Dear Friends in Christ,
Some of you know that I am a Montreal Canadiens fan. I know, it doesn’t seem right that the Bishop of Toronto would support the dreaded Habs. However, I do come by it honestly. Born in Montreal, there was a time when we lived mere blocks from the Forum. There were nights when we could hear, through our bedroom windows, the noise of the crowd drifting down Atwater Street. When we moved to the province of Ontario, when I was almost 10, retaining a love for les bleu, blanc et rouge was just a given. My long connection to the team is partly about hockey and mostly about keeping in touch with a place, with a city, with my childhood, with family and memories of home.
On the other hand, my wife Mary is a die-hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan. Born and bred in this city, she too shares the same level of passion for the blue and white. We celebrated our most recent wedding anniversary on the same day as Game 7 of the playoffs between the Leafs and the Canadiens. We decided, for the sake of our marriage, not to watch the game and just wait to hear the results. We all know how that went.
Of all the players on the ice, the goaltenders have captured my admiration and imagination the most. As a kid, I had pictures of Montreal goalies on my bedroom wall: Jacques Plante, Lorne “Gump” Worsley, Rogatien Vachon and Ken Dryden. Today, of course, my favourite player is Carey Price. He has often been described as a brick wall—an impenetrable, invincible, calm, cool and collected player. Over the years, I have also appreciated the acts of compassion and love he has shown to fans, especially those with special needs. And I admire the subtle signs of an inward faith that he reveals on the masks he has worn on the ice. From time to time, scripture references appear… John 3.16, For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Or Psalm 91, The Lord is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.
On Thursday, Carey Price took a leave of absence from the team and entered the NHL/NHLPA’s player assistance program, which assists players and their families with mental health, substance abuse and other matters. It takes courage to stand in a crease and face a 100-mph slap shot. It takes a different kind of courage to seek help for yourself and for your family. I admire him even more. Over these last 18 months, we have all felt the stress, strain and bewilderment of living in pandemic. We have in our own ways lived with varying degrees of grief, depression and anxiety. We are so conditioned to go it alone when we feel down or out of sorts, especially for those of us in leadership inside and beyond the Church. Yet, as author Simon Sinek writes. You can’t do it alone. So don’t pretend you can. Together is better.
This weekend we celebrate Thanksgiving. It gives us the opportunity to give thanks to God for all the blessings in our lives, the small and the large ones that remind us that all life comes from our Creator. Take some time to be still and pay attention to your neighbours, your family members, your co-workers – people we so often just take for granted – and show them your gratitude, your care and your concern. Ask after those you haven’t seen in a while, bring them to mind in prayer and find out how they are doing. Write a note of gratitude to someone you care about and who cares for you. Connect. Together is Better. Or put another way: Carey Price has had a Bible quote stitched inside his blocker glove, Philippians 4.13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
The season opener happens on Wednesday. The Habs against the Leafs. While Carey Price may not be playing between the pipes, I will be watching while wearing my Canadiens jersey, donning #31.
May God bless you and those you love.
Yours in Christ
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto