#1 - January 10, 2003

Dear Friends of the Badaliya,

On December 8, 2002, a small prayer group gathered in Boston, Massachussetts in the spirit of the Badaliya, created in Cairo in 1934 by Louis Massignon. We gathered on the Marian feast of the Immaculate Conception which seemed in keeping with Massignon's spirituality as well as that of his friend and mentor, Charles de Foucauld. We came together out of a shared concern for the mounting religious conflicts in the Middle East, especially in Palestine/Israel. By renewing the spirit of the Badaliya for our time we are hoping to encourage mutual respect, understanding and dialogue between Massignon's three Abrahamic traditions here in the United States and wherever others join us in spirit around the world. In the spirit of our friend and guide, Louis Massignon we believe, as he did, that any efforts at reconciliation and social action must begin in prayer.

We began by reflecting on the foundations of the Badaliya in order to ground us in the spirit of its original intention. The Badaliya began with a vow made by Louis Massignon and Mary Kahil in an ancient Franciscan church to dedicate themselves to the well-being of the Muslim community. Since we are a small group it was reassuring to realize that the Badaliya began with only two. The initial responses to the idea of a vow led us to begin to realize the seriousness of our endeavor. One person reminded us that all our vows are essentially a deepening of our baptismal promises. This is an invitation for us to struggle more intently with what we are called to become. We discussed the meaning of the arabic word, badaliya, substitution, and began some reflection on Massignon's understanding in light of his intense Christian faith. Substitution is a controversial and challenging call which we will continue to explore through the writings of Massignon and others at our gatherings.

In keeping with the original statutes of the Badaliya we began our prayer together in silence. We used a piece of music to help us focus our prayer, and then spent some time in silent reflection. We centered our gathering on the theme of peace and each person was asked to bring a reading or something to share. There were scripture passages, a reading from the Qur'an, and an original poem written about Saint Francis. Our intercessory prayers included a plea for peaceful resolution to the crises in the Middle East and for conversion of hearts of all those whose hatred leads them to terrorist actions. We prayed for the courage to forgive them by offering ourselves in their place to be reconciled to a benevolent God. We closed with the prayer of our Church, the Lord's Prayer.

Since the Badaliya in Cairo began with praying together in silence in the spirit of Charles de Foucauld, and Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament before the altar in the Marie de la Paix chapel, we discussed the possibility of attending the silent prayer of Adoration that takes place at Saint Clements Eucharistic Shrine in Boston. In solidarity with l'Union-Sodalité de Charles de Foucauld, the Brothers and Sisters of Jesus, we agreed to join them in praying for peace in the world, especially in the Holy Land, each First Friday of the month. They are the outgrowth of Foucauld's vision of an organization of Christian lay people and religious loosely bound to one another throughout the world through their prayer. Today there are members in 52 countries. The Union was officially recognized by a Bishop of the Catholic Church as an association of the faithful at Christmas in 1986 continuing the recognition given to Foucauld in 1909 by Mgr. Bonnet, the Bishop of Viviers in France.The Cairo Badaliya always included spiritual readings by Charles de Foucauld or others which we will include in our prayer as well.

The current issue of the Bulletin of the Association of the Friends of Louis Massignon published in Paris includes a description of our new Badaliya USA. We are grateful to have so many friends both in the United States and around the world joining us in spirit at the very beginning of our new Badaliya prayer group. Our next gathering will be on Sunday afternoon, February 2, 2003, the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord. We welcome your prayers and letters too.

Peace to everyone.
Dorothy C. Buck