Today, no doubt like many others across Canada, I am praying for my friends who work on Parliament Hill; some elected, some appointed and others who have worked through the hiring process. Today is a different set of prayers than those offered over the last two days.
On Wednesday, there were prayers for safety. My day was spent glued to the television; in prayer and providing updates on social media. There were a lot of updates on social media from a variety of sources, but I had friends sitting on the floor in lockdown with their lights and televisions turned off who were following my posts to help with their being informed about what was going on outside their doors and windows.
Yesterday, prayers were offered for our leaders – and their staff – resolutely returning to Parliament Hill in a practical demonstration of the Prime Minister’s comments that Canadians will not be intimidated and Parliament would not be deterred from its work on behalf of the nation.
Today is different.
Across the nation, but most particularly in Ottawa, in recent years we have joined a simple recognition of support for our armed forces by wearing red on Fridays – the colour of the maple leaf found on our flags. This “red Friday” is particularly significant as we remember soldiers felled in recent days on Canadian soil; one at the nation’s memorial of remembrance for soldiers who have fought and fallen before them. Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, assassinated by motor vehicle, and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing unarmed, ceremonially on guard – both killed by cowardly acts of a different kind of war – we remember you.
Today is different. The shock of Wednesday’s events and the determination of yesterday transition into the early stages of what seems another “new normal” for those of us who have lived through the FLQ crisis, 9/11 and other events that have impacted the psyche of a nation.
Muslims across Canada will engage in prayer today on their day of worship. Jews will this evening begin Shabbat. My Christian friends on Parliament Hill will meet over the lunch hour to worship, reflect, pray and comfort one another.
Here again, Prime Minister Harper’s words of yesterday ring true within the House of Commons, across Parliament Hill and throughout the nation:
Let me … provide a little bit of advice to my colleagues.
I think my position and a growing number of grey hairs entitles me to do this once in a while, and that is just to say, we all here are engaged in extremely demanding and stressful jobs. But the stress that many of you faced yesterday was really beyond and above anything that any of us are really expecting to face.
I would just say while we resume our duties, and I’ll talk about that in a moment, I would encourage everybody here to take care of their health.
Be sure that you find some time to relax in the next little while, and also if any of you – because we are not all in perfect health – if any of you are experiencing any undue physical stress as a result of what occurred yesterday, please take the time to see a physician and get that checked out.
I think it fair to add, that if you are experiencing any undue emotional or mental stress, get that checked out too. While yesterday Mr. Harper initiated the embrace of opposition leaders in a demonstration of national unity and resolve, in recent years he has also spoken at the funeral of a friend who took his own life as the result of personal mental anguish. You don’t have to have been in lockdown on Parliament Hill to have felt that kind of stress this week.
And, if you’ve been thinking about going to a place of worship – or maybe just started to give it consideration because of these words – this weekend is a good time to make that visit. Go with an open heart to worship, express gratitude, reflect, ask questions, pray, offer and receive comfort.