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“To sleep, perchance to dream…”

“To sleep, perchance to dream…” (Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1) “Hear my words: if there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream.” (Numbers 12:6) According to my concordance, (Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible), there are 22 instances in which dreams are referenced. From Genesis to Revelations, dreams are part of our history. Why, if Joseph had not listened to the angel in his dream (Matt 1:18), we would not have a Christian history!

Now having stated this, I must confess that when I began my studies in Spiritual Direction, I would not have taken the Dream portion of the program had it been an elective. I wanted the concrete subjects which would help me guide my directees in their personal journey with God. But having gone into its study with trepidation, dreamwork soon became, and remains today, one of the most exciting aspects of Spiritual Direction for me. On many occasions, I have witnessed someone experiencing the ‘aha’ of a revelation gleaned from a dream shared in either a dream group or in one on one Spiritual Direction.

And it’s not about this meaning that as in ‘oh, you dreamed about a car accident therefore you’d better be careful while driving’. It’s more about ‘what do you think God is saying to you in this dream of a car accident?’ Is there perhaps an area of [my] life that is out of control?

It is also not about one person telling the dreamer what the dream means. The dream belongs to the dreamer. When I work with dreams I actually preface each comment with the words “if this were my dream….,’ making clear that it is for the dreamer to work out its meaning with God. The feedback simply gives the dreamer a broader view of what the message of the dream might be.

Do you dream? Most of us do. Do you remember your dreams? Try writing them down as soon as you wake up. Keep a pad of paper and a pen on your night stand and scribble down as much of the dream as you can remember. Date it and then keep recording your dreams. You might be surprised at the patterns you discover over time. Find a Spiritual Director or a dream group in your area and get feedback.

Your dreams can open a whole new world into your sub conscious self. For some of us, sleep is one of the only times we are quiet enough for God to be heard. Wouldn’t it be exciting to see what God might have to say?

Sue Hamilton
CSJ Companion  


Torture Can and Must be Stopped

Talking about torture inevitably makes people feel uncomfortable. The tactics, the cruelty, the imagined pain and suffering are terrible to think about. But we need to start discussing torture much more than we do.  Because we have to stop it. And to stop it we need to talk about it. Otherwise it remains hidden, in the shadows. And if left in the shadows torture will never end.

Consider Claudia Medina’s case. Claudia was taken from her home in Veracruz, Mexico in the middle of the night. She was beaten, kicked, sexually assaulted, given electric shocks, and tied to a chair and left in the scorching afternoon sun on a navy base. Accused of being part of a criminal gang, she signed a statement she was not allowed to read and was paraded in front of the media. She later told the court she had been tortured. All but one of the charges were dropped and she was released. Almost two years later, there has been no investigation into her torture.

The global ban on torture is unambiguous. But torture is commonplace; in fact epidemic in many countries.  And sadly, instead of consistently rejecting torture in other countries, too often Canadian policy gives it a nudge and a wink. That complacency must give way to resolute leadership.

It is universally banned; and it is never excused. Yet the new campaign to Stop Torture launched by Amnesty International last month points to torture in 141 countries, on every continent, over the past five years. That extends beyond those countries most readily associated with torture, such as Syria, Iran or China. For instance, during the campaign Amnesty International activists across Canada will push to end high levels of torture in Mexico and the Philippines. Recently Amnesty International has initiated urgent action on torture in Colombia, Angola and Barbados. The wrenching reality is that torture rears its head in so many parts of our world; and not just where it would be most readily expected.

Few human rights protections are stated so unequivocally: in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, numerous other UN treaties, declarations and resolutions, and countless national constitutions and laws. No one shall be subjected to torture. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever may be invoked as a justification for torture. And not just internationally, there are countless national laws and constitutions which firmly reject torture, including Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Governments had good reason for that unconditional ban. Torture strikes at the essence of human dignity that is at the very heart of human rights. Excusing it for any reason – combatting terrorism, fighting crime or waging a war – only deepens the divisions and marginalization, and furthers the cycles of revenge and repression, that fuel human rights abuses and insecurity.

Governments also knew the ban made sense because torture doesn’t work; people will say anything to bring it to an end. And they realized that creating any exceptions was a dangerous slippery slope. There is no such thing as a little torture. Once it is allowed in one situation it’s use only grows.

The reasons it continues are many. People are tortured as punishment. They are tortured to force a confession, implicate someone else or obtain information. Torture is used to spread fear, keep people silent, and terrorize entire communities. It is often an extension of discrimination and misogyny. Torture frequently stems from misunderstanding and hate.

The techniques are multitude. The imagination of cruelty knows no bounds. From brutal physical mistreatment to agonizing psychological methods; torture leaves emotional scars, debilitating injuries and often leads to death. No one is spared: men and women, the young and the elderly.

In all of this, torturers are greatly aided by the secrecy that keeps their crimes hidden and the impunity that shields them from punishment. 

Safeguards are needed to pierce the secrecy, such as by making sure lawyers and doctors can play their role, standing between torturers and their victims. Political will is needed to shatter the impunity that denies justice to Claudia.

To make that happen, we need global champions. Surprisingly, no state truly leads the effort to eradicate torture. Why isn’t Canada playing that role?

Canada should be that champion simply because it is such a vital human rights concern. We should do so also because torture increasingly strikes frighteningly close to home.  It is no longer a faraway issue happening in faraway lands.  A growing number of Canadians have experienced torture around the world, including in Syria, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China and Sri Lanka.  On any given day a Canadian is held somewhere in the world where the risk of torture is very real.

And it goes further than that. We also face the disturbing recognition that Canadian actions have contributed to torture in many countries. Numerous judicial inquiries and court rulings have made that very clear, including the cases of Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Muayyed Nureddin, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati, Omar Khadr and Abousfian Abdelrazik. It was the central concern with Afghan prisoner transfers. And it remains a glaring human rights loophole in Canadian immigration law, which allows deportations to torture in exceptional cases. Canadians suffer the consequences of torture; but also Canadians are sometimes part of the problem of torture.

The Canadian connection to overseas torture is back in the news this year with further revelations about Ministerial Directions on torture and intelligence information. The directives authorize the use in Canada, in exceptional circumstances, of intelligence that was likely obtained through torture in other countries. And intelligence can be shared with foreign agencies, even when that will likely cause torture. That goes against one of the key recommendations to come out of the judicial inquiry into Maher Arar’s case. The UN’s expert Committee against Torture has called on Canada to bring the Ministerial Directions into line with the international ban on torture. But Canada hasn’t budged and shows no signs of planning to make any changes.

Meanwhile Canada rebuffs a groundbreaking UN treaty that is meant to prevent torture through a system of national and international prison inspections. The treaty, an Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, has been around since 2002. Over 70 countries are on board, including France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and other close Canadian allies. But despite promises at the UN in 2006 and 2009 to consider ratification, Canada has not done so. Last year Canada told the UN that there are no current plans to ratify the Optional Protocol. That makes it difficult to persuade other countries – where torture is rampant – to sign on. Why should they do what we are not prepared to do ourselves?

We must press for the laws and safeguards that will prevent torture. We must refuse to give a nod to torture anywhere, anytime. We must sign on to all relevant international treaties. As long as torture continues, anywhere – we all remain diminished by it; and we all remain vulnerable to it. We must stop torture; now.

Guest Blogger: Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

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Weekly Pause & Ponder

“We are not called to relate to God without a world. To love God we must also love what God loves. We are called to love this created world as God loves it. We are to help transform this universe from within by seeing Christ in the heart of matter – in all peoples, creatures, elements, stars, and galaxies. Such vision requires openness to new relationships, new ideas, abandoning messianic expectations, accepting incomplete-ness as part of life, recovering the capacity of wonder, and living in the primacy of love. Unless we realize the Christ in our own personal lives, however, we shall continue to suffer the violence of blind evolution. We have the capacity to heal this earth and bind its wounds in love, but do we have the desire?”
The Emergent Christ: Exploring the Meaning of Catholic in an Evolutionary Universe, by Ilia Delio, p. 150.

What draws people to keep returning for reunions?

It is a yearly, much anticipated, spring event uniting graduates of St. Joseph’s School of Nursing, Hamilton, Ontario, with classmates, possibly now living in other countries, once again. And this year was special in that we celebrated our 99th Reunion with more than 400 graduates returning to honour their Alma Mater even though the last graduating class was 1978, thirty six years ago.

What draws people to keep returning for reunions? Alumnae associations serve many purposes: they act as the collective memory, the thread uniting and cementing friendships, support in time of need, vehicle to honour accomplishments, way to communicate ‘good’ gossip, a way to collaborate professionally with others, a source of pride in who we are, strength in prayer in time of crisis, and a way into the future.

As a grad of ’56, and the only past Sister Director of the School of Nursing present, I experienced much delight, surprise and happy memories that day.

I had no recollection of the story from a grad who said that during her third year, when a date was in short supply for a special class dance, that I commandeered one of my brothers to escort her. She told me the dance was memorable.

Another reminded me of the expression used when addressing a class when I was unhappy about something with ‘my darlings’. It meant trouble ahead for them. Theresa said that ‘I used that same expression with my own family some years later.

Visiting a table of grads a few years ahead of ’56, one said to my surprise, Sister I think of you so often. She went on to say, when I was a senior and you were on my floor, you came to me one morning and said, ‘I have 8 patients and meds and I can’t manage’. I responded, ‘well you have been talking to me for 10 minutes and could have had one patient done by now.’ Much to my amusement I told her I didn’t remember the incident. It was 60 years ago.

In reflecting on these encounters, I’m grateful for the occasion of renewing friendships, and for the love and reconciliation reunions present to families, classes and organizations to reestablish peace and joy with one another as well as celebrating life.

Ann Marshall, CSJ




Grim Statistics: Let’s Change Headlines

“The Alarming Decline in Voter Turnout” so read the headlines in the Globe and Mail following the Ontario Provincial election in October 2011. A new low in citizen participation was reached in Ontario’s last election when only 49% of eligible voters made the effort to cast a ballot. The right to vote is one of the privileges we enjoy. It is a fundamental freedom we enjoy as citizens of a democracy.

Yet it is puzzling to me why so many eligible voters don’t exercise their right to vote. Around the globe peoples of many countries struggle to gain or maintain their ability to express their political will and mandate who their leaders will be. Many literally put their lives on the line to engage in the political process of voting.

One is left to wonder if the decreasing trend of voter turnout will continue to fall. A study done by Elections Canada and published in 2011 found that as each new contingent of the younger generation becomes eligible to vote in fact fewer of them exercise this right and civil responsibility. The research highlighted that only one third of first time voters entered the polling stations and voted.

Whatever ones political stripe, whichever political ideology one espouses, whether sure or unsure of whom to vote for I urge you to get out and exercise your freedom to vote. I also hope you’ll encourage others, especially our youth to take up the habit of voting.

For all information about Ontario’s 41st Provincial General Election on June 12, 2014 go to the Election Website: WeMakeVotingEasy.ca

Nancy Wales CSJ


Copyright 2013. Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada.