The Archdiocese of Montreal is hoping to score some points with the faithful by encouraging parishioners to light digital prayer candles for the Montreal Canadiens.

Archdiocese lights the way for Montreal Canadiens

  • May 8, 2014

The Archdiocese of Montreal is hoping to score some points with the faithful by encouraging parishioners to light digital prayer candles for the Montreal Canadiens.  

“We thought that it would be a good idea to do something for the Habs,” said Jean-Nicolas Desjeunes, a spokesperson for the archdiocese who manages digital content. “Last year was just a little ad in the newspaper but this year we decided to go a little more interactive. It is just a way to be more modern and to reach the people.”

The campaign was launched on April 16 as the Canadiens prepared for Game 1 of the NHL playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The underdog Canadiens swept the series in four games.

To light a candle Habs fans must visit and donate at least $1. When Desjeunes spoke to The Register the archdiocese had already collected more than $1,500 and had about 650 digital flames burning.

But Desjeunes said making money is not the point of the digital candles.

“It is just to have a little link to the community, to the news and everything that happens in the city," he said. "We go to where everybody is right now and everybody is with the Habs, and cheering for their team. So, as Pope Francis said, we are going outside to the people and putting the message where it needs to go.”

But not everyone is thrilled about the campaign. Olivier Bauer, author of A Theology of the Montreal Canadiens and theology professor at the Université de Montréal, said the candle campaign risks sending a mixed message about prayer.

“It is not good for the faithful,” he said in an interview with the CBC. “You make them believe that if they pay one dollar to the Catholic Church, they have a chance to make the Habs win the game. God does not cheer for the Habs, or if He does, He also cheers for the (opponent).”

The Montreal Canadiens however welcome the support.

“It is very nice to see this kind of support coming from the archdiocese,” said Donald Beauchamp, the club's  senior vice-present of communications. “There is nothing like a population rallying behind a hockey team. It seems like a very healthy way of gathering people together for a right cause.”

Beauchamp, a practicing Catholic, said that despite the team having no formal religious affiliation, there is a longstanding history between the Canadiens and the archdiocese.

When asked if he'd be doing anything similar in Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins said the Archdiocese of Toronto is already busy praying for the Leafs.

“We are already beginning to pray for next year's playoffs and the Maple Leafs,” he said. “We will let the Archdiocese of Montreal keep the flame of hope alive for this year.”

The Habs are currently locked in a 2-2 series tie with the league's number one team from the regular season, the Boston Bruins. That has Desjeunes ready to pay and pray again.

“When we started I bought one or two but with Boston here I think I am going to buy a little bit more,” he said. “Hopefully they will go all the way but we are going to need more than candles for that.”

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