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Portrait de 'Abdu'l-Bahá par Juliet TomsonMontreal, August 31, 2018 - After five months in the United States the Master was coming to Montreal, despite His friends' forebodings, and late on the night of August 30, 1912, the Maxwells and Louise Bosch met His train from Boston. He went directly to their home, for four days lavishing His presence before moving to the Hotel Windsor. The columns of the Montreal Daily Star had for a week been heralding this great event, and during those memorable days the best publicity of His American stay, He said, ensured a permanent record of His words. In hours of grave concern to Canada, of threatening conflict and burdensome armaments, the predictions of this "Apostle of Peace . . . (of) An Appalling War" were headlined to the city.

May Maxwell’s share was strenuous in this historic sojourn, for she made the major part of His arrangements. He accorded her immortal praise in the Tablet to Canada. “He found that through the effort of the maidservant of God, Mrs. Maxwell a number of the sons and daughters of the Kingdom in that Dominion, were gathered together and associated with each other, increasing this joyous exhilaration day by day. The time of sojourn was limited to a number of days, but the results in the future are inexhaustible.”

While there were at the time only about fourteen Bahá’ís living in Montréal, such abbreviations in numbers did not deter the Master in His praise both of the city, itself, and the potentials He found within those souls that impressed Him, beginning with that of May Maxwell:

“When a farmer comes into the possession of a virgin soil, in a short time he will bring under cultivation a large field. Therefore I hope that in the future Montreal may become so stirred, that the melody of the Kingdom may travel to all parts of the world from that Dominion and the breaths of the Holy Spirit may spread from that center to the East and the West of America…”

In her journal of the Master’s stay in Montreal, May Maxwell wrote, in a poetic phrase, that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived on the evening of August 30, 1912 at her home, on the flank of Mount Royal, under “the full brightness of a summer moon.” He came on the train from Boston and arrived late. The Master was met eagerly at the Windsor train station on Peel Street at 8:00 p.m. by Sutherland Maxwell with two carriages. (Scheduled to arrive at 8:40 pm but it apparently arrived towards midnight). ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was accompanied on this occasion by only two members from his retinue: Mahmúd-i-Zarqání, who chronicled the Master’s visit to North America and his interpreter, Ahmad Sohrab.

Maxwell HomeThe believers and their friends living in Montreal had well prepared the ground for the Master’s arrival. In fact, their advanced preparation may be taken as an example of efficient media and public relations. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived at 716 Pine Avenue West (later 1548) on the evening of August 30th, He was met by a group of friends and reporters that included John Lewis, editor of the Montreal Daily Star. It is likely that editor Lewis was a Bahá’í because in Amine De Mille’s eye-witness account of the visit, he is included in the list of names of “first servants to arise through the teaching of Sutherland and May Maxwell” and mentioned among “these earliest friends of the Faith in Montreal.”

The considerable publicity and the magnetic, irresistible personality  of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá brought such a flow of inquirers to 716 Pine Avenue West that the Maxwell home could not accommodate them all.

In 1912 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was 68 years old, and his was a "commanding presence," we are told. Time and again we read that people coming into his presence for the first time left describing feelings of awe at the meeting. At the same time he seemed "intensely approachable." He had, after all, approved an advertisement in The Montreal Star which gave the Maxwell’s telephone number (Uptown 3015) and urged "any Montrealers who want to make an appointment with him" to do so.

Windsor Train Station This brief visit to Montreal was to accomplish exactly what ‘Abdu'l-Bahá had hoped. It gave the few scattered individuals in Canada who called themselves Bahá’ís an awareness of themselves as a “community,” and gave them as well a better understanding of the Faith. His visit attracted a lot of attention, particularly in Montreal, where more than 2,500 people heard him on nine days and where all the newspapers English and French reported extensively on his visit and his views

Abdu’l-Bahá gave eight public addresses and seven informal presentations, totalling fifteen, for which six transcripts are extant. This does not include newspaper articles, private interviews and the pilgrim’s notes recorded in Mahmúd’s Diary. Three talks were given in the Maxwell home and two in the churches.

Photos : Portrait of 'Abdu'l-Bahá painted by Juliet Thompson 1912, House of William and May Maxwell where the Master stayed, Windsor Train Station - The arrival point of 'Abdul-Bahá to Montreal

 

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