Gerry Turcotte

Gerry Turcotte

Gerry Turcotte is the president at St. Mary's University in Calgary.

Last year Pope Francis delivered his traditional Christmas message from the Hall of Benediction of St. Peter’s Basilica, rather than from the usual window where popes more traditionally appear before tens of thousands of the faithful. Just as his place of delivery reflected the grim reality of COVID, so too did his message focus on the responsibilities we — and the wealthier nations especially — have towards those in need.

Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. Actually, it was Plato who argued that “our need will be the real creator,” a comment that eventually morphed into our more familiar adage.

The Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education has estimated that the total number of Catholic higher education institutions around the world is over 1,300.

There is an old joke that asks what the difference is between a liturgist and a terrorist. The punchline: You can negotiate with a terrorist.

In the Book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar summons the magicians, enchanters and sorcerers of his kingdom to explain a troubling dream he has had. In a test of their ability, he declines to tell them what he dreamt, but instead insists that they reveal it to him and put it into context. The Chaldeans respond that no one could do such a thing “except the gods,” prompting the king to issue a decree that all wise men be executed.

One of my favourite sights when driving along the increasingly paved landscape of Calgary is an ospreys’ nest that has been built atop the metal girder that supports a ubiquitous piece of highway signage. My children and I have marvelled for many years at the site of this large nest, perched out in the open on unprotected steel, which has supported generations of fledgling hawks. So imagine my disappointment driving past the spot recently only to discover that workers had covered the nest with a wooden pyramid. It is impossible not to personify the forlorn hawk, who sat miserably beside this intervention, appearing lost and confused.

The discovery of 215 bodies of children in unmarked graves on the site of the former Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia understandably triggered a national response of outrage and mourning. Less understandable is why this particular discovery has unleashed an outpouring of grief and accountability by community leaders and politicians when the evidence of these atrocities is so well known, and when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report highlighted this issue for special mention.

 It has become commonplace to speak of our current reality as “a time like no other.”

In At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, Roger Ekirch discusses a practice in the early modern era whereby Western Europeans divided their nights in two, with a “first sleep” until midnight, and a later “second sleep” running through until morning.

Growing up in Montreal, with a mother who couldn’t speak French and a father who couldn’t speak English, I had an uncanny understanding of the power of words.

Page 1 of 5