself an atheist and will hold an ecclesiastical hearing in late 2017 to determine whether or not she will be defrocked as a minister.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 29, 2016 at 5:29 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Cathedraltown rejoices as Cathedral of Transfiguration opens its doors after nearly a decade”

The Toronto Star‘s Noor Javed reports on how the Cathedral of Transfiguration, which gave the Markham town of Cathedraltown its name, is now finally open for worship. It’s good that this building is finally going to be put to some use.

For residents of Cathedraltown, the news was nothing short of a Christmas miracle.

After nearly a decade of seeing the towering Slovak Cathedral of Transfiguration in Markham closed to the public, local resident Mayrose Gregorios couldn’t believe it when she heard the news from two men doing cleanup work on the property one morning: the church would be open for weekend mass.

For as long as Gregorios had lived in Cathedraltown, a quiet subdivision near Major Mackenzie Dr., and Highway 404, whose name was inspired by the adjacent European-style cathedral, the empty building had cast a dark shadow on the community. The last service in the cathedral, which broke ground more than three decades ago, took place in 2006.

The reasons for the closure are believed to be twofold: The first, a decade-old dispute between the developer Helen Roman-Barber and the Eparchy for Catholic Slovaks of the Byzantine Rite in Canada, over the title to the land, left the cathedral without a congregation.

But in recent years, Roman-Barber, head of King David Inc., told residents the cathedral, with its magnificent 14-storey bell towers and cupolas plated in 22-karat gold, was closed so that the numerous detailed mosaics planned for the inside could be completed. An anticipated deadline of December 2015, set by Roman-Barber in a Markham staff report, came and passed. Residents stopped hoping for good news.

So two weeks ago, Gregorios woke up early and waited for the 18-tonne bronze church bells, built at the prestigious Paccard Foundry in France, to ring and announce the momentous occasion. When she didn’t hear them toll that day, she walked over to the cathedral, saw people streaming in and joined them.

“They said it was a private mass, but couldn’t stop anyone who wanted to worship,” she said, adding there were about 200 people in attendance. “It was a beautiful moment: the mass, the singing, the spirit of it all,” said Gregorios, who said the mass was in Arabic and English.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 21, 2016 at 9:15 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • blogTO notes that Toronto’s housing market is now hotter than Vancouver’s.
  • The Crux looks at progress in human reproductive technology, including in ectogenesis.
  • D-Brief looks at a new simulation of an asteroid impacting the ocean.
  • Dangerous Minds reports on a French cement truck made into a giant mirrored disco ball.
  • In Media Res’ Russell Arben Fox writes about the benefits of reading the Old Testament.
  • Language Hat considers the experiences of one man trying to learn Avar.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money suggests Obama’s evaluation of his historical touchstone personalities is off.
  • The Map Room Blog looks at Soviet spy maps.
  • The Planetary Society Blog tries to figure out space policy under the Trump Administration.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Russia’s loss of sporting events and argues that Circassian language and culture are threatened with extinction.
  • Arnold Zwicky talks about two unusual flowers.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • The Big Picture shares photos from ruined Aleppo.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the new explanation for the ASASSN-15h, of a Sun-mass star torn apart by a fast-rotating black hole.
  • The Crux looks at the condition of hyperemesis gravidarum.
  • Dangerous Minds shares the dark and Satanic art of an Argentine artist.
  • Joe. My. God. reports on one man’s displeasure that Malta has banned ex-gay “therapy”.
  • Language Log looks at where British law confronts linguistics.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money imagines an alternate history where Jill Stein leaves the presidential race and gives Hillary Clinton a needed victory.
  • Peter Rukavina recalls the simple yet effective early version of Hansard for the Island legislative assembly.
  • Mark Simpson notes the objectification of men on the new Baywatch.
  • Window on Eurasia fears the violence of an open Russian imperialism and looks at the confusion over how to recognize the 1917 revolution.