and our eyes were opened at the breaking of bread... in Montréal

While in Montréal last week we encountered a killer ice storm. Given my liberated schedule, however, we could treat it like an extra holiday. So when our Air BnB host suggested we stay over another night free of charge? Well, it was grace upon grace, n'est pas? Indeed, it gave us the chance to feast with a couple in their late 40s we met at Bistro Beaufort. They were there for a Saturday night drink with the owner, Jean Francois, who had graciously served us supper late on Thursday. We went back on Saturday to return our thanks when introductions were made all around. Soon we discovered that this couple had been to Massachusetts often - loved jazz manouche, or gypsy jazz - and was interested in having us over for dinner before we left.  Our extra snow/ice day gave way to blessings.

Over great food and excellent red wine, we spent four hours sharing our respective life journeys.  I love to hear to hear another's story - and this pair were open and insightful. She, for example, had just completed her nurse's training practicum. Starting in September, two years of university level work would begin. It was an intentional, values-driven midlife career change. After growing up in a small, homogeneous Francophone town outside of the city, she realized that the vibe of cosmopolitan Montréal was magnetic. In time she worked as an editor, married, and raised two children along with her husband of 20+ years. He hailed from a business-oriented, professional family in Montréal. After twenty plus years of working in the corporate realm, however, he too began to march to a different drummer. He wanted time to walk by the river with the love of his before his health gave out. He yearned to play more jazz manouche and savor the blessings of each day, too. Last year, he closed down his corporate career and opened up his own free-lance consulting office. Now there is more time for her to follow her passion for karate. Or open their home to the young "nursing school stray" who needed some special care and attention. Or take in late night jazz together. We spoke about our unique journeys by faith rather than sight, as well.

"We grew up in the Roman Catholic Church," she told us as the feast ripened, "but found it was mechanical and too abstract. What I am looking for now is an incarnational spirituality." Honestly. She spoke about searching for a spirituality that was embodied. These two well-educated, compassionate people came of age during Quebec's "Quiet Revolution" wherein the Roman Catholic church was disenfranchised as a political player. Douglas John Hall, Professor Emeritus of Theology at McGill, has noted that in one generation all the trappings of a once vigorous institutional Christianity have disappeared in contemporary Quebecois culture. This was clearly true for our new friends. 

At the same time, the deeper questions of what it means to live by "faith not by sight" were still real and compelling. How do I go deeper into the heart of being human? How can my commitment to compassion and tenderness guide both the contours of my soul as well as my working life? What does it mean to honor the self and serve the greater good? My mind went immediately to the insight of Pope Francis who recently reminded us that: holiness means being yourself. Fully and incarnationally yourself. With love, depth, integrity, humor, sorrow, doubt and all the rest. Our new friends sensed this from the inside out. They have recently found encouragement from a small Buddhist community that says much the same thing: living with loving integrity is the essence of creation. By doing this, our lives become an embodied prayer.

This was not all we talked about, ok? We shared pictures of our grandkids. And listened to old recordings of Thelonious Monk. And trash-talked Trump noting that "the present moment has already become our worst dystopian nightmare." Still, the way the Spirit of love becomes enfleshed in our ordinary lives wound through our words much like a golden thread in a white braid. I keep thinking of Jean Vanier's insight from the gospel of St. John:  "In the beginning, before all things, communion was: communion between God and the wisdom of creation (logos)... and at the right time, this wisdom become flesh and entered history... so that we all might be led into communion (for this is the very life of God.)" (Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John)

Vanier insists that "unity precedes creation." That is, integration and community among all things not only shapes the wisdom of existence, but saturates our souls. To be holy is to be fully alive as ourselves. Imagine my delight as this wisdom became flesh among us once again that night in Montréal. As another holy person once put it: "... our eyes were opened in the breaking of the bread." I am so grateful.

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