Columns

From the category archives: Columns

Dr. Gerry Turcotte

Ashes prepare way for 40-day journey to Easter

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
February 8 , 2016

During Lent last year, Bill Donaghy of the Theology of the Body Institute posted a graphic on his Facebook page entitled "A Catholic Guide to Ashes." What follows is a series of examples of the signs priests place on worshippers' foreheads during Ash Wednesday services. These include a pristine cross labeled First in Line, a massive cross entitled Father's Revenge, a messy little blur called The Hasty, and a barely there impression that says simply Load Toner.

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Worn-out piano symbolizes new year's transition

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
January 25, 2016

Several years ago, when my daughter decided she wanted to learn to play the piano, a good friend tracked down a used upright for us on Kijiji. Even though it was on its last legs, Sophie was able to spend almost two years learning her basic skills until a better instrument was needed. When we discovered that the soundboard on the first piano was irreparably damaged, it became a large, useless, dust-collecting sculpture in the dining room.

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Our acts of charity, once born, never die or fade away

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
November 23, 2015

The month of November witnesses a number of important observances, from All Saints' and All Souls' Day which begin the month, to Remembrance Day in the middle, to Advent that closes out the month. All of these mark an engagement with birth, death and resurrection in some complex sense.

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Church signs can elicit giggles, guffaws

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
October 26, 2015

The feedback I received in response to a column about Church bulletins prompted me to consider that other powerful medium that parishes everywhere use to communicate with their communities - Church signs. We are all familiar with the unintentional messages that a hastily worded sign can send: 'Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.' Or the possibly intentional misspelling in this one: 'God's will is perfect; people make misteaks'.

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Life offers a balance of shadows and light

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
September 28, 2015

There is a funny story of identical twins, one always excruciatingly negative, the other indescribably positive. The first is given a horse and complains that he has to feed it; the other a room filled to the ceiling with manure who exclaims happily: 'I know there's a pony in here somewhere!' Optimists are often criticized for being unforgivably positive even when events would suggest otherwise. We can all think of the person who always says, 'Could be worse,' no matter how catastrophic an event.

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Life's failures can open creative doors

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
September 14, 2015

Recently, at a workshop for university presidents, one of my colleagues noted that at times he felt everyone was too afraid of failure. He challenged us to embrace failure - to give it a try, in order to understand its potential as a learning moment. The example he gave was trying to teach a young child how to do math. He told the child to imagine he had 36 donuts and to divide them into two lines.

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Mary's accessibility always brings comfort

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
August 31,2015

The first prayer I ever learned as a child was the Hail Mary. To this day I experience a sense of comfort and sacredness from those opening lines: "Hail Mary full of grace. The Lord is with thee. "I remember a feeling of awe when, as I backpacked through Turkey as a young man, I came across Meryem ana, the House of Mary, arguably the last place she lived before her death. This is where the Apostle John is said to have taken her after Christ's instructions, from the cross, to care for his mother.

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Don't get caught with a placebo faith

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
July 13, 2015

How many times have you pressed the "door close" arrow in an elevator? If, like me, your answer is several hundred times, then rest assured the exercise was futile. Government policy, especially as it relates to disability legislation, prescribes the unalterable length of time an elevator door must remain open. The button is there for emergency personnel and usually only works with a bypass key.

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Musical interlude dropkicked me through the goalposts of life

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
June 1, 2015

The role of a university president is varied and always interesting. I can truly say I was prepared for the bulk of the issues that have come my way, but there are still some that have caught me by surprise. Sometimes an issue can emerge that is so unexpected that it leaves me speechless. One of the most unusual matters I dealt with last year was a formal complaint about our answering service.

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A symbol's history can reveal surprising meanings

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
May 4, 2015

It's hard to imagine getting through our daily lives without symbols. Few in the western world would fail to recognize a bright red octagon and not know it meant "Stop!" It's perhaps why there are so many funny additions to the sign. My favourites include the prankster who wrote "in the name of love" on one, or the person in a country town who crossed out "stop" and wrote "Whoa!" Not all symbols are as universally understood, however, and many have lost or changed their meaning over time.

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