Homily - Anniversary Mass for the Founding of Montreal



Homily: Anniversary Mass for the Founding of Montreal
May 17, 2017, Notre-Dame Basilica

An anniversary for everyone and for every community

Dear Sisters and Brothers of yesterday and today,
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Dear Sisters and Brothers within our human family,

Today, we would like to honour Maisonneuve and Jeanne-Mance, Montreal's co-founders, to commemorate our French and Catholic roots, to recognize the legacy of values that imbue our society, to celebrate our very existence, and to give thanks to God.

This is a noteworthy celebration for the City of Montreal, the Island of Montreal, Greater Montreal, Quebec and Canada. Ville-Marie was founded on the Island of Montreal, and later adopted the same name. Montreal was a hub around which many other cities were later established. Montreal grew within Quebec and Canada, a city open to the world and welcoming people and communities from every continent.

The adventure of hope

From its founding to today, Montreal remains a community of communities, founded by adventurers driven by hope. On this day, May 17, as we celebrate the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montreal, we once again look to the men and women who crossed the Atlantic without ever knowing for certain if they would safely arrive on the shores of the Saint Lawrence. These pioneers founded Ville-Marie without any certitude that they would survive the elements, the winter cold, or the wars. What was experienced at the time of the city's founding has been courageously lived throughout Montreal's history. This story continues to unfold today with the arrival of immigrants and refugees.

The founding pioneers set out without knowing what the future would hold. Why? Because they had faith. Faith that God had called them, faith in the beautiful plan for a city founded on spirituality, community-living and solidarity. Their faith in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, opened their hearts to the sure knowledge of God's love and led them to rely on him by placing their entire lives in his hands. Their faith that Jesus, the Living Christ, is there beside us throughout every storm, gave them the confidence to proceed with hope and to base their lives on love and on the development of a city that radiates goodness, truth and beauty.

Foundational values: still current

Since the founding of Montreal, countless generations for various reasons, from diverse cultures and different beliefs have set out to establish themselves here. The foundational values have stood the test of time and are still operative today. They have the ability to bring people together and to create peace.

Spirituality is a call to believe that all human beings are created by God in God's image, that each and every one is made for eternity, that all humankind, from every place and time, is called to enter into a covenant with God, that we all share the same humanity, the same fundamental dignity. Spirituality focuses one's attention on God and, at the same time, on humanity, making a connection with God and, at the same time, connecting all of us to each other before God and under his loving gaze. Maisonneuve, Jeanne-Mance and all those who contributed to the planning and achievement of founding Montreal were Catholics whose focus on God broadened their view towards others, regardless of belief.

This is why, from the beginning, Montreal was conceived as a model of community-living/vivre-ensemble. It was the desire to establish a city where the French pioneers and members of the First Nations would live together. There was intermittent warfare, but at the same time, the French learned from the Aboriginal Peoples how to live in this country. Injuries and losses were suffered, but at the same time, all were welcomed by the Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph at the Hôtel Dieu Hospital. The schools founded by Marguerite Bourgeoys and the Congrégation de Notre-Dame were open to all children and youth, and the priests of Saint-Sulpice were at the service of everyone. There were misunderstandings and confrontations, but there was also the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701.

The value of community-living/vivre-ensemble is part of the very essence of Montreal and its history. The city is most true to itself when it works untiringly to foster peaceful co-existence, social interaction respectful of the humanity of others, and a commitment to build together. The diversity of beliefs calls for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience to take their place in the public sphere as well as in private life. Our efforts regarding community-living/vivre-ensemble should not be hidden but be visible, thus nourishing democracy, the respect for life and the right to safety.

In this regard, one thinks of the Aboriginal communities and the people who came from France, but there are also those who came from England, Scotland and Ireland. Add to them, the many other cultural and linguistic groups who today make their home here. We also call to mind the various Christian denominations, the Jewish faith, the Muslim faith, the different religions and the many forms of humanism, which are all called to serve the cause of peace and the common good.

The search for spirituality and community-living is also a search for solidarity. Everyone searches for meaning in life, needs human relationships and strives for peace. At times, it is said, and with good reason, that "the greatness of a civilization is measured by the place it gives to its weakest members." Montreal's history is one of solidarity with those most in need, with those who have been struck by tragedy. From the religious communities of yesterday and today, to the community organizations of our times, the compassion and support that are given, without regard to cultural differences, are also a part of who we are, on a civil and political level.

A culture of peace

In the name of Jesus, Maisonneuve and Jeanne-Mance, the founders of Montreal, embraced values that were both profoundly Christian and profoundly human. These same values are timeless, because they are fundamental to who we are as human beings. Together, let us continue to focus on spirituality, community-living/"vivre-ensemble" and solidarity, so that Montreal may remain a place where the dignity of every human being is upheld. Together, let's build a society where individuals find fulfillment, where families flourish, and where the various segments of society experience respect, dialogue and peace.

Let's be inspired by these men and women, our ancestors, who, kneeling before God, allowed themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, in the joy of faith in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Let us look to the cross, source of reconciliation. In our personal, family, social and church lives, there are sunny days and dark, stormy ones. Let us thank God for his presence and have faith that he will never abandon us.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Dear Sisters and Brothers within our human family,
Dear Sisters and Brothers from past to present, from here and elsewhere,

Happy anniversary of the founding Montreal!

+ Christian Lépine
Archbishop of Montreal

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