I Confess

Posted on December 28, 2017 under Storytelling with 2 comments

The ” sin bin”

( Originally published in 2013 )


I, along with several hundreds of millions of others, watched with interest the confession of disgraced cyclist, Lance Armstrong a few years ago. He admitted his transgressions of lying and cheating to the high priestess herself, Oprah Winfrey, in a highly publicized made- for- television event.  What could possibly be scarier than “telling all” in front of the world?  I’ll tell you.  It is being Catholic and preparing for the sacrament of penance … as a seven year old.

Watching disgraced athletes, politicians and business leaders confess to all sorts of nasty stuff is so common that it barely registers in the public’s psyche.  Even if you’ve cheated and lied your way to the top, it appears that a carefully orchestrated “mea culpa” is the first step to redemption, or at least a reduced jail sentence.

The nun who is conducting religion class in grade two indicates that all members of the assemblage in front of her are sinners and must repent.   First of all we must know everything about sin.  Today, a seven year old would merely Google sin and find out, in under ten seconds, that there is sin and there is serious sin.  Back then it took us a year of preparation to discover that the seeds of evil were within us and only penance could eradicate them.

We learned about examination of conscience and became familiar with the roll call of mortal and venial sins.  Mortal sins are the really bad things while venial sins are fairly minor iniquities.  To my recollection there weren’t many second graders who had the knowledge or capacity to commit a mortal sin. Then there was the matter of contrition or saying you’re sorry.

Preparing for your first confession was scary stuff. You were made to feel like you were just about the baddest kid that ever lived and that only purging your sins to a priest, in a dark box, could free you from the shackles of Satan.  We discovered that we had to tell the priest our deepest darkest secrets and, if we were truly sorry, a few Hail Mary’s gave you a clean slate for another month.

I distinctly remember first confession when we were herded like cattle being led to the slaughter and marched from the school to the church – a distance of 100 yards.  The sisters, in their starchy stiffened uniforms, one at the front and one at the back, lest we breathe, marched us into the church. Back then, even the nuns had bad habits. We sat in the hard rock pews and carefully went through the speech that we would deliver to the priest.

But what happens if you haven’t sinned since your last confession? Are you supposed to lie to the priest and tell him that you have sinned when, in fact, you have been a paragon of virtue since your last confession?  Move over, Lance.  This is really scary stuff.  Can there be anything worse than lying to a priest about lying?

As an adult I still wake up in the middle of the night with beads of sweat running down my face.  I feel guilty that I may have forgotten to tell the priest everything some fifty five years ago.

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The Heartbeat of our Community

Posted on December 25, 2017 under Storytelling with 4 comments

People’s Place Library. Warm and inviting.


On a cool fall evening in 1985, I knocked at the door of the owner of 99 Church Street. It was one of many homes I visited that year in an attempt to woo voters to support me in my bid for a seat on Town Council. A wisp of a woman stared me down. She put her finger on my chest and said, “ If you promise to work to get a new library for Antigonish, I will vote for you.”  And like most “ wanna be” politicians, I said yes!

The woman standing in front of me was never a casual bystander in her long, productive life. A skilled writer with a brilliant mind, Eileen Cameron Henry was a retired Town Councillor at the time and the most passionate supporter of the library that one could possibly imagine.

Well, Eileen, it took a long time but your dream became a reality when it opened its doors on May 24th, 2011.

What’s in a name?


People’s Place Library. The building belongs to the people of our community.

In a very short period of time, the library has truly become the hub of activity for the citizens of the Town and County of Antigonish…. And beyond.

Many of you remember well the days when Grace MacKinnon and Rhynda Tudor toiled away in very cramped quarters in a few rooms at the rear of Town Hall. Space put restrictions on programming options. So when the push came to construct a new facility in a the building originally housing the “ downtown Sobey’s , “ the visionaries of People Place put together a wish list that would have made Santa blush. And like Santa, they delivered.

It is hard to describe what the library means to the community. We know that it is a meeting place where people from all walks of life have access to books, movies, art, the internet, programs and lectures, ACALA …and the list goes on. I’m sure that someone could tell you everything that goes on inside those walls. But it would be very difficult to clearly articulate the feelings that are evoked from having this place of caring and warmth in our midst.

Simply put, it is our greatest treasure. It defines us. It makes us better people.

One can’t say enough about the staff. I don’t think that any of them ( or us ) could ever have imagined the volume of traffic that passes through their doors on a daily basis. They are super friendly, bright engaging people.  They realize that they are there to serve the public, a very diverse public.

For our refugee and immigrant population, the library is singularly the most important place in town. It is there that many of them took their first baby steps in learning the English language, a skill so vital for their survival in a strange country.

In 2014, People’s Place received national recognition as “ Canada’s Great Public Space.”  We didn’t need a panel of expert judges to tell us that. We already knew it!

A few days ago, a Christmas party was held at the library for the Syrian families. The room was packed and the air was filled with joy and laughter. Two years ago, many of these same people were in refugee camps. Today, they are us. Watching children playing like children in a safe place ( a SAFE place! ) is as heartwarming as it gets at Christmas.

“ Peace on Earth” is a somewhat hollow refrain at this time of the year. We say it without giving much thought. With so much war, hatred, violence and human degradation, it’s hard to imagine a world filled with peace.

But in this small corner of paradise that we call Antigonish, we just might have a prescription for peace. Build a library that cares.

What a great place to start.

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on December 21, 2017 under Thursday Tidbits with 3 comments

( Photo: Alison MacDonald – Age 5 )



Another calendar year is about to elapse. There will never be another like it. There never is. The memories continue to pile up like the years.

Nobody gets through a year without hardship. Many of you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Nobody knows your pain. One only hopes that the waves of anguish that wash over you, diminish with the passing of time.

2017 was particularly memorable for me as I got the opportunity to experience a new country and a new culture by spending six months (and a few weeks!) in India.

So, in no particular order, here are some of my memorable moments from the past 12 months:

. Best new food – masala dosa… or any other Indian food

. Best dessert – “sex in a pan.” I have never had sex in a pan before.

. Best book – Freedom at Midnight

. Best Netflix series – Downton Abbey

. Best musical moment (a tie) – singing with Antigonish Chorale Ensemble/ performing with Peter and Betsy at a recent fundraiser

. Best live event – Off Fringe Festival in Montreal – saw Ellie’s one woman show

. Best new friend (s) – 1.325 billion Indian people but especially Gracie

. Best friend in a crisis – brother Don who helped extricate me from India

. Best moment of the year (toss up) – turning on the water taps at the leprosy community/ the moment I got my exit permit to leave India.

. Biggest high followed by biggest low: seeing the Taj Mahal and finding out 5 hours later that my Indian visa expired

. Best response to a Week45 story – my tribute to James Macpherson

. Most unusual sports experience – getting the play by play of the Super Bowl in India (9.5 hour time difference) from Richard Johnson… on Messenger!

. Scariest moment of the year – crossing the street for the first time in Hyderabad (a city of 10 million people)

. Best movie – all the movies in the Antigonish International Film Festival

. Most embarrassing moment – showing up in traditional Indian garb to a potluck at St. James … 24 hours late!

. Best laugh – reading Bette Macdonald’s Christmas book (Mary Morrison’s Cape Breton Christmas)

. Most embarrassing moment (2) – trying to use an Indian toilet on a fast moving train

. Most exciting moment – going whale watching in Ingonish with two Indian Coady students and seeing one of the largest whales ever spotted in those parts… followed by seeing a moose on MacKenzie Mountain

. Most profound experience (tie) – first visit to the leprosy community and first visit to a slum.

. Greatest joy – spending time with my granddaughters.

. Mixed blessing of the year – not being able to get my visa for a return trip to India at the same time, experiencing medical issues. So grateful that I didn’t get the visa and was able to get first rate care in the comfort of my own town.

And thanks to all of my faithful readers. Love hearing your comments.

Have a great holiday season.

P.S. It’s still not too late! Reminder. Christmas book sale. Three books $25.00 + shipping. Regular $55. Value. Message me or send me an e-mail at lenpdmacdonald@gmail.com


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