The celebrations of the Centenary of the visit of the Master to Montreal finished only two days ago, on 12 September 2012, commemorating a visit notable for the intensity of its press coverage1. As readers of The Journey West know, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stayed in many homes during His travels, but only the Maxwell home in Montreal, located at 1548 Pine Avenue West, is officially designated a “Shrine.” Shoghi Effendi stated that this house “should be viewed in the nature of a national Shrine, because of its association with the beloved Master, during His visit to Montreal.”3. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá referred to this house as His home, a great honour conferred upon Canada and Montreal. Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum explained the importance of this Shrine as such: “Things arise in historic perspective as time goes by. This is the only private home in Canada where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stayed. After His visit, it was always considered blessed by having been used by Him. For future generations, it will eventually grow in importance and sacredness, because He, the Centre of the Covenant, the Greatest Mystery of God, stayed here.”4
Her father, Mr. Sutherland Maxwell, took ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for a carriage ride around town on His first afternoon in the city. They drove past the Unitarian Church and through McGill University campus. They then went to one of the oldest and grandest Catholic churches in the city. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá praised it, saying, “Behold what eleven disciples of Christ have accomplished, how they sacrificed themselves! […] When a person is detached, he is capable of revolutionizing the whole world.”2
One cannot write about the Master’s visit to Montreal and not share at least one anecdote related to the Maxwells, as both the city and the visit are intimately related to them. Ruhiyyih Khánum, a little over two years old at the time, offered delightfully humourous anecdotes from His stay. This particular one felt like the perfect ending to this post, as it reflects the way the thousands of people He met during these travels could have felt: “One day as He rested after lunch on a couch at the foot of His bed, Mother had quieted the whole household and particularly instructed me not to waken ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on any account. Her back was scarcely turned when I rushed into His room and, going up to Him, pried His eyelids open with my small fingers, crying: ‘Wake up, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá!’ It seems He took me in His arms and let me sleep on His breast. I was so attracted to Him that it was hard to keep me away from Him at all.”
- Will C. Van Den Hoonaard, The Origins of the Baha’i Community of Canada, 1898-1948; Mahmúd-i-Zarqání, Mahmúd’s Diary.]
- Shoghi Effendi, Messages to Canada, 2nd ed. (Thornhill: Bahá’í Canada Publications, 1999), p. 179
- From a letter from Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, 14 May 1953.
- The Maxwells of Montreal
- Photo from www.flickriver.com