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Montreal, August 30, 2020 - Tonight, in 1912, 108 years ago, three persons were waiting on the platform at Windsor Station. Renowned architect Sutherland Maxwell, his wife May and a friend Louisa Bosch were waiting for the arrival of a prominent and somewhat famous figure in recent years in North America and Europe! The train was expected to arrive at 8:00 p.m., the wait was long as a change of schedule was announced. Finally, the train arrived around midnight!

It was not difficult to recognize this personality clothed in white accompanied by two Persians dressed differently from the others! The majestic figure of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Center of the Bahá'u'lláh, the son of the founder of a Universal Faith, approached the friends who were eagerly awaiting him! Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell implored 'Abdu'l-Bahá to stay at their home during his visit in Montreal; which he accepted graciously! Two carriages took them to 716 West Pine Avenue where a large number of enthusiastic friends were waiting for them.

May Maxwell describes the evening as follows:

 "In the bright light of a summer moon, 'Abdu'l-Bahá arrived on Friday, August 30, with two interpreters, and when he entered the house of the Bahá’ís on Pine Avenue, several neighbors were watching the scene from their windows, to catch a glimpse of this majestic white-clad figure, whom they affectionately called the "Persian prophet" and whose arrival had so eloquently had been announced in the newspapers. Among the people present that night of August 31, was John Lewis, a Toronto Star journalist, a Bahá’í sympathizer and probably a believer. He was largely instrumental to prepare many articles that appeared in the newspapers, in English and French, throughout 'Abdu'l-Bahá’s stay in Montreal.

The day after his arrival in Montreal, Sutherland Maxwell accompanied the Master 'Abdu'l-Bahá for a ride in the city. On the way, he briefly visited the Cathedral of Mary Queen of the World and stopped in front of the building for a while. This cathedral was named "Our Lady of Saint Sulpice" destroyed in the Great Fire of Montreal in 1852. A small replica of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome was built in its place in 1894 and was named " the Cathedral of St. James the Major."!

Although some considered Montreal a place of religious bigotry, 'Abdu'l-Bahá found "all doors open" and encountered the same irresistible reaction as everywhere during his trip. People of all nationalities, all races andfrom all social backgrounds coming to hear him. After three days staying with the Maxwells, the Master decided to transfer  his residence to the Windsor Hotel. On Thursday, September 5, 1921, on the 6th day of his stay in Montreal, the Archbishop of Montreal, Louis Joseph Paul  Bruchési, expressed to 'Abdu'l-Bahá his pleasure in meeting him and his gratitude for his "words on the purpose of the manifestation of Christ and the other Holy Manifestations." 'Abdu'l-Bahá invited the archbishop, a member of the Catholic clergy who was very interested in Orientals, to attend his public talk at St. James' Methodist Church later that day!

'Abdu'l-Bahá and his entourage arrived at St. James Methodist Church on St. Catherine Street West. Inspired by the architecture of French cathedrals, this church was one of the most beautiful in Montreal, and had been the subject of much praise since the laying of the first stone in the year 1844, a memorable year. A crowd of 1,200 people stood up when 'Abdu'l-Bahá entered the room. The Reverend Herbert Simmons, the Anglican vicar of Christ Church Cathedral, introduced him. 'Abdu'l-Bahá first spoke of the "Bahá’í principles for the happiness of the human race." He followed up with the religious teachings of his Father. The public discovered with such interest the message of the Bahá’í Faith that Judge Robert Weir, who had already heard of the Master and had come to hear him for the first time that evening, stood up and said:

"Some believed the lineage of the prophets extinguished, but tonight we could hear these divine teachings from the mouth of an Eastern prophet who is a descendant of God's Prophets. The message he delivered will never be forgotten. There is no doubt that these teachings on world peace, the unity of humanity and the distribution of wealth are perfectly in line with the principles of economic laws, equal rights and the adoption of a universal language. These are the basic principles of humanity's progress.” The pastor then stood up and said, "It would be wrong to believe that the West has attained perfection and that the East has no benefits or lessons to offer it." ‘Abdu'l-Bahá mentioned several things that we had not heard or understood before.”

'Abdu'l-Bahá then recited a prayer and thanked them all for their remarks. Later, in the sacristy, the clergy were very respectful of him; they found that they lacked words to express their gratitude for his visit and his words. Judge Weir, in particular, repeatedly mentioned his desire to become a Bahá’í!

 

References:

- 'Abdu'l-Bah' in Canada, 2012 edition.

- Mahmúd Diary, Diary of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's travels in Europe and North America, Persian edition 1914.

- Earl Redman, Abdu'l-Baha in Their Midst, 2011.

Photos : * Archbishop of Montreal, Louis Joseph Paul Bruchési  (1855 –1939), Ville de Montréal – Gestion de documents et archives.

**Robert Stanley Weir (1856-1926) was a Montreal judge and poet. He composed the English words of O Canada, the country's national anthem.

 

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