#22 August 28, 2005.

Dear Friends,

At the kind invitation of the staff at St. Paul’s Church in Cambridge, MA we will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday August 28, 2005 at 3pm in the small chapel in St. Paul’s 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.

It is my pleasure to announce the establishment of a Badaliya prayer group in Washington DC who will gather monthly at the Holy Land Franciscan Monastery on Quincy St. in NE Washington. On August 28th they will join us in prayer at 3pm.

Continuing to reflect on the call to “substitutionary prayer” we can follow Louis Massignon’s own suggestion to turn to Charles de Foucauld and Saint Francis for inspiration and enlightenment. At Tamanrasset in the southern Algerian desert Foucauld realized that he needed to know and understand theTouareg people in order to truly live with them. In fact he wanted to assimilate himself into their way of life, in a sense to “become Touareg”. Not only did he allow himself to eat what those to whom he dedicated his life ate but he learned their language as intimately as they knew it, as well as their history, traditions, folklore, poetry and beliefs.”To make oneself understand is the beginning of everything, in order to do something good”, he wrote. “It isn’t enough to pray for the salvation of others, nor even to lovingingly give oneself to them, but to offer oneself body and soul for their souls”.

“This is how Foucauld saw the sacrifice of Jesus at Golgotha; Christ so loved humanity that he offered himself as a voluntary victim for the expiation of the sin of the world. “There is no greater proof of love than to give one’s life for those we love”, He told the apostles at the Last Supper. Substituting himself for humanity, past, present and future, He had reconciled them to God for eternity. Yet the Passion of Christ, the mystery of the economy of Salvation, consumed and carried out once and for all, will last until the end of human history. Thus, if we truly love, only one way offers itself to us: to participate in His redemptive work and accept the sacrifice of ourselves”.

“Brother Charles’ impeccable logic brought him to this conclusion before which all human reason either resists or gives way; Before God, Christians must substitute themselves for others and take the burden of their sin or their blindness onto their own shoulders in order to participate in the liberation of captive souls...”

Brother Charles’ writings are filled with the theology of his time and yet his message remains profoundly revolutionary.By choosing to live as he did he defined and witnessed to a new attitude for Christians in the world. He defined lay Christians as apostles of Christ and demonstrated how they were to be shining witnesses to the Gospel message. He was a pioneer who planted the seeds for a transformation of monastic life as well as lay participation, by remaining paradoxically entirely faithful to the tradition and the Gospel message.

It is clear that those who enter into the Badaliya prayer will be challenged by Brother Charles’ life and witness, and in creating this prayer in 1934 Louis Massignon was presenting a way to rise to that challenge. Our time and our world is both radically different and yet sadly the same. May these reflections serve to aid our prayer together and help us to open our hearts and minds to truly understand those of other faiths, traditions and cultures. May we be guided in planting our own seeds of hope in the world.

The first Friday falls on September 2nd for those who are joining in the day of fast and prayer for World Peace with the Union of Charles de Foucauld. This prayer Union of priests, religious, lay persons, men and women, married and single was envisioned by Brother Charles while he served His God in the desert of Algeria devoting his life to the Muslim Berber Tourareg people.

Peace to you.