May 17, 2015.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, May 17,2015 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Pauls Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we encourage Interfaith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

We are joining our prayer gathering today in solidarity with the Universal Catholic Church in Rome and with Carmelite communities throughout the world who are celebrating the canonization of Mary of Jesus Crucified (Mariam Baouardy) founder of the Carmeilite monasteries in Israel and Palestine. In reviving the spirit of Louis Massignon's Badaliya prayer movement in 2002 we chose Blessed Mary as our patron saint. Years before she was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1983, Massignon envisioned her as the patron saint of the Holy Land. She has become known as "the little Arab".

The Carmelite spiritual tradition began with hermits and pilgrims who settled on Mt. Carmel in Palestine at the end of the 12th century. They were followers of Christ who were seeking the grace of God in a desert place rich with Bibilical history and tradition. It was a place of God's beauty and abundance and the flowing waters of the fountain of Elijah,.an oasis. Mt. Carmel was the home of the Jewish Prophet Elijah and it was here on the mountain that the Book of Kings tells us that Elijah heard the words of God in a "small still voice".Due to the politics of the time the Carmelite monks had to leave the Holy Land in the year 1240 and emigrated to Europe and ultimately scattered throughout the world..

Called to intimacy with God and spiritual union through prayer and contemplation the medieval Carmelites created their story of origins and mystical tradition naming the Prophet Elijah as their spiritual father and the Virgin Mary as as the sign of God's love and protection for their communities. For Carmelites the spiritual journey is always a pilgrimage that leads back to Mt. Carmel and the Holy Land. In the 16th century, Saint Teresa of Avila established a reform of the ancient rule of the Carmelites, first for the women's religious communities and then, with the aid of Saint John of the Cross she established the men's communites,.They are called the Discalced Carmelites, which symbolizes the taking off of our shoes and standing bare footed before God. They wore only open sandals, even in the winter.

This is the tradition that our new Saint Mariam of Jesus Crucified brought back to the Holy Land in 1875. On January 5, 1846 she was born in the small Galilean village of Ibillin, that was then Palestine, and lies at the foot of Mt. Carmel. She was Baptized in the Greek-Melkite tradition on January 15th. A few years later, both of her parents died and Maryam was taken in by a paternal uncle. This family moved to Egypt and at the age of 13 when Mariam discovered that her guardian had arranged a marriage for her, as was the custom at the time, she refused and declared her wish to devote her life to God. From there the story becomes one of abandonnment and miraculous healing and placements in Christian homes as a servant in many towns in both Egypt and then France. Eventually in May of 1865 she was able to enter a religious community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition in Marseilles, France. When that community did not accept her after her years as a postulant she was accepted into the Carmel in Pau, France. There she was given the name, Mariam of Jesus Crucified.

In 1872 she had the inspiration to establish a Carmelite foundation in the Holy Land where she was born. In 1875 the new convent in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, was being built with Mariam instructing and helping the workers because she spoke arabic. Although she envisioned a second convent in Nazareth and had chosen its site, she had an accidental fall that broke her arm and the subsequent infection caused her death on August 26th, 1878 at the age of 32.

Today the Carmelite monasteries in the Holy Land invite us to contemplate the life journey of Jesus with them by their presence in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem and Mount Carmel.They embody the spiritual path to which they invite all Christians, all men and women of goodwill. Recognizing that the Muslim community also honors Elijah as a major Prophet in Islam, let us join the Carmelite family in the Holy Land in their prayer with Elijah.

Praying with Elijah
Almighty, ever-living God, your prophet Elijah, our Father,
lived always in your presence
and was zealous for the honour due to your name.
May we, your servants, always seek your face
and bear witness to your love.

Here is the announcement of the canonization written by the Carmelite Sisters in the Holy Land:

Our sister, Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified, Mariam Baouardy (1846-1878),
will be canonized on May 17, 2015 in Rome. Born in Galilee, Mariam lived in Egypt, Lebanon, France, India and completed her short life in Bethlehem. She is a bridge between the Christians of the East and of the West, and she invites us to live more intensely the Communion of Saints in the breath of the Holy Spirit.
"In her, everything speaks to us of Jesus" said Saint John Paul II. We are pleased that this flower of the Holy Land is given as an example to the Universal Church and particularly to the Middle East. It is a great joy, a sign of hope and support for Eastern Christians. This canonization will take place in this year of the Consecrated Life and the fifth centenary of the birth of St.Teresa of Avila, the Carmelite reformer. Mariam, worthy daughter of the Madre Teresa, became the first Carmelite saint of the Middle East.We share our joy with the whole Carmelite Family, friends of Carmel, the Churches of the Middle East and all those who feel touched by the witness and the message of Mariam.

The sisters describe the interreligious dimension of thier mission quoting St Paul "That God may be in all" (1Col.5:28)

Israel is the center of the three great monotheistic religions and this land is holy to each of them. Here Christian, Jewish and Muslim believers pray. The geography, culture and architecture of the country which brings together synagogues, mosques and churches, expand our horizons and open our hearts to a universality that lies beyond the confines of the visible Church to involve the universal love of God for humanity.Love that is made gesture by having the doors of our monasteries always open to welcome anyone who comes. Love that is expressed in our prayer and respect.

(Taken from the web site, The Carmelites in the Holy Land

Let us rejoice together and share our understanding of the meaning of the mystery of the Communion of Saints that the Roman Catholic tradition highlights in the canonization of faithful witnesses. May our faith sharing be a light for peace in the midst of the darkness that engulfs the conflicts and violence in the Middle East and throughout the world.

Peace to you.