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Montreal, February 16, 2019 – The Bahá’í Community of Montreal was the host of a group of 18 youths from Calgary who spent three days in this city to visit the Bahá’í Shrine (Maxwell home), where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stayed in 1912. They were warmly welcome by the Montreal youths as well as the local Bahá’í Administrative Body at the Montreal Centre on Saturday evening. A special program was organized to acquaint the group with the Bahá’í sites associated with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit to Montreal, the only city He visited in Canada during ten days.

This group of youths was the first to visit the Montreal Bahá’í sites under the new administrative committee recently appointed by the Canadian National Spiritual Assembly and the fourth group of visitors who came to Montreal in previous years as “Pilgrims”.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá called Maxwell home as His home and spent almost all his evenings in this location giving talks and receiving guests. Maxwell home is the only Bahá’í Shrine - addressed as such by the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, Shoghi-Effendi - in Western Hemisphere.

The group spent as many hours as it was possible in the Shrine devoting much time to prayers and meditation in this sacred spot. They visited Saint James United Church where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave a public talk on September 5, 1912. That September day at Windsor Hotel, Archbishop Louis Joseph Paul Bruchési of Montreal came to meet 'Abdu'l-Bahá and to express his pleasure and gratitude for "his words about the purpose of the manifestation of Christ and the other saints." 'Abdu'l-Bahá invited the archbishop, a member of the Catholic clergy who was very interested in Orientals, to attend his public lecture at St. James Methodist Church later that day. 'Abdu'l-Bahá received other visitors during the day, including a Jewish rabbi and the editor of an "illustrated magazine" published in Toronto. The Master's list of visitors that day represented a wide range of organizations, religions and social groups.

St. James was the largest Methodist church in the world with 2,700 seats. The Maxwell brothers had made the interior design. A luminous sign announced that the "prophet of the East" would deliver a lecture on the principles of the Bahá'í Faith and "the salvation of humanity.” 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not like this title, and expressed his concern at the habit people had to call him ‘prophet’. In his speech, he corrected this error, pointing out that he was not a prophet, but simply 'Abdu'l-Bahá, which translates freely as ‘servant of Glory’.

A crowd of 1,200 people arose when 'Abdu'l-Bahá entered the church. Reverend Herbert Simmons, the Anglican vicar of Christ Church Cathedral, introduced him. 'Abdu'l-Bahá first spoke of "Bahá'í principles for the happiness of the human race.” He followed with the religious teachings of his Father. The next day, the Montreal Gazette mentioned in an article that during his presentation, 'Abdu'l-Bahá had called for "independent investigation" of religious truth by everyone. He had argued that the absence of such independent investigation drove people to resentment and dissension in the world.

Following 'Abdu'l-Bahá’s talk, the pastor stood up and said, "It would be wrong to believe that the West has reached perfection and that the East has neither blessings nor lessons to offer to the World. In his talk, 'Abdu'l-Bahá mentioned several things that we had not heard or understood before. "

Among the people present at the church was Robert Stanley Weir, a Montreal judge and poet most famous for writing the English lyrics to "O Canada", the national anthem of Canada.  Judge Weir mentioned repeatedly that evening his desire to become a Bahá'í.

The Calgary youth attended the Sunday Devotional gathering at the Montreal Bahá’í Centre. Their voices and prayers set to music created an atmosphere of uplifting spirituality. Their prayers will accompany the Sunday Devotional gatherings for many months to come. The visit to places associated with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá continued in the afternoon. They toured Windsor train station, the Basilica Mary Queen of the World as well as Windsor Hotel. Windsor station where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s train arrived from Boston on August 31, 1912, went through several transformations since it was built in 1887 by a New York City architectural firm. The third expansion of the station, in 1916, included a fifteen-storey tower which dramatically altered Montreal's skyline. The project was entrusted to the firm of brothers Edward and William Maxwell architects.

The Basilica Mary Queen of the World, a smaller scale model of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, was built in 1894. On Saturday, August 31, while touring the city in the afternoon, 'Abdu'l-Bahá stopped at the Basilica and, standing in front of the door, he pointed out to the friends who accompanied him, "This is the result of what the eleven disciples have been able to accomplish. I urge you to walk in their footsteps. When a person is detached, he can revolutionize the whole world. "

The final stage of the tour was a visit to Northern Annex of Windsor Hotel, a section which survived the fire of 1957. The Windsor Hotel (opened 1878, closed 1981) is often considered to be the first grand hotel in Canada, and for decades billed itself as "the best in all the Dominion". The building and the three-room suite where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stayed on the seventh floor of the Windsor Hotel is now replaced by the CIBC tower in the corner of Peel and René-Lévesque. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá moved to the hotel on September 2nd’ 1912. On the afternoon of that day, eminent professors, pastors and members of the press gathered at the hotel. A Toronto Weekly Star reporter asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá if he intended to visit Toronto or another Canadian city. He replied that it would be impossible and added: "You can tell your people that your country delights me. It is a beautiful and prosperous land [...] "

'Abdu'l-Bahá stayed at the Windsor Hotel at the same time as Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, who was returning from a successful trip to Britain. The year 1912 marked almost a century of peace between Great Britain and the United States. After a parade of about two kilometres, with fireworks and brass bands, the Prime Minister moved to the Windsor Hotel. There is no indication that 'Abdu'l-Bahá met him, either accidentally or at the sumptuous reception at the hotel for the prime minister, but it is remarkable that these two individuals stayed at the same hotel at the same time.

One day, reading the mail arriving from the East, 'Abdu'l-Bahá observed:

"Yes, the scope and magnitude of these trips are not yet known, but they will be apparent later. As our only intention was to offer our devotion to the threshold of the only true God, we were assisted, and the light of God's grace and favour appeared. "

 

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