June 21, 2020.
We will gather together remotely for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday June 21, 2020 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm. At this moment, faced with the necessity of social distancing due to the worldwide pandemic called Covid-19 threatening all of us, our gathering is taking place via Zoom on-line rather than 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 and for a recovery of health for the world.
Since our last Zoom gathering, Muslims have completed the month of Ramadan fast and prayer, adapting as we all have, to on-line gatherings and only sharing Iftar dinners and the final celebrations of Eid al-Fitr within families living together. Christians celebrated the major ending of the Easter Season, called Pentecost, the fire of God's Love breathing the Holy Spirit of life into the minds and hearts of the disciples and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and some women who were gathered together in an upper room in Jerusalem. This marks the beginning of the Christian mission, first to those Jews gathered in Jerusalem from all over the Middle East for the Jewish feast of Shevuot, the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, and then to the larger diaspora and ultimately to the gentiles. Shevuot is a celebration of the Harvest gathering of wheat, the source of the bread of life, that took on new meaning for the Christian community. Two more solemnities were celebrated each of the two weeks following Pentecost that define the roots of Christian faith and belief. The solemnity of the Trinity on June 7th and the solemnity of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ) on June 14th. All Christian believers are baptized into the Body of Christ as a community joined as one in spirit with the living and the dead in a great communion of saints.
This week we will honor a prophet of Islam and a Christian Saint, John the Baptist. For Christians, John was a herald, a person who announces the coming of an important person or event. He was the first to miraculously recognize Jesus from the womb of his mother, Elizabeth. In Islam and in Christianity, the birth of John was also miraculous because he is the offspring of a barren mother, Elizabeth, and the elderly prophet named Zachariah. He is one of the twenty-five prophets that all Muslims must believe in. In Christianity, John went on to call the people to the repentance of their sins and pointed to Jesus as the One who was to come, the long expected Messiah.
The Badaliya was founded by Louis Massignon in 1934 and I would say that he too was a "herald" of the messengers of faith that he recognized well before the rest of the world at the time. One was the foundress of the Carmelite Monasteries in the Holy Land, Mariam Baouardy whose religious name is Maryam of Jesus Crucified. Early in the 20th century, well before she was beatified or canonized by the Church as a Saint, he called her the Patron Saint of the Holy Land. We dedicated our renewal of the spirit of the Badaliya USA to her in 2002.
At the very beginning of his own spiritual journey, Louis Massignon wrote to Charles de Foucauld, a hermit Priest living and serving a Berber Muslim tribe in the Algerian Sahara, called the Touareg. During the years of their correspondence, after their one meeting in Paris in 1909, Massignon came to see Foucauld as a mentor and "older brother". When Foucauld was killed during World War I in 1916, his writings and spiritual legacy would have been lost had not Massignon taken it upon himself to publish them and encourage René Bazin to write the Hermit Priest's first biography. The first religious communities adopting the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld and encouraged by Massignon, were not established until the 1930's and then a blossoming of lay communities of men, women, priests and religious were established all over the world, called Jesus Caritas, or the Fraternities.
On November 13, 2005, Charles de Foucauld was Beatified and listed as a martyr in the Catholic Church with the title, Blessed. On May 26, 2020 Pope Francis authorized the decrees attributing a miracle to the intercession of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, known as Charles of Jesus. That means that he can be canonized as a Saint in the Roman Catholic Church.
During World War I, in October 1916, "Massignon wrote to the hermit priest of his decision to request to be sent into combat. For Brother Charles, still a soldier in his heart, devoted to both his country and his God, choosing danger and hardship of combat was part of the sacrifice and devotion of a Christian. His letter to encourage Louis' choice was written a few hours before his own tragic death on December 16, 1916. In it he prayed that God would preserve Massignons' life, suggesting to Louis that he had somehow fulfilled the desires of the former officer. Massignon did not find out about Foucauld's death until his wife sent a newspaper clipping that arrived on January 27, 1917. He wrote," By a strange exchange, he was killed and I was protected ... Beside myself, I climbed onto the parapet of the snow-covered trench, seized by a feeling of sacred joy. And cried out, 'he found his way, he succeeded'."
Massignon always knew that his friend and mentor was a Saint and that his death was truly a martyrdom of one who sacrifices his own life out of love and devotion to God in Christ Jesus. That is why I call Massignon a "herald".
The Badaliya community looks forward to that day when Blessed Charles de Foucauld is canonized as a Saint. May we all rejoice in this very difficult moment of pandemic, protests and clearly big changes in our lives, that a great soul has been recognized. May the efforts of so many people around the world to affect the changes needed in our institutions to truly protect the dignity and worth of every human being no matter their religious, ethnic, or racial identity be acted upon and may the prophets of Islam and Christianity continue to be heralds of health, peace and justice throughout the world.
Be well, be safe and have a blessed summer.
Peace to you,
Quotations found at soundvision.com and "Dialogues with Saints and Mystics: in the Spirit of Louis Massignon" p. 75.
(See www.dcbuck.com for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute)