October 18, 2020.

Dear Friends,

Due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic we will gather together remotely for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday October 18, 2020 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm. 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, especially in the Holy Land. And also for an end to the pandemic a recovery of health for the world.

The month of October holds a special significance for Catholic Christians as we are invited to celebrate the lives and mission of some of the most well-known saints in our tradition. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and Saint Teresa of Avila have both been proclaimed Doctors of the Church while Saint Francis of Assisi's embrace of all of God's creation broadened the vision and meaning of Church for generations of Christians. On November 1st, we celebrate All Saints Day, commemorating the saints officially recognized by the Church, followed by All Souls Day, in recognition of all who have passed from this life into the next. Our understanding of what we call The Communion of Saints, is deeply embedded in the mystical tradition of Catholic Christian belief and practice. Dating back to the beginning of Christianity 2000 years ago, it speaks to the very heart of the spiritual life of the Church.

In Islam, a saint is someone who has been chosen by God and is particularly gifted in holiness or even the ability to effect miracles. The Qur'an calls them "friends of God" as does our Christian Saint Teresa of Avila. In the Middle Ages, during the same time that our Christian saints mentioned above were founding religious communities, the mystical tradition called Sufism was also flourishing. Many of those who were later identified as saints in Islamic tradition were early Sufi Mystics who lived and died between 700 and 900CE. That included al-Hallaj, Hasan of Basra, Rabia of Basra and Junayd of Baghdad. Despite the Orthodox Muslim position against the belief and worship of saints, and pilgrimages to holy shrines dedicated to them, these practices remain popular in many Muslim countries. "The branch of Islam called Shi'a Islam is noted for its acceptance and reverence of the first twelve Shi'a Imams and pilgrimages to the shrines dedicated to them. The Shi'a believer may also venerate the Imams of the Prophet's family as well as Fatimah, the Prophet's favorite daughter, and Ali, his cousin and son-in-law. Some also honor local saints, and holy men may worship their relics and invoke their names for protection and blessings."

At the end of this month we may want to remember Louis Massignon who died on the Vigil of All Saints Day, October 31, 1962. Our Badaliya USA owes a great deal to the founder of our prayer movement as he advocated so adamantly for Catholic and Muslim engagement and for peace with justice in Palestine and Israel. He was only seventeen years old when he was introduced to the renowned writer J-K Huymans who in turn introduced Massignon to his vision of a mysterious balance of good and evil in the world. He wrote: "All through the ages there have been found saints willing to pay by their suffering the ransom for the sins and faults of others ... Like the needle of a compass, when it inclines too much to the side of evil ... God allows epidemics to be unchained, earthquakes, famines and wars; but His mercy is such that He then excites the devotion of His saints ... that His wrath may be appeased and equilibrium reestablished." Few are called to sacrifice their lives for the sake of others but Huysmans believed that these holy men and women will appear when the world needs them the most. This belief was the foundation for Massignon's Badaliya, substitutionary prayer.

Today, we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that has turned our lives upside down. The very real threat to our planet due to climate change has caused unprecedented fires and storms, yet we are witnesses to those selfless first responders and medical professionals who are continuing to put their own lives at risk for the rest of us. Ordinary people, just like Massignon himself did, are speaking out against systemic racism and the rights of all people to equality and peace with justice. There are saints and holy people in our midst who may not see themselves in those terms, but we are invited to see, and with the eyes of God, give praise and thanksgiving.

Peace to you,

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

For more information about the Communion of Saints see my article: Communion of Saints: The Christian Mystical Tradition in Dialogue with Sufism posted at www.dcbuck.com

For more information about the Shi'a tradition see: sacredsites.com

For Massignon and J-K Huymans see Dialogues with Saints and Mystics: in the Spirit of Louis Massignon, chapter 1.