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Montreal, Septembre 10, 2018 - It was a rainy day that day in 1912 but `Abdu’l-Bahá’s departure for Toronto (en route to Buffalo) was already arranged. `Abdu’l-Bahá’s diarist Mahmoud was asked to take personal charge of his luggage. When, instead, the hotel staff took his luggage, Mahmoud was chastised, for `Abdu’l-Bahá’s luggage contained valuable documents and writings that he intended to present to the “libraries of London and Paris.” At the Grand Trunk Railway station, the chief custom inspector and his assistants cleared the luggage without any inspection, stating that they had no reason to inspect the luggage of the Bahá’ís. When the Master was told this, His face opened up like a rose and He expounded on the stations of truthfulness and trustworthiness, which are the sources of the prosperity and assurance of the people of the world

The influence of `Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit spread beyond the approximately 2500 people in Montreal who heard him speak or had direct personal contact with him. Some 440 000 readers of Montreal’s lively press, in English and in French, also became aware of his visit and teachings.

Among the excitement of the many Bahá’ís and others who had gathered to see him off, at Grand Trunk Railway train (now the Canadian Pacific Railway), the “International Limited,” pulled out of Bonaventure Station at 9:05 am. The Grand Trunk “Moccasin” engine was probably assigned to this run, taking `Abdu’l-Bahá to Toronto. While the Montreal Bahá’ís numbered fourteen souls, the believers were now strong in Faith and more stead fast than before.

It is astonishing to see that `Abdu'l-Bahá does not want any comfort and will not take any rest, even while traveling on the train. When translations of the newspaper articles and letters from the friends were read to Him, He immediately answered and bestowed His bounties upon them. To some He wrote in His own hand. When He was tired of writing, the Master spoke about the coming of Christ from the heaven of holiness: The Gospel expressly records that in His first coming, although Christ was born to Mary, He Himself said that He came from heaven. Thus, the meaning of `heaven' is the greatness of the Cause and eminence and might of the Manifestation of God Who spreads this divine Cause by His heavenly power and divine strength and not through material means.

The train route taking `Abdu’l-Bahá from Montreal to Toronto, and then to Niagara Falls and Buffalo in the United States, passed villages and towns that were home to individuals who would soon thereafter declare their belief in the new revelation: Farran’s Point, Brockville, Belleville, Toronto, Burlington, Hamilton, St. Catherines and Niagara falls. 

On this trip to Oshawa, Ontario, a 4-year-old First Nation child was sitting on a fence watching the train go by. He saw a man wearing a long, elegant white coat waving at him. He was so upset that he lost his balance and fell, but he never forgot what he saw that day. In 1948, thirty-six years later, Jim Loft, the first Native believer in Canada, accepted the Bahá'í faith and he remembered this incident when he saw the picture of 'Abdu'l-Bahá for the first time.

Those nine days which `Abdu’l-Bahá spent in Montreal are, for Canada, among the most significant in our country’s life, because we still have the opportunity to act upon what he said then and to build a country and a world worthy of his words and Baha’u’llah’s vision. When `Abdu'l-Baha left Montreal, he said,

"The time of the sojourn was limited to a number of days, but the results in the future are inexhaustible."

Today, we can only marvel at the example and inspiration of 'Abdu'l-Bahá who chose to include the city of Montreal in His busy itinerary, and the wisdom and efficiency of His decision to accomplish this journey despite His advanced age and His failing physical condition, for the sake of fifteen believers who, before 1912, had taken the initiative to go to the prison-city of 'Akká, thus exposing themselves to all dangers. Only the power of His presence in this world could inspire them to realize what would become the goal of their lives.

 

Photos : Bonaventure Central Station 1912 -  Jim Loft, First Bahá'í believer from First Nations - Bahá'í Group in Montreal circa 1912

 

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