They know grace in Humboldt, and there is beauty in their strength


National Post, 11 April 2018

'When it was so dark, I needed to hear from God,' says Broncos team chaplain, quoting Psalm 23: 'I fear no evil because you are with me'

Through eyes blurry with tears the entire nation has watched the people of Humboldt respond to the deaths of their men, their fathers and sons, their brothers and husbands, their friends and teammates. In the face of immense suffering and loss, how they have responded has been a lesson in grace.

I watched — online at 2:30 a.m., as I am overseas, also with teary eyes — the memorial service at the hockey arena. And the people of Humboldt got it right. It was beautiful in a painful way, and taught us that pain and beauty sometimes go together. That’s why there are paintings of Jesus in the agony of crucifixion.

Humbodlt knew that grieving death is not a political event, and so political leaders were welcome but took a secondary place. There is a terrible temptation to read human tragedy through the lens of politics or public policy. And so I salute the prime minister, who did the right thing by attending, and did even better by sitting at the back and not saying anything.

I don’t doubt that he would have been eloquent. But when we need to express the deepest aches of the heart, and answer the most profound questions, it is not to our political leaders that we ought to turn.  Politics is part of who we are, but not the sum of who we are, and on such occasions we need to put our priorities in order.

It was more important that Don Cherry was there. Hockey comprises a large part of our national history and culture and, despite his excesses — or perhaps because of them — Grapes singularly gives expression to that. The response in Humboldt was about our culture, not our politics, and Don Cherry is a cultural figure, not a political one.

Cherry lives in my parish during the summertime, and has visited my church. He knows better than anyone else the centrality of the hockey rink to our culture, but he also knows that the house of the Lord is more important than even the rink. On Sunday night, the Humboldt arena was the house of the Lord for that grieving community.

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