This year, perhaps more than any other, Archbishop Lépine will spend time with people who are often alone, abandoned, and cast aside.
Most Reverend Christian Lépine is not only the Archbishop of Montreal, but is first and foremost, during this time of Christmas celebration, a Good Shepherd tirelessly roaming the streets of Montreal to bring everyone the Good News of Christ's presence among us.
This year, perhaps more than any other, Archbishop Lépine will spend time with people who are often alone, abandoned, and cast aside. "Jesus wished to be close to the most disadvantaged. He was born in a manger... Let's not forget that a manger is a container for feeding animals! There wasn't any room at the inn. In the same way that his arrival in our world was not easy, it is often difficult for us to make room for Jesus in our lives. This is pretty well the message I wish to bring this year to the impoverished in Montreal. Clearly, I will not be able to go everywhere, but it is important to me that I go where I am invited, and to bring Jesus with me...," said Most Rev. Lépine.
On December 17, the Archbishop's Christmas will begin at the Leclerc detention centre, with the 250 female inmates incarcerated there since their transfer last February from Maison Tanguay, which was deemed unhealthy by the authorities. "I have often celebrated Mass in a prison, but never a Christmas Mass."
What are you hoping this visit will accomplish? "What I would like... Actually, I can be nothing but powerless... Jesus is the one who has the power to truly bring comfort and peace. I can only act as a sign by going to lend them an ear and pray with them. Encounters like this are always good ones. They are moments of peace and joy."
On December 24, Most Rev. Lépine will visit La Maison du Père, in Centre-Sud, to celebrate Mass with the homeless men, volunteers, and employees. This home was founded in 1969 by Guy Laforte, a Trinitarian Father who, by himself, took in "rubbies" at a house he had renovated on St-André Street. Today, La Maison du Père provides shelter to 400 men, and has 100 employees and 160 volunteers.
After this Mass, The Archbishop of Montreal will go to Mary Queen of the World Cathedral to celebrate Midnight Mass... at midnight!
In the late afternoon on the following day, which will be Christmas Day, he will go to the Missionaries of Charity (sisters of Mother Teresa), in Sainte-Marie, to celebrate 4pm Mass. The sisters will then serve a Christmas meal for the entire community, as they do every year.
Most Rev. Lépine pointed out that the first time an Archbishop of Montreal ever celebrated Mass with the sisters and people of this neighbourhood was in 2015. "This year, they invited me again. How could I refuse such an offer? There are many families there. It is beautiful, and the atmosphere is very friendly."
New Year's Day Mass will be celebrated at 11 am at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral. For the Archbishop of Montreal, this Mass is an opportunity to give the new year to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God: "We will entrust ourselves to her maternal meditation. We will pray for peace in the world.
We must not give up, despite everything we are seeing, and everything we are hearing. We must always have hope. Jesus IS peace. We will pray to make more room for him in our lives, so that he may accomplish his work in us."
Would you like to say a few words about the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montreal? "It will certainly provide an opportunity to speak of our roots. We so easily forget where we come from. Some women and men, 375 years ago, came to establish a country in the name of Jesus.
In January 1643, Jeanne Mance and Sieur de Maisonneuve experienced their first winter here, during which Ville-Marie appeared to be threatened by water and ice movements. They prayed fervently, and the threat abated. As an expression of their gratitude, they decided to erect the cross on Mount Royal. January 2018 will mark the 375th year since that event."
Finally, on January 8, 2017, on the occasion of Epiphany, Most Rev. Lépine will join the team of volunteers at l'Accueil Bonneau, in Old Montreal, to serve meals and take part in the various conversations. "Visiting La Maison du Père and l'Accueil Bonneau at this time of year is a well-established and long-standing tradition.
The Archbishop of Montreal has always been invited to join the men and women who seek solace in these two hubs of Montreal's charity. Cardinal Turcotte always attended these events, as did Cardinal Grégoire before him. A profound joy is always experienced during these encounters. It is God making himself near, especially to the littlest and the weakest. The Lord reveals to us all that he too is little and weak."