March 2017

Lent – A Season of Fasting
Lent is a time for religious people to give something up for their religion for a set amount of time.

During Lent, religious artifacts, such as this crucifix, will be covered for the entire duration of the fast.

One common thread between most Christian religions is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ, or Easter. The weeks leading up to Easter are often used as a time of remembrance of Christ’s ministry and what he went through before his death. In Christianity, the season of Lent is the 40 days before Easter. Because the date of Easter is based on a lunar, rather than solar, calendar, the beginning of Lent changes each year. Traditionally, the first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday, which in 2017 falls on March 1.

Traditions of Lent

On Ash Wednesday, Christians attend a worship service in which the minister or priest makes the sign of a cross with ashes on the forehead of the worshipper. This symbolizes the sinfulness before God and human mortality. In the Bible, in both Hebrews and Numbers, the ashes of a red heifer would sanctify the ceremonially unclean. Ashes were thought to be purifying.

Human sorrow is represented by ashes. In the book of Esther, the Jews “lay in sackcloth and ashes” as a way of mourning the edict of the King that allowed for the destruction of the Jews. Job used dust and ashes as a symbol of repentance.

Fasting is one of the most common ways that Lent is observed. In older times, the tradition would be to have one full meal per day, with smaller meals allowed. The idea was that a person should have enough food to sustain strength, but never enough to feel full. Each community would have their own traditions, but generally, animal products were forbidden. Fish and fowl might be allowed on Fridays.

On Sundays, the fast would be suspended, but during Lent, Christians would refrain from saying “Alleluia” or the “Gloria in excelsis Deo” rite. These rituals were associated with joy. Because Lent was a time of sorrow, the words would be replaced with another phrase or simply omitted during the season.

During Lent the religious objects such as the cross, statues and pictures might be veiled for the entire 40 days. However, Anglican and Methodist churches traditionally only cover the objects on Good Friday. In more progressive churches, the liturgy of Lent might not be observed at all. Instead, the emphasis is on Easter Sunday, rather than penitence.

Fasting for Social Change

One current trend seen around Lent is that of a positive fast. People don’t just give up food or pleasure, but instead contribute to environmental stewardship. At, people are remembering the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness by doing one thing every day to be more environmentally conscious. For example, have dinner by candlelight and then talk and play games together.

Charisma House, a Christian publisher, is suggesting a 10-day word fast from complaining, criticism, sarcasm and gossip. According to Isaiah 58:6: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” The study asks you to watch what you say for just 10 days, to help you change a pattern of discouragement and negativity.

Another interesting concept is taking on atheism for Lent. For 40 days, a Christian examines literature that speaks to who God is and his or her beliefs in God. It’s a time to examine ideological structures of religion.

You do not have to honor Lent to celebrate Easter, but respect those who do. It’s a Christian tradition that means a lot to those who do partake in the season.


World Interfaith Harmony Week
World Interfaith Harmony Week is about peace between religions.

World Interfaith Harmony Week is about bringing different religions together.

Seven years ago, H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan proposed a week for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in dialogue based on common elements of their religions. The King made this proposal to the United Nations, and it only took one month to be unanimously adopted by the organization. The first week in February is now observed as World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Common Elements in Monotheistic Religions

Muslims, Jews and Christians have two commandments that are common in each religion:

  • Love of God
  • Love of the Neighbor

The idea is that these two commandments are at the heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Looking at these two philosophies, we can find solid theological ground without compromising the tenets of our own faith.

Leaders came together and published “A Common Word” (ACW) as a way to bring religions together. “ACW is a document which uses religion as the solution to the problems of inter-religious tensions. By basing itself on solid theological grounds in both religions ACW has demonstrated to Christians and Muslims that they have a certain common ground (despite irreducible theological differences) and that both religions require them to have relations based on love not on hatred.”

2017 Events Around the World

Countries around the globe plan events to bring people together to find world peace. According to, in 2017, there are currently 472 events on the calendar. While Western countries plan activities smaller countries have activities listed on the calendar.

King Abdullah believed that society could use infrastructure to bring harmony and peace between individuals, thus leading to peace between countries. Although we still have a lot of work to do, it is evident that more people want to see respect and tolerance between religions, governments and communities.

2017 Theme

The theme for 2017 is “The Gift of Love”. Although he is a direct descendent of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, the King is funding the restoration of Christ’s Tomb in the Church of Holy Sepulchre. His gift is thought to be worth about $4 million dollars. King Abdullah believes in the true message of Islam, but he also promotes interfaith dialogue. He has proven his worthiness as custodian of both Muslim and Christian holy sites through his words, deeds and actions. He truly has given the world a gift of love by respecting a faith not his own.

Take Part in World Interfaith Harmony Week

World Interfaith Harmony Week for all the world’s religions. While religions have common ground, it’s up to us to engage in dialogue and find that common ground to bring us together.

The United Nations has many declarations for world peace, cultural diversity and tolerance. World Interfaith Harmony Week is just one more time that is dedicated to finding common ground between faiths. We may not be able to change the entire world by being friendly, but we can change our community by encouraging diversity and tolerance.

Wedding Traditions From Around The World
Certain wedding traditions have been practiced for hundreds of years.

There are all kinds of traditions that continue through the world. Many have similarities while others can be vastly different.

If you’re trying to plan a unique ceremony for your special day, check out some of these special wedding traditions from around the world.




Wedding Traditions from other Cultures

  • Congo – Brides and grooms aren’t allowed to smile on their wedding day. When they do, it shows that they aren’t serious about the marriage.
  • China – The bride travels to the groom’s home in a decorated sedan chair. Attendants take care of the bride on the journey by holding parasols to shield her from the elements. They throw rice at the chair as a sign of prosperity and health. Female bridesmaids put the groom through a series of tests for him to prove his worthiness of the bride. He must give them envelopes of money before they’ll allow him to have their friend.
  • Fiji – The potential bridegroom must present his father with a whale’s tooth when he asks for her hand in marriage.
  • Jamaica – The bride is paraded through the streets. If the villagers go home, it means she didn’t look her best. She must go home and spruce herself up for another go.

Some Other Cultures Practices

  • Guatemala – The groom’s parents host the reception party. The groom’s mother breaks a ceramic bell filled with grains to give the couple prosperity.
  • Germany – The guests break porcelain dishes in front of the new home. The bride and groom are to clean these dishes up together as a demonstration of working together to overcome anything.
  • Scotland – Gretna Green is the place to elope. In medieval times, Gretna Green would marry young couples who did not always have parental permission.
  • Kenya – The bride’s father spits on her as she leaves the reception. It’s thought to preempt fate by not seeming too supportive of the couple.
  • Greece – The best man (or groom’s best friend) shaves the groom before the wedding. The new mother-in-law feeds him honey and almonds.
  • Japan – A Shinto bride wears white from head to toe. The head covering is thought to hide the horns of jealousy toward her new mother-in-law. The white symbolizes her maidenhood.
  • Norway – The traditional cake is called kransekake. It’s a tower of almond cake rings stacked on top of each other. The center is often filled with a wine bottle. The bride may wear a gold and silver crown with small trinkets as part of her wedding finery. As she moves, the trinkets jingle, which scares off the evil spirits.
  • Russia – Couples partake of a sweetbread called karavaya which is decorated with grains of wheat for fertility. Whoever takes the largest bite without using their hands is thought to be the head of the family.

As you go through this list, you might notice that many of the wedding traditions are similar to customs we have here. It just shows that we’re more alike than we think.

Making Atonement During Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur Letterpress

Yom Kappur is considered a day of atonement.

The Jewish community celebrates the New Year in the fall. They call the holiday Rosh Hashanah. It begins a period of 10 days known as the High Holy Days and commences with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is probably the most sacred holiday to the Jews. Even secular Jews attend synagogue. It might be the only day some Jews go to temple, much like Christians attending church service on Easter or Christmas Eve. You may not be Jewish, or even believe that there is a supreme being; however, you can learn from this holiday and approach the upcoming traditional holiday season with a clean slate.

Traditions of Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is the day when Jews make apologies to God for their sins. In order to approach God, it’s traditional to fast and pray for 24 hours. In addition to fasting, Jews do not have marital relations, do not wear leather shoes, do not wash and do not bathe during Yom Kippur. Orthodox Jews may immerse in a mikveh before Yom Kippur as a symbol of purity. Many Jews will wear white, as another way of presenting themselves as pure.

Prayers of repentance are said during services at the synagogue. Public and private atonement is made before God, depending on the desire of the individual. The process of asking for forgiveness is called Teshuva. It involves:

  • Regret of having committed the sin
  • A resolve not to commit the sin in the future
  • Confession before God

Also, Jews will give charity to those less fortunate on Yom Kippur. This year, Yom Kippur falls on October 12, but it actually begins at sunset on the day before and ends at nightfall on the actual day. Following Yom Kippur, families might have a feast in celebration of completing the fast.

What We Can Learn

In 1982, the band Chicago came out with a song, “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.” The song might be referencing two lovers who had a disagreement, but most of us, if we were really honest, don’t like to admit when we’re wrong or we’ve done something to injure another person’s feelings. Maybe you don’t believe in God, but it’s probable that you may have hurt someone in the past. We all make mistakes and say things that we probably should have thought about before opening our mouth or typing them at the keyboard. Learning how the Jews apologize to God, we can actually learn how to apologize to others.

Have you ever said to someone, “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry if I hurt you”? Take a second to look at those phrases. Although it may seem like a case of semantics, you might make them feel as if you’re dismissing their feelings when you say those words. Are you sorry for your actions or for how they reacted to your mistake?

A better way to apologize is to say, “I’m sorry I did . . . I cannot excuse my behavior, and I won’t let it happen again. Please forgive me.” There may be extenuating circumstances. Maybe the other person made you mad, but you cannot control anyone’s behavior but your own. Think about your own attitude when you say you’re sorry. And remember that all you can do is make the apology. The other person does not have to accept your apology. It could happen that day, but it might not happen for years. Don’t make the situation worse by forcing someone to forgive you.

Christmas and the New Year are coming up. Think about making amends with family members or neighbors this year to have a clean conscious. Fix those relationships that are broken and truly celebrate the good will of the upcoming season.

Toronto Artist Creates Jewish Wedding Mementos From Broken Glass

jewish wedding

Understanding traditions from other cultures helps bring people together. Wedding customs may vary from religion to religion, but the objective is the same. One Canadian artist is using her talents to honor the Jewish tradition of breaking a glass during the ceremony to create a unique piece of art for the married couple. Art has long been one way that people understand cultural diversity. It fosters bonds in the community and promotes intercultural awareness. Read on to learn more about the tradition of breaking glass and a special glass artist who forges beautiful modern art.

Breaking of the Glass

In most Jewish wedding ceremonies, the groom breaks a glass as part of the ritual. Typically, a wine glass or light bulb is placed in a small bag, and then at the appropriate moment, the groom smashes it with his foot. There are many different thoughts behind the tradition. It is believed that breaking the glass:

  • Symbolizes the breaking down of barriers between individuals
  • Reminds of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem
  • Reminds that life is fragile
  • Teaches that life brings sorrow along with the joy
  • Scares away any evil spirits that might spoil the occasion

Glass breaking is not unique to the Jewish culture. In the Greek culture, plates are smashed at weddings. It’s said that the tradition began as a way to deal with sorrow. Over time, Greeks began smashing glass at weddings to make the spirits think it was a sad occasion instead of a happy one, which would keep them away. The glass breaking is also an Italian tradition, with both the bride and groom smashing the glass into as many shards as possible. The number of pieces of glass is said to represent the number of happy years the couple will have together.

Modern Art With a Traditional Twist

Terri Mittelmann, a fused glass artist in Toronto, takes the glass from Jewish ceremonies and creates an exquisite, unique memento for the couple. Mittelmann provides mouth-blown original glass in colors that the couple chooses. The glass is placed in a bag to be broken during the wedding. After the wedding, the shards are returned to Mittelmann, and she creates a lasting memory. These glass shards can be made into a Seder plate, which is a special platter for the meal during Passover; a menorah, the candlestick holder used during Hanukkah; or a mezuzah, the box beside the door of a Jewish house that houses a parchment with scripture.

If you ever have a chance to visit Mittelmann’s gallery, Get2Give Glassworks, it’s worth your time to explore her beautiful pieces. You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate her modern take on Judaica art. Now that you know that the glass art honors an age-old tradition of happiness and joy, you can better understand the culture and see how it relates to your own customs and beliefs. Mittelmann is an artist who offers special pieces for Jewish couples, but she also brings knowledge to others who have never experienced a Jewish wedding.

Weddings Around the Globe

Noisemaking holds a place in many different weddings and ceremonies. In the Chinese culture, performers dressed as felines dance to loud music to scare away the evil spirits during the reception. German tradition has wedding guests bring old dishes to break at the party because they believe it’s good luck.

Cultures around the world weave traditions into their own identities, but it’s easy to see that many nationalities celebrate for the same reasons. Weddings are a time of joyous celebration for all – Jewish, Chinese, Christian, or atheist. What matters are the relationships and families as well as honoring the traditions that bring you comfort and delight. Understanding different cultures is one way to strengthen community bonds.

Spirituality in the Twitter Age

Devotion to technology is a form of modern-day spirituality

Twitter is one of the predominant social media platforms available today. The company was founded in 2006 and has grown exponentially since then. More than 350,000 tweets are posted per minute, and over 500 million are sent per day. In addition to everyday people, politicians, movie stars and spiritual leaders are also finding it an effective way to communicate with and inspire their followers.

Dalai Lama: @DalaiLama – 11.8 M followers

The Dalai Lama is a Buddhist monk who won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. He has one of the largest Twitter followings of any spiritual leader and tweets every couple of days. His posts are filled with messages of peace, happiness and compassion. Some recent tweets are:

  • “The use of force and violence inevitably entails unanticipated consequences, but rarely yields a solution.” – August 21
  • “To create a happier humanity we have to pay more attention to our inner values, whether we are religious or not.” – August 3
  • “To cultivate genuine compassion we need to take responsibility for our own care and have concern for everyone’s suffering, including our own.” – July 27

Pope Francis: @Pontifex – 6.89 M followers

The papacy of Pope Francis began on March 13, 2013. He has had a profound effect on the religious and secular alike, and is proving to be a religious force with whom to be reckoned. The pontiff has also amassed 6.89 million Twitter followers, which is a far cry from his predecessor’s (Pope Benedict) 12,700. Every two to four days, he tweets messages of benevolence and God’s love. Some recent tweets are:

  • “A Christian too attached to riches has lost his way.” – August 25
  • “Reading the Gospel each day helps us overcome our selfishness and to follow Jesus our teacher with dedication.” – August 21
  • “Hospitality in families is a crucial virtue today, especially in situations of great poverty.” – August 1
  • “We are all sinners. Let us be transformed by God’s mercy.” – August 8

Joel Osteen: @JoelOsteen – 3.89 M followers

Joel Osteen, a preacher and New York Times best-selling author, is the pastor of the biggest Protestant church in America. Every week, more than 44,000 people fill a former basketball area to watch him live, with another seven million tuning in on television. Osteen is also extremely active on Twitter and typically posts twice per day. His messages are inspirational and motivational. Some recent tweets are:

  • “You were created to overcome every obstacle, to rise above every challenge. Not just to survive – to thrive!” – August 26
  • “You may have a negative past, but you don’t have to have a negative future. This is a new day. Make the most of it.” – August 25
  • “You didn’t just happen to show up on planet earth. God had a plan for you long before you arrived.” – August 21

Deepak Chopra: @DeepakChopra – 2.57 M followers

Deepak Chopra is a renowned author and public speaker; he is also a doctor and vocal proponent of alternative medicine. Chopra was born in India and immigrated to the United States in 1970. He is prolific on Twitter (presumably, he has someone helping him), sometimes tweeting up to eight times per day. He interacts with his followers and frequently retweets messages. His posts are filled with New Age spirituality. Some recent tweets are:

  • “Each one of us is created with an inherent light within – a light made up of limitless spiritual power.” – August 27
  • “Yoga is the connection to the source field beyond space and time.” – August 25
  • “A compassionate heart, tapping into the inner ocean of unconditional acceptance, flows in waves of love.” – August 23

Much can be said in a 140-character tweet. Spiritual leaders who have jumped on the Twitter bandwagon are making the most of every post.

To Pray or Not to Pray?

ThinkstockPhotos-77746967The Canadian Supreme Court’s unanimous mid-April ruling banning prayers before city council meetings in Saguenay, Quebec, has stirred up quite a debate across the country. Many municipalities believe the decision is now of the law of land and are following suit. Others are suspending the practice and taking time to debate the matter, and some are ignoring the ruling all together. There are a number of different alternatives being considered.

The Lord’s Prayer

Over the years, many municipal meetings have begun with the recitation of The Lord’s Prayer. This tradition likely evolved out of Canada’s Anglican and Roman Catholic heritage. However, today the country is much more spiritually diverse. It is difficult to dispute the religious sentiment of the text which reads:

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name; thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”

House of Commons Prayer

In 1927, the House of Commons formalized the practice of opening sessions with its own prayer. There have been some changes made to the wording over time. The current language was implemented in 1994 and is still being used today. The House of Common is independent from the country’s judicial branch and does not have to adhere to Supreme Court rulings, unless the representatives choose to do so. The House of Commons prayer is recited before the public is allowed in chambers and TV cameras turned on. It reads as follows:

“Almighty God, we give thanks for the great blessings which have been bestowed on Canada and its citizens, including the gifts of freedom, opportunity and peace that we enjoy. We pray for our Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, and the Governor General. Guide us in our deliberations as Members of Parliament, and strengthen us in our awareness of our duties and responsibilities as Members. Grant us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to preserve the blessings of this country for the benefit of all and to make good laws and wise decisions. Amen”

Generic Invocation

Another option is for municipalities to agree on a nonreligious “invocation.” One that has been proposed by Owen Sound, Ontario resident Terri Hope is:

“As we approach our work here today, may we be mindful of our role as leaders in Owen Sound, a city of great beauty and opportunity. As we face our decisions, may we be guided by strong ethics, wisdom, fairness and sound knowledge. May we never forget the trust placed in us by the people of Owen Sound.”

Observe a Moment of Silence

A number of city councils opted prior to the April 15 Supreme Court decision to have a moment of silence instead of a prayer. This alternative appears to be gaining steam after the ruling. Some municipalities have adopted the practice as an interim step while they consider the implications and alternatives to the recent ruling. Observing a moment of silence can allow time for personal, independent reflection, regardless of one’s religious beliefs.

Skip It Altogether

There are some municipalities that believe that the Canadian Supreme Court is the ultimate authority of these matters, and the affairs of church and state should be separate. They have chosen to eliminate prayers, and anything comparable, and get straight to the business at hand. Over time, it is possible forgoing a prayer, invocation or moment of silence will become standard practice.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s April 15 decision to ban prayers before city council meetings in Saguenay, Quebec, is bound to have a wide-ranging impact. It remains to be seen what the specific ramifications will be.

Religious Equality in Canada

Saquenay, Quebec, home of the Canadian Government's acceptance of religious equality.

The debate over religious equality has been a hot topic in Canada. While approximately 67 percent of the country’s citizens identify themselves as Christians, that still leaves a large part of the population to embrace other forms of spirituality (or claim no religious affiliation whatsoever). Issues such as employers providing time-off for non-Christian holidays and the legality of prayers before municipal meetings have both been issues.

Celebrating Non-Christian Holidays

Having time off to celebrate religious holidays is important to many people. The majority of Canadians receive paid days off for the following statutory holidays. Some are nationwide and a few are province specific.

  • New Year’s Day
  • Good Friday or Easter Monday
  • Victoria Day (except NB, NS, PE, NL)
  • Fete Nationale (Quebec only)
  • Canada Day
  • Labour Day
  • Thanksgiving (except NB, NS, PE, NL)
  • Christmas Day

While the majority of these dates are secular, two are religious (Easter and Christmas). Christians don’t have to request time off for these days because they are automatically included in the list of statutory holidays. People of different religions often need to ask for time off for their holy days since they are not usually recognized vacation days in Canada. In most situations, employers now have to accommodate the religious beliefs of eligible employees and grant them leave, if requested.

Legal Precedents

The Canadian courts require companies to allow employees who are not Christian time to celebrate their own holidays, as long it does not place any unreasonable burden on the employer. Federally regulated industries like banks, telecom companies and airlines must comply with this as well under the Canadian Human Rights Act. There a number of ways Canadian employers can accommodate these requests including switching work schedules and offering floating vacation days. There have been several milestone lawsuits that have reinforced this view.

  • Commission Scolaire Regionale de Chambly v. Bergevin

This case involved three Jewish teachers who requested time off for Yom Kippur, the most important holiday of the Jewish year. The leave had been approved by the school board, but without pay. The Canadian Supreme Court ultimately ruled the teachers should be paid for the time off, and doing so did not impose undue hardship on the school district.

  • Ontario Human Rights Commission and O’Malley vs. Simpson-Sears Ltd.

Theresa O’Malley, a Seventh Day Adventist, refused to work on Saturdays because it was the day her religion observed the Sabbath. She was subsequently fired from her job. The case made it to the Supreme Court of Canada and the justices unanimously ruled in favor of Ms. O’Malley, and ordered her employer to pay back wages.

Employers’ Undue Hardship

Employers do have a means of recourse. They can claim accommodating these requests places an undue hardship on their business or organization. However, it is relatively difficult to successfully argue these cases, because most Canadian companies routinely adjust work schedules based on holidays or sick days.

Prayers at City Council Meetings

In further support of the need to provide greater religious equality in Canada, the Canadian Supreme Court unanimously ruled on April 15 to ban reciting prayers prior to city council meetings in Saquenay, Quebec. The decision read, “The state must instead remain neutral in this regard. This neutrality requires that the state neither favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non-belief. It requires that the state abstain from taking any position and thus avoid adhering to a particular belief.” A number of other municipalities have already followed suit and done away with their pre-meeting prayers as well. It will take time to understand the full impact this ruling will have on religious equality in Canada.

Canada is considered one of the most religiously tolerant countries in the world. However, it has taken time and lawsuits for non-Christian Canadians to attain greater legal support for exercising their beliefs.



The Religion of Hockey

Cartoon drawing of a hockey player hitting the puckHockey is religion to many Canadians, but the actual religious beliefs of the men who play the game are often a much more taboo topic. Hockey players, with a few notable exceptions, are some of the least vocal athletes when it comes to professing their spirituality.

The Influence of Religion in Other Professional Sports

Many other professional sports teams welcome displays of religion. It is not uncommon for NFL players to participate in a pre-game prayer or an on-field post-game one on bended knee. Similar demonstrations of faith are also prevalent in the NBA and MLB. NASCAR drivers take part in an invocation before each race. Quarterback Tim Tebow and basketball superstar Jeremy Lin are both devout Christians and don’t hesitate to let others know.


The Impact of Harold Ballard

The inherently reserved Canadian culture is one reason hockey players may be less likely to readily acknowledge their religious beliefs. Another is the comments made by deceased Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard in the early 1980s. He publicly berated centre Laurie Boschman numerous times, including after a post-season loss to the New York Rangers, claiming his born-again Christian beliefs made him “soft.”

The incident became a big news story and the 20-year-old Boschman had to defend his spirituality to the international media. He did not back down and said the Maple Leafs owner was ignorant about Christianity. However, hockey is a tough guy’s sport, and the impact of Ballard’s criticism left a lasting impression. Boschman more than proved him wrong and went on to a successful career playing for Edmonton, Winnipeg, New Jersey and Ottawa, where he was named team captain. Today, Boschman organizes chapel programs for the NHL and is the Senator’s team chaplain.


NHL Exceptions to the Rule

There are a handful of NHL players who are very open about the role of Christianity in their lives. Religion has also become more mainstream in hockey than it was in the days of Harold Ballard.

  • Mike Fisher

Mike Fisher was born in Ontario and is a forward for the Nashville Predators. His wife is Grammy-winning country singer Carrie Underwood. Fisher was raised in a devout Christian household and has always been outspoken about his spirituality. His uncle was also the team chaplain for the Toronto Blue Jays. The book Defender of the Faith: The Mike Fisher Story by Kim Washburn discusses the role of religion in his life and how he also always puts God first.

  • Dan Ellis

Saskatoon-born goalie Dan Ellis had a different upbringing than Fisher. His parents divorced when he was 11, and he was a troubled teenager. The turning point came when his father signed him up for a Christian hockey camp. From that point on, religion and hockey were the most important things in Ellis’s life. He currently plays for the San Antonio Rampage and sports a cross on the back of his goalie mask.

  • Shane Doan

Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan grew up in a small town in Alberta. In addition to his love of hockey, he knew he wanted to help others and has become a mentor to young players. Doan is very committed to his family and says his wife and children are gifts from God.


Hockey Ministries International

Hockey Ministries International (HMI) is a faith-based organization that has been working with the hockey community since 1977. It now has a presence in 35 leagues and serves junior and NHL players. HMI provides non-denominational chapel services, and any interested team can also have an assigned chaplain. The organization is not officially endorsed by the NHL, but is permitted to send periodic emails to coaches and team management informing them of its services and programs.

Religion and hockey are far from synonymous. However, more players are becoming comfortable openly embracing their spiritual beliefs.

Lag B’Omer Observations in Canada
Lag B'Omer Celebrations

Lag B'Omer party at Toldos Aharon in Jerusalem.

The Universal Life Church Monastery wants to wish a happy Lag B’Omer to all our Jewish friends who are observing this special day. Chag Sameach, the time of mourning is passed!

For any unfamiliar with the Jewish holiday, Lag B’Omer refers to the 33rd day of the counting of Omer. According to the Torah, Jewish folk are compelled to count the days from the Passover to Shavu’ot.  On the day of Lag B’Omer, the mourning practices observed during the Omer period are lifted, which calls for celebration. Some Jewish couples choose to get married on this day for this same reason.

This year, Lag B’Omer falls on today, April 28th, the Sabbath. Since Lag B’Omer is not a federal public holiday, celebratory events are sometimes held after school or work. This year, however, it does not matter; the people will be able to celebrate it on the holiest day of the week, the Sabbath.

Jewish communities in Canada hold festivities including bonfires, street festivals, and general fellowship and merrymaking. Some of the celebrations are specially geared for young adults and children, including playing with farm animals, and even paint ball.

In the United States, many Jewish boys who wait to cut their hair until they are three years of age, cut their hair on this day. This occasion is called the Upsherin and is special because a child’s third birthday marks a significant transition into their education.

There are several stories that attempt to explain why the 33rd day of the Omer period was chosen as a day of celebration. It is said that the pestilence that afflicted Rabbi Akiba’s students was lifted on this day. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s death is also remembered during this time.  Some even say this particular day was chosen because of a connection an ancient pagan festival observed during this time.  

No matter what the origins, like spring after a long winter, Lag B’Omer is a breath of relief after the mourning period of Omer. The ULC Monastery wishes Gut Yontiff (good holiday) to Jewish communities in Canada, the United States, and all over the world.