#7 - December 3, 2003

Dear Friends of the Badaliya,

Members of the Boston Badaliya are celebrating our first year this month as we gather for our prayer in the Catholic Chapel at Brandeis University at 4pm on Sunday December 7th.

As we will be reviewing our year together it seems appropriate to include here some exerpts from newsletters of the past year.

"On December 8, 2002, a small prayer group gathered in Boston, Massachussetts in the spirit of the Badaliya, created in Cairo in 1934 by Louis Massignon. We gathered on the Marian feast of the Immaculate Conception which seemed in keeping with Massignon's spirituality as well as that of his friend and mentor, Charles de Foucauld. We came together out of a shared concern for the mounting religious conflicts in the Middle East, especially in Palestine/Israel. By renewing the spirit of the Badaliya for our time we are hoping to encourage mutual respect, understanding and dialogue between Massignon's three Abrahamic traditions here in the United States and wherever others join us in spirit around the world. In the spirit of our friend and guide, Louis Massignon we believe, as he did, that any efforts at reconciliation and social action must begin in prayer.

We began by reflecting on the foundations of the Badaliya in order to ground us in the spirit of its original intention. The Badaliya began with a vow made by Louis Massignon and Mary Kahil in an ancient Franciscan church to dedicate themselves to the well-being of the Muslim community. Since we are a small group it was reassuring to realize that the Badaliya began with only two. The initial responses to the idea of a vow led us to begin to realize the seriousness of our endeavor. One person reminded us that all our vows are essentially a deepening of our baptismal promises. This is an invitation for us to struggle more intently with what we are called to become. We discussed the meaning of the arabic word, badaliya, substitution, and began some reflection on Massignon's understanding in light of his intense Christian faith. Substitution is a controversial and challenging call which we will continue to explore through the writings of Massignon and others at our gatherings."

"We are continuing to explore the meaning of the badaliya by deepening our understanding of Louis Massignon's original intent. In our time we are called to a different expression of it yet realize that we also need to be grounded in the essence of badaliya as a spiritual call".

"Grounded in the weekly prayer gatherings of the original Badaliya, Massignon grew to more and more involvement in the Muslim community and its well being. Beyond the Christian/Muslim dialogue and founding a shared pilgrimmage that survives to this day, he volunteered for thirty years to teach French and Mathematics to Algerian political prisoners and finally in his late seventies marched in the streets of Paris for an Independant Algeria in the 1950's and early 1960's. Today we are challenged to allow the Badaliya to open our hearts to welcome our Muslim and Jewish neighbors and move us towards reconciliation through mutual trust and understanding. One member pointed out how we must begin with our own conversion of hearts".

"From the translations of Massignon's letters to the original members of the Badaliya we learned that the patroness of the original Badaliya was Our Lady of Pokrov whose feast is celebrated in the Byzantine calendar on October 1st. This is an image of Our Lady as intercessor who spreads her veil ("pokrov" in russian) as a sign of protection" .

We have shared many inspiring readings from Sidney Griffith's study of Massignon's "Three Prayers of Abraham" to the writings of Paolo Dall'Oglio who is an Italian Jesuit living in the Christian community and monastery of Deir Mar Musa near Damascus in Syria, a place that he considers as Christian as it is Muslim, to the writings of Giulio Bassetti-Sani, a Franciscan Priest mentored by Massignon for 25 years. We also have translated some of the letters to the Union Sodalité of Charles de Foucauld by Jean François Six. Many of us have joined this Prayer Association in spirit on the 1st Fridays of each month in a prayer for world peace. Foucauld's vision of a praying community of lay persons and religious now has members, individuals and groups, joining in spirit from 150 countries. It was Louis Massignon who sustained and encouraged the continuation of Foucauld's vision after Foucauld's death in 1916.

Fr. Sidney Griffith is in the process of creating a Badaliya prayer group at Catholic University in Washington DC and articles about the Badaliya USA have appeared in the Bulletin of the Louis Massignon Association in Paris and the current issue of SUFI, a Journal of Sufism published in London by KNP Publications and distributed world-wide.

Those who are joining the Union of Charles de Foucauld in a First Friday prayer for peace may also want to make it a day of fast as a sacrificial offering, as Massignon did, in keeping with his deep belief in the efficacy of fasting and prayer as a powerful tool for change in the world. This month the First Friday falls on December 5th.

Our Badailya will gather at 4pm on Sunday December 7th. Please join us in person or in spirit as we pray for an end to violence in the Middle East and the Holy Land and guidance as we expand our vision of Badaliya for 2004.

Peace to you.