October 15, 2017.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, October 15, 2017 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we encourage Inter-faith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

Today St. Paul Parish honored the closing of the 100th Anniversary Year of the appearances of the Virgin Mary to Lucio Santos and her two cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto in Fatima, Portugal. Fatima, Portugal was named after a Muslim princess who was kidnapped by a knight, Gonçalo Hermigues, and his companions in the recently created Kingdom of Portugal during the re-conquest of the area by European Christians from the Muslims in the 15th century. A Catholic parish was founded there in the year 1568. The town of Fatima has become a well-known pilgrimage site with a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. Pilgrims from all over the world come here to seek healing and spiritual grace.

Devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, who Catholic Christians call Our Lady is deeply rooted in the spirituality of the Church. Churches all over the world are dedicated to her and nations have adopted her as their patron saint. We are asked to "clothe ourselves with Christ" as we enter more deeply into our life in God through Him and His mother, Mary, who has become the spiritual mother of all humanity, the "new Eve" bringing God's Love into the world.

Muslims too are devoted to the Virgin Mary and as Louis Massignon has pointed out, she, more than any other holds the key to reconciliation with all three Abrahamic faiths and could be a bridge to overcoming the many years of painful conflicts among all three traditions. We share the Catholic understanding of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and her virginity with Muslims, and the Qur'anic writings about her serve to enhance our more limited references to her in the New Testament. She is the only woman named in the Qur'an. For both Muslims and Catholic Christians, she is a sign of pure devotion to God and her "Yes" to the angel of God is an example of absolute trust and faith and an example to all believers.

Fatima was the name of the Prophet Muhammad's beloved daughter and many Muslim women are named in her honor. After Fatima's death, it is said that her father called her the most blessed of women in paradise aside from Mary. Massignon too wrote extensively about the spiritual connection of Fatima to the Virgin Mary. Along with Msg. Fulton Sheen he envisioned that in Islam she could be considered as an image of Mary pre-figuring the second coming of Jesus, just as Esther was in Israel before the first coming of Jesus. He also referred often to the history of Fatima's place in the branch of Islam called Shi'ite, and her spiritual significance.

In our last gathering we highlighted many aspects of the Muslim pilgrimage known as the Hajj and raised the question about the significance and rituals attached to Christian pilgrimages. The example of the many pilgrims who flock to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima offers us an opportunity to continue to experience ourselves as pilgrims on our journey towards God and to respond to the commandment to love one another as we have been loved by God.

As we pray for peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land and throughout the world, let us offer a special prayer for the community at St. Paul's Sister Parish in Beit Sahour, Palestine that is dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima while keeping in our hearts and minds the victims, survivors and first responders of the hurricanes, California fires and horrific massacre of innocent lives in Las Vegas. It is more than ever our Badaliya and Inter faith mission to support one another and be reminded of the Mercy and Compassion of a Loving God in the midst of every painful and tragic event.

Peace to you,

(References to Fatima in Louis Massignon, Badaliya: au nom de l'autre. Les Ed. Du Cerf. 2011. p. 117,151)

(See www.dcbuck.com for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute)