October 17, 2021.

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 17, 2021 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, an end to the pandemic, and recovery of health for the world.

The month of October in our Catholic Tradition might be called the "month of the saints" as we recognize so many of those men and women this month who have become models of Christian service and spiritual guides. At the end of the month we celebrate All Saints Day followed by All Souls Day in recognition of all who have made their final journey into the Eternal Now of Divine Life. In our reading today from the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus once again reminds his closest disciples that their wish to "sit at his right and at his left when he comes into his glory", is not only not his to grant but that "those who wish to be great among you will be your servant ... for the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life for the ransom of many." It seems we need to hear this message over and over again to be reminded of how damaging our desire for recognition, glory and power over others is, not only to others, but to ourselves. We cannot ignore that reality as we experience it today and have throughout the history of the world. This is perhaps why it is so important that we, Christians and Muslims, come together each month to pray and share our lived experience of our faith traditions.

We began last month by going back to the foundations of the Badaliya prayer movement in 1934 in Cairo, Egypt. Today we are invited to continue the story by reflecting on those who inspired Louis Massignon's own spiritual journey and vision of Badaliya. His own story is very much about his experience of what Christians call the "Communion of Saints". It is the spirituality of the saints, both Muslims and Christian, that so enriched his own experience of Islam and Christianity. Last month we shared a poem by the 10th century Sufi mystic known as Hussein Mansour al-Hallaj. In a letter written to his godson, Abd-el-Jalil on May 5. 1930 he wrote: "I believe I told you that several priests think that one could be able to envision a petition to Rome to ask that the Church claim as one of her sons, the mystic who brought me back in 1908 to Her." At the age of 25 he was sure that it was in part due to the intercession of the Muslim saint, al-Hallaj that he experienced his own remarkable conversion back to the Catholic tradition of his childhood.

The roots of Badaliya took shape in 1931 when Massignon became a third Order Franciscan, taking the name, Abraham. "I took the name Abraham," he wrote, "a saint of the Old Testament who is dear to me and whose spiritual presence near to the Blessed Sacrament fills the apparent solitude in this chapel, with the presence also of the men and women Franciscan saints who have helped me ..." The Franciscan religious order grew out of the 13th century community established by St. Francis, whose Feast day was October 4th. It was out of his own rich experience of all three monotheistic traditions that Massignon coined the term "the Three Abrahamic Faith Traditions" that is so commonly heard today.

The roots of Islam go back to the year 610CE when the Prophet Muhammad received the verses of the Qur'an from the Angel Jibril, (Gabriel), while contemplating on the fighting among the tribes and the social injustices and abuse of the tribal authorities in pre-Islamic Arabia, in a cave on Mt. Hira near Mecca. He was told to read but he replied that he was unable to read. At last the Angel commanded him to recite what came to be known as the Holy Book of the Qur'an. In all three monotheistic faith traditions Abraham's encounter with the Divine and the promises made to him form a rich heritage that belongs to all of us. His children were to be as abundant as the stars in the sky and be a light to the nations, unifying rather than dividing nations and tribes.

That is why Massignon invited members of the Badaliya prayer movement to pray the fundamental prayers of our traditions together. To honor the foundations of the Badaliya that were addressed to Eastern Christians living in Arabic speaking countries, he invites us to pray these prayers in Arabic as he experienced it; as the most beautiful expression of the Divine.

As we continue to revisit the foundations of our gathering together with Muslims and Christians may we remember those of all three faith traditions who continue to struggle to live at peace with one another especially in the Middle East, in Israel and Palestine. May our prayers for Afghanistan come out of our recognition that "those who wish to be great among you will be your servant" since all human beings are "great' in the eyes of Divine Love.

Peace to you,

See my "Dialogues with Saints and Mystics: In the Spirit of Louis Massignon", chapter 5, for a complete description of the foundation of the Badaliya prayer movement.

Letters to Abd-el-Jalil are from Massignon, Abd-el-Jalil: Parrain et filleul 1926-1962 Correspondance rassemblée et annotée par Françoise Jacquin. Les Éditions du Cerf. Paris 2007

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