Father O’Shea’s Diocesan Reflections #34

November 8, 2018

Fr. Art O'Shea

The man who got even with God:

John Green Hanning came from Kentucky, born in 1849, an average lad with a nasty temper.  At age 20 while working on the family’s tobacco farm he had a major clash with his father. Just after midnight he set fire to the large barn, filled with the harvest of one year, and fled with his pillow case full of clothes, farewell to his old Kentucky home forever.   But now John faced the real world: sleeping under hedges, in hay stacks and barns, riding West on hay wagons, with mule teams, in boxcars and walking without end. Finally he reached Texas 1200 miles away and became a cowboy in the wild West, out on the range with nature, silence and song, often with only the quiet stars and moon for company. Bucking broncos and stubborn cattle, the closest friend was Smokey his horse.

Nine years on the Texas plain, especially the deep silence of every night, had talked to John with visions of neighbours and family back in his old Kentucky home so far away.

Deep down he was homesick so one day in a flash of good temper he unloaded his few belongings, hugged his faithful horse Smokey and headed back home. It was God who was bringing this vindictive cowboy up from the Rio Grande.  Homeward bound by train now, he left the rails at Nashville and took stage coach for the final lap.   Walking slowly the last mile of the way after nine years what would he find?  At the end of the long family driveway he gave that familiar whistle for the family dog of former times.  Lo and behold, the old dog barked and was down the lane in a flash,  jumping high and giving John the greeting of his life.  Then the father rose from his verandah chair  and hurried down to welcome his prodigal son back home. Out from the kitchen came the mother, her prayers now answered in seeing her son again.  A new barn had replaced the one that went down in flames nine years earlier and John once more rejoined the family tobacco farm.

After three years and his mother’s death, John Green Hanning was on the road again with a small suitcase of personal items, to the surprise of all, he was heading for the Trappist Monastery at Gethsemani, Kentucky, a hundred miles away. There at age 36 he entered the Cistercians of the Strict Observance, for John very strict indeed, under the new name of Brother Joachim.   He soon found Gethsemani to be a league of nations, people of many countries working and praying together for the greater glory of God, all speaking the same language, the Trappist sign language in silence.   Brother Joachim’s elderly father eventually came to live at the monastery and was buried in its cemetery.   Brother Joachim found this life of strict observance very difficult but in time became an ideal Trappist in every way.   He contracted Bright’s disease in 1907 and died the following year at age 58.    His life and death at Gethsemani among some 70 confreres added much stability to those sacred grounds and for Joachim, well he was at last that man who got even with God.

Legalization of pot today like that of liquor yesterday:

In 1900 the PEI government passed a prohibition law which forbade the selling and drinking of intoxicating beverages, much like some other provinces had done.  But even with that law, the liquor flowed quietly throughout PEI like the Jordan River, hush-hush, wink-wink.   St. Pierre and Miquelon were the main suppliers of liquor, PEI’s North Shore becoming a favourite trade route. Unloaded from schooners, parked in outer waters, this illicit cargo easily found its way ashore by smaller boats whose cunning captains knew the coastline well, even in the darkness of night.  Once landed, easy hideaways for the sweet spirits were found in wooded areas, along river valleys and coves, in barn lofts and other outbuildings.  Weak police cover meant that bootleggers, smugglers and moonshiners continued to ignore the law. A vast improvement came in 1932 when the RCMP came to PEI with much boasting about the great catches they made, for example the seizure by the RCMP of a boat with its 97 five-gallon kegs of rum off Malpeque or the catch in a barn near Wellington where they found 159 cases of assorted liquor.  One of the most famous catches by the RCMP was the “Nellie J. Banks” off the North Shore with its 1600 gallons of hard liquor.  Despite all this, rumrunners, bootleggers and moonshiners continued to do a profitable business.   Finally, in a 1948 plebiscite on PEI about continuing prohibition or not, the nots won by a margin of 2-1 which meant that liquor could flow openly across the Island with only soft government control.

The war is over!

A century ago this week, World War I came to an end after four years of unbelievable destruction and human casualties.  Although November 11 is the official date of the armistice, news of the war’s end was received in Charlottetown on November 8 around 2 pm.   That brought about four hours of joyful noise in every conceivable shape and form.  Charlottetown was wild with joy, all work ceasing by common consent. At 4 pm an automobile procession through the principal streets moved slowly with hundreds of autos gaily decorated, blowing horns (Imagine in 1918!). The city was ablaze with flags and bunting, every second person carrying a flag or musical instrument. People were mad with joy.  At 7:30 pm another celebration began at the Market Square after a torchlight procession thereto.  Premier Arsenault gave a rousing speech, big wigs and clergy taking part as well.  The Kaiser was hanged in effigy with many willing hands assisting.  Over 200,000 Canadian war casualties would be noted during this horrible four-year war, 1914-1918, with 50,000 of those dead.  And this was supposed to be the war to end all wars!!



In the fall of 1918 the Diocese of Charlottetown had ten seminarians, as follows:  St. Augustine’s, Toronto, 5, Grand Seminary of Quebec, 4 and Holy Heart in Halifax, 1.


New cathedral update:

Although our cathedral basement was serving well as worship space since 1914, by the spring of 1918 there was great activity inside the cathedral with marble work, seat planning, decorating, looking at stained-glass windows and the like, all with an eye to a grand opening the following year.

High praise and welcome to Fathers Raju and Ashok for their recent incardination here.  Our old diocese has been doubly blessed.  Best wishes as well to all priests serving here with their many gifts widely spread.


Last month’s clergy quiz:  

Father Jay responded early with the name Little Pond and he was right.  His prize awaits him at the Pastoral Centre.  Father Hogan also responded early but missed the answer, not by much.


New clergy quiz:  

An Island parish in which the symptoms of the Holy Spirit seemed very clear to the parishioners over many years, the number seven being very strong there.



November 8, 2018