March 25, 2007.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday, March 25th from 3:00 pm-4:30 pm 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, in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the midst of the many conflicts in our world especially in the Middle East and the Holy Land we are invited to hold out our hope for reconciliation and non-violent solutions by our call to the Badaliya Prayer.

As members of the Badaliya we are called to pray in the spirit of the Badaliya prayer, in the spirit of "substitution". Especially as we come to the close of the Lenten season and prepare for Holy Week we are invited to pay closer attention to our prayer life and our commiment to our faith life as Christians. We can learn much from Louis Massignon as well as our Muslim neighbors about prayer and a faith commitment.

Massignon leads us always back to our roots, our origins as Christians, Muslims and Jews, revealing the patriarch of all three traditions, Abraham, the father of all believers in the one true God. For Massignon, Abraham is the first in a long line of spiritual witnesses and intercessors who stand before God, praying for all of God's children.

Perhaps it is only as we grow from year to year, through the practice and intentional cleansing prayers of Lent, that we come to fully recognize the sinful behavior of we human beings who can inflict so much needless pain and suffering on those who share our common humanity.

Massignon wrote,

" it is said that prayer is an elevation of the soul to God. It is especially an attempt to transcend sin, a liberation from the bonds of anguish which suffocate the soul in its communal vocation, to which it ought to consent by offering up a total sacrifice of the self to Heaven".(Badaliya Letter #13)

"When God chooses a witness, even in the humblest of callings, He makes him unrecognizable and invisible to other people. He veils his soul in order to defend it against vainglory just as the Touaregs [people of the Sahara among whom Blessed Charles de Foucauld lived] cover their faces to protect themselves against a sandstorm, in order to prevent the soul's countenanace from being seen by anyone other than God. But at the same time this disguise turns the witness's soul into a substitute for the souls of others, makes it take the burden of their sins, without their knowledge, and moves it to protect them against punishment..... He will choose these witnesses from amongst those people whose penitences have made them radically sensitive to the bitterness of sin. He draws them, one by one, out of the well and scatters them abroad as individuals".

"At this moment, in which the fear which conceals from us the approach of our ultimate end [which is God], forces us to turn back towards our origins, in which the toxic malice of the differences which divide us forces us to seek out our common forefathers, it is good to recover, one by one, the links in the spiritual chain of pure witnesses on whom we depend. The more desperate our case, the more forcefully will they take us back to Abraham. More than any other defender of lost causes, Abraham is an intercessor".(Les trois priéres d'Abraham, Op.Min.vol.III pp.805-806)

Massignon points to the faith in Abraham held by all three traditions and to the chain of great intercessors who become our models for substitutionary prayer. They are the "co-sufferers, intimately participating in the passion and death of Jesus Christ "that we will soon experience in our liturgy of Holy Week. They include the Virgin Mary and the Saints of Ephesus revered in both Islam and Christianity; they are Saint Francis, Saint Joan of Arc and Blessed Charles de Foucauld. And they are Fatima, daughter of the Prophet and symbol of the Muslim believers faith in the all-merciful transcendant God, and al -Hallaj, the love mystic-martyr who sacrificed his life for the Muslim community, a true "abdal" [those substitutionary intercessors of Islam].

Massignon invites us to become spiritually at one with this vast communion of saints and mystics praying "a substitution not only of compassion and words and actions but a substitution of actual participation in the spiritual and physical sufferings of others.... the Badaliya movement has no other goal than to make people aware, through the most humble souls, of the quiet suffering, of the hidden experience of compassion which can be communicated to others who are spiritually part of the body of Christ and with which the intimate history of consciousness is replete, often unbeknownst to itself." (Covocation August 1958)

Peace to you.