November 18, 2007.
We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday November 18,2007 at 3pm at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we pray for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.
On November 13, 2005 Louis Massignon's friend and mentor, Father Charles de Foucauld was beatified in Rome. In 1909 the hermit priest came to Paris seeking approval for his vision of establishing a prayer association made up of Christians from all walks of life joined together in a missionary spirit of prayer for the Muslims in French colonial North Africa. He called it the Union Sodality. It was on this trip to Paris that he met the young Louis Massignon for the first time. Many years of letters and three meetings with Brother Charles established their relationship. For Massignon, Brother Charles was a man consumed with the fire of his love for the Divine, an exemplary model of faith for all Christians. Massignon became one of the first 49 members of the Union Sodality in Paris. After Foucauld was killed on December 1, 1916 during World War I, and the members of the small association were sure that it would not survive, it was Louis Massignon who made sure that it did. He asked that René Bazin write the first biography of Charles de Foucauld that was published in 1921 and later Massignon himself published the priest's Directory for his vision of prayer and life dedicated to Christ.
It was this biography that inspired a young French woman named Magdeleine Hutin. After losing her two brothers at the front in World War I, her father in 1925 and her sister in 1926, she wrote: "The only light that brightened this somber period was reading the life and writings of brother Charles of Jesus in whom I had finally found the whole ideal of life of which I dreamed: the Gospels, lived.... complete poverty, the love of humiliation and especially love in all its plenitude;Jesus Caritas, Jesus-Love...and I begged the Lord to hasten the hour of my departure for Islamic countries, toward the Sahara or toward the Hoggar, in order to go there to find traces of little Brother Charles of Jesus and to live his same way of life there".
Despite severe health-related obstacles, by 1939 the Little Sisters of Jesus had their very humble beginnings. By now there are religious communities world wide dedicated to the vision of Blessed Charles de Foucauld and lay fraternities with members in the thousands. Both Little Sister Magdeleine and Father René Voillaume, who established the Little Brothers of Jesus in 1935, were supported and encouraged in their vocations by Louis Massignon. Today at least one fourth of the Little Sisters of Jesus live in Muslim countries world-wide. In their News Notes they write that "given the roots of their foundation this is no surprise however in our world in 2007 they serve in the midst of the struggle for both Muslim and non-Muslim communities to bridge the chasms of misunderstanding, as well as being part of a struggling Christian community". May we be inspired in our Badaliya prayer, in honor of the Beatification of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, by the words of Little Sister Gabrielle Yvette who has lived for many years in Morocco.
"A life of friendship with Jesus, a life of friendship with people, especially the poor, those looked down on: this is the path of contemplation that Little Sister Mageleinne offers us.... She was among Arab people, Muslims, colonized and poor. She wrote: "Human dignity is such a splendid thing. Respect is always the essential. It is easy to find generous love. The rare thing is a love that is considerate and respectful of every person'. For Little Sister Magdeleine this kind of friendship IS the preaching of the Gospel".
"Living among Muslim believers has formed us. We learn that we must let go of any desire to change the other person. We learn to recognize all the value of the other's faith, let oneself be in the presence of radical difference. It draws us into the Mystery of God...God is greater than our religions. It makes us daring enough to believe that beyond everything that divides us and could stand as a barrier, we can meet one another as persons. When you experience friendship and mutual trust, and at the same time know that our religions aren't interchangeable and that neither we nor they are going to change to the path of the other, we find ourselves square at the heart of our own faith. We are believers together, and it takes on a humbler face and opens us to mutual respect. I often think that if our congregation had not been born in the heart of the Islamic world we might not have understood so well that our call was simply to live our lives and make of them a witness, without looking for any results".
"I knew many Muslims, simple people, human to the core, whose lives were a testimony to God's love. I discovered with joy that when Jesus proclaimed the Beatitudes he was talking about an immense multitude of people, vastly overflowing the boundaries of the Church".
"A word about our little Church in North Africa. Submerged in a totally Muslim world, the Church is called to live fellowship, respecting the other without wanting to annex them. We believe that this gives meaning to staying in these countries even though there are political currents of Islam that are growing harsher. We believe that it is worth the effort to offer our support to men and women of good will and try to help each other become more and more deeply human by recognizing our differrence, respecting it, and appreciating our mutual riches as we work together to make the world a more human place".
In thanksgiving for these Little Sisters and all who share their vision, the vision of Blessed Charles de Foucauld and his disciple Louis Massignon, let us pray for the peace and reconciliation "that will make the world a more human place".
Peace to you.