23 December 2012

Selected Articles From PAX Quarterly Magazine

No. 0147 - 27 Jun 2012 - 15:31:47
St. Jean de Brébeuf Church, Cayer, Manitoba

The Huron Carol*

     The history of the Huron Carol is a Canadian story that has journeyed over four centuries an,d three cultures, from oral tradition to a place in the hymnals and songbooks of congregatiuonbs and schools across this country.
     In the early seventeenth century, founder Samuel de Champlain envisioned a new people born uniquely of this continent through the intermarrying and sharing of common spiritual and cultural values.  It was a long way from the forced conversion and institutional racism introduced and practiced in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
     Fr. Jean de Brébeuf, Jesuit missionary to the Huron, penned the original words in Wendat/Huron in 1643 and set them to a popular French song called La Jeune Pucelle.  It tapped into Huron traditional values while teaching the Christian story.  In spite of Brébeuf's martyrdom and the final scattering of the Huron people during the Iroquois uprising in 1649, the song lived on in oral tradition until its transcription into Wendat.  It came alongside a French translation by Paul Picard, a Franco-Huron notary who worked with Fr. Etienne de Villeneuve, S.J.  He was the last Jesuit to serve the Huron, and he left behind many manuscripts and transcriptions of their hymns and chants, including the Huron Christmas Carol.  The song prevailed in post-conquest Québec, and it was known orally for another one hundred years until it was published in the Noëls Anciens de La Nouvelle France by Ernest Myrand in 1899.  In that same year, while working in Québec City, historian, journalist, and choir director Jesse Edgar Middleton discovered the publication and took it home to Toronto.  In 1926 he published a free translation of the song from French into English, called "Twas In The Moon of Wintertime, and asked his fellow choir director, Healey Willan, to provide an arrangement from the folk song for the pageant Brébeuf.  The version in our hymnal is a later Lutheran arrangement.
     I was very young the first time I remember hearing and singing the Huron Carol at a Christmas Eve service and it was a transcendent moment.  The setting of the Nativity scene was familiar and relevant: cold and sparkling in the moonlight and warmed by furs, this child belonged to me.
     Last year I received a family book about my maternal grandmother's ancestry going back over 400 years.  Among my many grandparents, a few stand out -- including the Algonquin warrior and clan chief, Charles Secham Packarini, who was nursed by Jeanne Mance in her Hôtel Dieu in the new town of Montréal in 1643.  She also sponsored the young warrior at his baptism that year, and he went on to witness the many baptisms and marriages of his clan family, including the marriage of his granddaughter Marie Mitouamegoukoue to Frenchman Pierre Couc dit La Fleur in 1657.  Two hundred years later their descendant, and my grandmother's father, was born in La Prairie, Québec.  Narcisse Cayer left Québec for Manitoba in 1880 and started a new family chapter.  In 1910 he led his growing family and a small band of Franco-Manitoban and Métis families north to the western shore of Lake Manitoba, where a ranching community exists to this day.  What remains of my great-grandfather is a headstone in the graveyard of the little Roman Catholic church he built in 1933.  The church stands on the prairie landscape, decommissioned and with a crypt still full of water from last year's flood.  Its name is St. Jean de Brébeuf.
     Mutual respect for the spiritual and cultural traditions of the three founding peoples of our nation lives in my own family and in this hymn, the Canadian Christmas carol.

* PAX: No. 17, Christmas © 2012  

11 July 2012

Prairie Love

No. 0153 - 28 Jun 2012 - 13:58:15

More fun with iTouch camera apps.
I regret not taking more panoramic shots with this less than excellent camera but I intend to expand my knowledge of wide-angle and panorama shooting before I return to my beloved Canadian Prairies next year on the way to Montréal.

08 July 2012

Roger's Pass

No. 9492 - 01 Jul 2011 - 13:59:16

Here is a photo of Rusty and a glacier, taken at the pass last Sunday.

The prairie is a spirit and
the mountains are an event.

01 July 2012

Canadian Icon - Lake Louise

No. 0163 - 01 July 2012 - 10:47:25

No. 0164 - 01 July 2012 - 10:50:25

Where else to be on a national holiday but one of the top tourist destinations. I was just passing through but inspired, with my free park pass, paper flag and lapel pin courtesy of the feds at Banff National Park gate that morning, to make a stop with thousands of others. By the time I left they were parking down the side of the mountain for their classic photo-op.

Happy 145th huzzah, Canada!

28 June 2012

Pilgrimage - Part two

No. 9067 - 28 Jun 2012 - 14:59:13

In the copse up ahead is the house in which my mother spent a dozen years of her childhood. I visited it with her 18 years ago and even though it had already been abandoned to the elements we were able to enter and go up the stairs to the little room she used to share with her two sisters. Unfortunately the photographs I took inside the house did not turn out and I must rely on my memory to recreate the place that nurtured my mother's shared remembrances of a
depression-era upbringing.

The homestead was built on another's land, a tenancy farm, after her family lost their land in Cayer due to the 1929 stock market crash. It was situated a few miles north of Gilbert Plains, a small town on Highway 5, north of Riding Mountain National Park and west of Dauphin in Manitoba. The relocation precipitated their eventual departure from the prairies and permanent move west to British Columbia 13 years later, at the end of World War II.

Nos. 9012, 8989, 9000, 9032, 9002, 8992, 9014, 9020 - 28 Jun 2012

A thicket of poplar trees has grown tightly around the little house my grandfather built for my grandmother - out of sight as if a Sleeping Beauty. I could not see it when I first drove by and only spied part of its fallen roof after I turned the car around. With some difficulty I breached the barrier of little trees to discover the roof had collapsed through the second floor and through the first where once stood the parlour and all is sinking into the cellar.
A tree grows through the front porch.

Nos. 9041, 9037, 9024, 9025 - 28 June 2012

No doubt my grandparents would be puzzled and fairly amused at my sentimental feelings for this pile of rotting timber. It is my understanding that, once the decision to leave was made, they left and never looked back. And yet, as a second generation survivor of the Great Depression, I feel as though I too know that house from hearing my mother speak of it often and lovingly
when I was young.

Old farms die like this on the prairie - slowly and with plenty of melancholy.

27 June 2012

Pilgrimage - Part One

No. 0147 - 27 Jun 2012 - 17:45:30

This is the church that my great grandfather built - St. Jean de Brébeuf.
I was unable to visit the Cayer District, Lake Manitoba last year due to the 2011 flood situation. The strong winds that have been lately will go a long way to drying out the land however the basement of the church is full of water and nothing will be done while it remains de-commissioned.

Nos. 8795, 8826, 8864, 8907, 8911, 8912 - 27 Jun 2012

I would like to buy it and turn it into an art gallery or museum
but the chance of visitors at the end of a 35 km gravel road and
north of the 51st parallel (next stop, Crane River) is slim.

26 June 2012

St. Vital

No. 8710 - 25 Jun 2012 - 19:35:53

No. 8694 - 25 Jun 2012 - 19:32:26 * No. 8695 - 25 Jun 2012- 19:32:33

Euro Cup inspires the neighbourhood after dinner.

25 June 2012


No. 0126 - 25 Jun 2012 - 11:35:09

The cemetary at Cathédrale de Saint-Boniface on Taché Avenue is stretched and flattened with the aid of a camera app.
Left of centre in this image and encircled by stone is
the grave of Louis Riel.

24 June 2012

Summertime, Manitoba

No. 8666 - 24 Jun 2012 - 10:53:25

Some part of the Cayer family has lived in Winnipeg for over 130 years.

23 June 2012

Regina - Home To Wonderful Artists

No. 8610 - 22 June 2012 - 19:51:35

Thank you Carle.


Nos. 8523, 8531 - 22 June 2012 - 17:32:32

Wilson is an American Robin who lives in my cousin's Calgary backyard. He was born with only one wing and one good leg. He has wisely chosen their home as a refuge and was so named by Leslie's daughter.

21 June 2012

Golden Morning

No. 0119 - 21 June 2012 - 05:34

I took this image with an iPod Touch and using an app that makes up for the questionable quality of the camera in the device. Five minutes after taking this, on my way out of town, I was forced to turn back due to a mudslide that had only just happened on the Trans Canada Highway. Re-directed to Calgary through Radium Hot Springs added one hour plus to my travel time but resulted in an easier drive.

20 June 2012

Leaving Vancouver

No. 0100 - 20 Jun 2012 - 07:15:27

Leaving Vancouver for a couple of weeks means saying goodbye to, among other things, great coffee. I am on my way to Winnipeg for a quick visit and will be at the mercy of Starbuck's and Tim Horton's coffee for the near future. This is a Photosynth image of the JJ Bean cafe on Railway in downtown Vancouver.

14 June 2012

Port of Vancouver

No. 0038 - 13 Jun 2012 - 19:26:12

07 June 2012

R.I.P. Public Privacy

No. 0623 - 23 Oct 2011 - 17:21:40

The gradual disappearance of the Public Telephone from the landscape suggests a shift in the value of privacy now that the personal mobile phone digitally documents our every movement and location.

27 April 2012

Melancholic Remains

No. 2654 - 31 May 2011 - 16:38:01

This old church -
somewhere in Saskatchewan
by the side of the road
in a farmer's field.
Memory is a hollow victory.

On this, the thirty-fifth anniversary of my father's death, I remember.

His kind, intelligent soulfulness and unconditional love for family are greatly missed.

24 April 2012


No. 8692 - 25 Apr 2011 - 12:20:47


No. 4378 - 26 Jan 2011 - 15:13:06 * No. 1959 - 25 May 2011 - 18:53:03

The St. Boniface church-yard on Taché at Rue Provencher in
Franco Manitoba.

22 April 2012

L'Autre Plage

No. 7897 - 12 Apr 2011 - 09:24:29
No. 1559 - 23 Jan 2009 - 15:06:59

21 April 2012


No. 8513 - 21 Jul 2008 - 10:24:18

Scholastic sandbox within the Academic Quadrangle at
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby Mountain Campus.