February 10, 2012

Because hockey is a religion in Quebec

We have not been the most dedicated of Catholics since moving to Quebec. After spending 11 years in the same parish in Naperville, Illinois, we didn't jump right into finding a new church in Montreal. We looked at one and didn't like it so much. Adding to the confusion, Danielle was not confirmed before we arrived here as in our old parish, kids are confirmed in 10th grade. Here they are confirmed in 6th grade. Danielle was not too crazy about attending religious education classes with little kids. Yes, a bit lazy of us, I know. We will look into it when she is in college. After all, she has come this far and she might as well complete those happy sacraments.

We did attend mass one time at a beautiful French church. Surprisingly, we got a lot out of it and could understand what was going on as most Catholics are going through the motions anyway. Amen is the same in any language. It just so happened it was during March Madness when we were at church. It was also the anniversary of my dad's passing, so getting my ass to mass seemed like the right thing to do. (When we moved out of the house and off to college my dad would call his kids on Sunday to make sure we all got our ass to mass). During the homily, from what we could understand, the priest was asking everyone to write down a special petition or prayer on a piece of paper we could find in the pew. I recall writing something about my dad. I looked over at what Louis had written and it said "Marquette win" as Marquette was in the March Madness tournament. At least he cheers for the Catholic teams.

The Catholic church has been in the news a lot lately and not in a good way. So in the last couple of days when this ad campaign caught my attention, I had to laugh. Some say hockey is a religion in these parts, and this campaign makes the case. 

So, kudos to Archbishop of Montreal for having a sense of humour and appealing to the masses...no pun intended.

(the article is below)

MONTREAL—With the playoffs just two months away and the hapless Habs currently in 14th place in their conference, perhaps there’s only one thing left to do — pray.
If you were so inclined, then you might find a new ad for the Archdiocese of Montreal a tonic, knowing, perhaps, that God was on your side.
The ad, placed in Montreal’s French-language newspapers, lists the current top teams in the league’s Eastern Conference.
Then, at spot number eight — the cut-off for the playoffs — it reads: “Let us pray.”
“It was a lighthearted wink, to ally with people who love sports,” said the Catholic Church of Montreal’s communication’s director Lucie Martineau. “And to pray they (the Canadiens) are in the playoffs.”
It tells average Montrealers that “we are there, we are present,” Martineau continued. “We have the same worries as you.”
Despite the longstanding comparisons of the Montreal Canadiens to a religion, the church has only now sought to ride the NHL club’s jersey-tails.
The Archbishop of Montreal, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, was not available for an interview. But Martineau said he’s a Habs fan and quickly approved the idea proposed by the church’s outside ad firm, Bos.
Hugo Léger, the firm’s vice-president of creation, said Bos has searched for a long time to “link the two religions” but had to wait for the right moment.
It saw that moment in the club’s declining fortunes as the regular season clock runs out.
The reaction, Léger said, has been huge and positive. “I don’t know,” he added, “if it will make everyone fall to their knees Saturday night at the Bell Centre.”
That the church would eventually attach itself to the religiosity of the Canadiens — real or imagined — is not surprising, since Montrealers are so fervent about their team, said Olivier Bauer, a theology professor at the Université de Montréal and author of the 2011 book Hockey as a Religion: The Montreal Canadiens.
Bauer senses a change. Even in recent years, he felt the church was hesitant to make the link.
But the treatment the Habs receive from some fans, bordering on the sacred, is unmistakable. Linking the two is “logical,” Bauer said.
The team, and its jersey, are called “La sainte flanelle” (the holy flannel). Patrick Roy was called “Saint Patrick.”
“The religion of the Canadiens in Montreal takes the form of Catholicism,” he explained. He cited the example of one fan he knows who has literally created a Habs “temple” in his house, with the appearance of a Catholic church, complete with altar, the centre of which sits a replica Stanley Cup.
The ad is directed at a population that, more than elsewhere in Canada, has turned its back on organized religion. Fewer than 10 per cent of Catholics in Quebec attend mass.
In this way the ad might be an attempt to reach out to fill the pews again. “Is it a Hail Mary pass?” laughs Bauer. “I’m not sure it’s so desperate. But the idea is definitely to use something that works.”
Church spokesperson Martineau said, “We don’t think it’s something that will bring people to the church, but maybe it can lead them to reflect and think about their faith.”
It’s not the first time the church has comically commented on current events to make its presence known. Last year it placed a billboard ad at the entrance of the Champlain Bridge, whose state of disrepair has become infamous here.
“Say your prayers,” it read.
As for the Canadiens, what do they think of the newest ad?
“It’s nice to count on their support,” Was all spokesperson Donald Beauchamp would say.
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