Changing Body, Mind and Spirit: Lent 2017 at the American Cathedral

The instructor’s voice invites you to breathe in. The faint smell of a soft, smoky incense fills the room. The students fall into their downward dog poses. This scene isn’t happening in a chic Parisian studio in the 16th arrondissement, but in the Parish Hall of the American Cathedral.

When Canon Mary Haddad arrived at the Cathedral in 2015, she had been practicing yoga for five years. For her, yoga was the practice that brought the body into the “spiritual” realm, thus integrating body, mind and spirit in a tangible way. In the summer of 2014, she completed an introductory 250-hour Yoga Teacher Training course and was intending to teach yoga in Toronto, when the invitation to serve at the Cathedral in Paris came out of the blue.

In Lent 2015, Mary started a meditation group to introduce the practice into the spiritual life of the Cathedral. Two years later, the meditation group now meets on a weekly basis. The e-mail chain for the group goes beyond the practicalities of when and where to meet, and also takes on a spiritual dimension, with Mary sharing humorous, light-hearted, yet often thought-provoking quotes.

For Lent 2017, the Cathedral is pleased to continue this practice of integrating body, mind and spirit with the Focus on the Body initiative. On Tuesdays, there is yoga in the Parish Hall. On Wednesdays, those who have fasted throughout the day gather in the Crypt to break bread together in a communal setting with a simple meal of soup. And on every Thursday during Lent this year, another yoga class precedes the regular weekly meditation session. Parishioner Nicholas Papakentris leads the sessions with gentle encouragement and guidance; Mary assists by leading occasional classes.

In her sermon for the first Sunday in Lent on March 5, 2017, Mary reminded the congregation that “Lent says, listen to your body. What is it saying? Is it drained of life or full of life? Your body is connected to your soul and spirit. Spend forty days breathing, in every sense, catching your breath, and this will reorient your soul and spirit.” She also encouraged us to use this time to forge life-changing habits that endure long after the forty days of Lent.

So for this Lent 2017, please join us here at the Cathedral in taking the time to catch our collective breath, and in embracing real and lasting change.

Click here to listen in full to Mary’s sermon for the First Sunday in Lent.

For a summary of all our Focus the Body events, see the information sheet here.

To learn more about how you can be involved, or to be added to the weekly meditation mailing list, contact Canon Mary Haddad at