Celebration of True Love in Montreal
by Franco Famularo-Toronto, Canada
Seventy-one married couples of every race, religion and culture participated in the Celebration of True Love Blessing in Montreal, Canada on May 17, 1997. The couples ranged in age from their 20s and married for only three months, to one couple in their mid-80s who had been married for 57 years. There were Christians of various denominations, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists and people who belonged to no particular religion at all. Some were French Canadian others were English Canadian. The vast majority, however, were from the multi-cultural and cosmopolitan community of Montreal. Couples from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and countries such as China, Vietnam, Jamaica, Peru, Italy, India, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Russia, Greece, and many other countries were among the participants. The atmosphere was truly festive.
What follows is a brief overview of our recent activities in Montreal. As some of you might remember, Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon visited Montreal on October 9 and delivered a speech on True Parents and True Family. The Unificationists community in Montreal which consists of no more than ten families were greatly challenged with hosting and organizing her speech in Montreal. Nevertheless the event went relatively well. Soon after her visit we were informed that 120 Japanese women representatives of the Unification Movement would be coming to Canada to assist us in our outreach activities for the 3.6 million couples blessing.
This was preceded by the arrival of 3 of the 4 National Messiah couples, one from Korea (Dr. and Mrs. Chae Hee Lee), another from Japan (Mr. and Mrs. Eiichi Habara) and from the USA (Mr. and Mrs. Mitch Dixon). A fourth couple, Dr. and Mrs. Morauf, from Austria, will soon be arriving.
In mid-December, 38 women representatives of the Japanese movement arrived in Montreal. After an initial period of adjustment to the climate and social environment, beginning in early January they began doing traditional outreach work door to door and invited people to Divine Principle lectures. Many people attended the lectures and seminars. However, we found after holding a blessing ceremony on February 16 for one couple and another blessing ceremony for 2 couples on March 22 that if we continued to do things in this way it would be impossible to really bring God's blessing to Montreal by November.
In mid-March several members in Montreal along with Dr. Lee and Mr. Habara, Robert Duffy, Marc and Isabelle Laurin, and myself held some very lively discussions on how to improve our outreach efforts. This coincided with our hearing reports from Africa, Russia, the Philippines and Central America where the members in those countries had adapted the blessing ceremony to suit their cultural environment. The results from those countries were phenomenal. At this stage let us say that we considered contextualizing the Blessing ceremony for our Canadian audience. At Dr. Lee's recommendation we also began 40 day period of prayer and fasting on April 1st.
After a long discussion we concluded that we would do it in a manner similar to the sisterhood bridge ceremonies. A detailed explanation follows:
The members go door to door with a questionnaire about the family which concludes with an invitation to a Celebration of True Love. Those that agree fill out a registration form which includes their personal information, how many years they have been married etc... This approach give us the possibility to network within the community more extensively.
The program is presented as a means to promote good families and the ideal of true long lasting love between couples. Until now we have been holding the events at a hotel in mid-town Montreal until now.
Concluding that building a bridge would be too costly, we created a beautifully decorated arch that we call the "arch of true love." The first such Celebration of True Love was held in Montreal on April 19, 1997 and 51 Couples participated. Many more could have taken part, but unfortunately we did not have enough space to accommodate everyone.
The ceremony consists of the following and is being refined with each event:
1. Introduction and Musical presentation
2. Recognition of couples with long lasting marriages. The couples are introduced to the entire audience and presented with a token gift in appreciation of their long life together. Among the participating couples some have been married for 50, 57 and the longest lasting we have come across so far was 64 years. This segment of the celebration is truly heart warming.
3. After a couple of musical selections the officiator, who also serves as host, gives a short talk about marriage and family life. Due to the bilingual nature of Montreal, the host/officiator speaks in both French and English. Our audience either understands French or English and in many cases they understand both languages.
The speech contains an introduction to the Family Federation and that the founders are Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han, the True Parents, and that the vision of the Family Federation for marriage is a God-centered one. The talk also emphasizes the need to transcend our differences of religion, culture and race and that social transformation can only come about through the establishment of strong families.
4. Toward the conclusion of the speech we invite the couples to participate in crossing the arch of True Love.
First one of our couples demonstrates how this is done and then one by one the couples approach the front of the room from opposite sides of the stage. After bowing to each other they embrace each other on stage as the audience applauds. They then walk through the arch hand in hand with their spouse as their photograph is taken. I have seen many a teary eye as this part of the program takes place. We also encourage the children of each couple to walk through the arch with their parents.
Once this part of the program is completed and everyone is back in their seats, the officiator then gives a brief explanation about the holy wine, renamed "ceremonial drink". (This was decided because many participants cannot drink alcohol due to their religious background). The explanation emphasizes that this drink represents the everlasting union of the couple and the cleansing of all bad things from the past. The ceremonial drink is then distributed by the ushers and each couple receives one glass. It is explained that the wife drinks half the cup first and then the husband drinks the other half.
This is followed by an explanation of the Holy Water ceremony which is called the "Water of Life". It is explained that the sprinkling of the water represents the long life and happiness of each couple. The water is then sprinkled on the couples in the front row, while the couples in the rest of the room are sprinkled with a type of confetti.
The couples are then given an explanation about the indemnity stick which has been renamed the "peace baton". A brief explanation about spousal abuse and violence follows and an emphasis on the idea that through this ceremony we symbolically put an end to conflict between couples. Our representative couple leads the way and demonstrates how this is done. The participating couples, I have observed, get very excited about this part of the program.
The ceremonial part of the program ends with a recitation of the "Affirmation of True Love" which is a version of the Blessing Vows. The couples are already familiar with the affirmation because it is included in their registration form which they need to present in order to enter the event.
The grand finale is the cutting of the cake where the three couples with the longest lasting marriages come forward to the stage to cut the cake.
This is followed by a couple of musical selections and concludes with the distribution of the cake. The couples are also encouraged to make a donation to support the Family Federation.
The next step is the education of the couples. We are planning seminars and symposiums to educate the couples more fully about the ideals of the Family Federation and to prepare them for the November event in Washington D.C.
Thus far we have held three such events in Montreal. The first on April 19th for 51 couples. The following week, on April 27, we held another celebration primarily for those couples who could not participate due to the lack of space and for those who promised to come but could not attend.
On May 17th the largest gathering to date was held in Montreal with 71 couples. In Toronto on May 4th a similar type of event was held for 67 couples.
Our plan is hold such blessings every week from now on in the hope that we can bless 20,000 couples by November.
Perhaps some might consider that this method is rather unorthodox, however I would like to suggest that in these times we cannot be bound to the letter of the law but rather we need to be open to the spirit of the times we live in.
Finally, I would like to thank each national messiah for their contribution thus far to the development of the providence in our country of Canada and especially to the 120 Japanese women representatives without whom the present developments could not have taken place. Special mention goes to all Canadian members who have kept the faith and continue to participate to the best of their abilities.