April 15, 2012

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday, April 15, 2012 from 2:30pm to 4:00 pm at St. Pauls 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.

Every year during these fifty days between Easter and Pentecost the Church invites us to take the time to reflect again on the meaning of the greatest mystery of Christianity, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have walked with Him in the last days of His ministry during Lent, followed Him down the Palm Sunday road into Jerusalem, had our feet washed before sharing His Passover meal and agonized with Him in the Garden of Gethsemene. We have stood with His mother and the disciple at the foot of the Cross and heard his seven last words of forgiveness and cringed at His sense of abandonment. And once again we too felt abandoned as we left Him buried in a tomb.

But then, miracle of miracles we heard Him call Mary Magdelene by name, and we too recognized Him. He Has Risen!

Every year we are invited to ponder the meaning of this experience of Lent and Easter and reflect ever more deeply on Jesus' provocative questions, "Who do you say that I am?" " Do you know what I have done for you?"

The Badaliya is a prayer that speaks directly to how we disciples of Jesus Christ are called to respond to these questions. We are called to give everything that we are, our very lives to the God who gives us everything. But what does that mean? His was, and is, a radical self-gift of every dimension of life as we know it in our created world. And that wasn't even enough. It seems He could only save us by becoming one of us and suffering with us, and finally for us. This is the act of love that we are called to through our Badaliya prayer, the prayer of substitution. "There is no greater Love than to offer ones life for another."

To honor this year that commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Louis Massignon we have reflected on his writings in our monthly prayers of Badaliya. There were two significant influences on Massignon in his own spiritual journey that he himself refers to in his letters to the members of the Badaliya. At the age of 25, while on an archeological mission in Baghdad, Iraq for the French government in 1908 Massignon was also researching the life and legendary writings of a tenth century Muslim Sufi mystic named al-Hallaj. He was taken out of the country due to an impending revolution. In what he experienced as a life threatening moment he was "saved" by a profound experience of God "breaking into his life". He felt called back to his Roman Catholic Christian roots. He was sure that the Muslim Sufi saint, al- Hallaj had interceded for him along with others who he knew were praying for him. Among those was his friend Blessed Charles de Foucauld who became his mentor and who he referred to as an "older brother."

Massignon experienced both of these holy men as examples of Badaliya, substitutes for others and witnesses in their lives to the immense love of God for all of humanity. Massignon wrote:

"The following was said about Hallaj, the mystical martyr of Islam: "If there is a kind of love that demands the shedding of blood (that of our comrade in battle), there is another kind of love that demands that we shed our own blood by letting ourselves be wounded by the swords of Love, and this is what supreme Love is." (Convocation # 57 July 3, 1959.)

At first Brother Charles felt called to live in solitude and contemplation in what he referred to as the hidden life of Jesus in Nazareth. After entering the priesthood he spent many years in the Sahara desert living amongst the Muslim Berber people. He wrote:

"I see myself, in astonishment, pass over from a contemplative life to a life of caring for souls. And, indeed, not because this is what I want to do, but because the people need it."

"I am so overwhelmed with external occupations that I scarcely have a moment any more for reading, and also very little for meditation. The poor soldiers come to me constantly. Slaves fill the poor little house that was built for their sake, travelers come straightaway for "fraternity," the poor are here in droves. . . . Every day there are guests for dinner, a bed, and breakfast; the house has not yet been empty, up to eleven people sleep here in a single night, not counting an elderly invalid who is always here; I have between 60 and 100 visitors a day. . . . A meeting with 20 slaves, taking in 30 or 40 travelers, distributing medicine to 10 or 15 people, alms for more than 75 beggars. . . . I sometimes see up to 60 children in a single day. "Fraternity" . . . lasts from 5 to 9 in the morning and then a beehive from 4 to 8 in the evening. . . . In order to have a good idea of my life here, you would have to imagine poor, sick, and homeless people knocking on my door at least ten times an hour - usually more often rather than less. . . (Letters to Msgr. Guérin, 4 February 1902 and 30 September 1902.)

In 1916 during World War I, he chose to remain with the Tuareg people who he had come to love and serve. Although he had always hoped to have others join him, during a raid by a militia of his "borg" looking for arms and provisions, he was shot and killed. He died alone and his legacy would have been lost. It was Louis Massignon that made sure that this solitary priest who lived in soidarity with the Muslim Tuareg tribal people and had offered his life for them, would not be forgotten.

The following quote by Massignon relfects Foucauld's spirit of Adoration and his love of the Eucharist. It never ceased to amaze Brother Charles that God's love could be so immensely present in such a tiny morsel of bread.

"He who was made a sign for us in suffering, with his Cross, [is the One] we recognize in the Holy Sacrament where he vanished, and was resurrected, triumphant and glorious." (Annual Letter #1 Original Statutes of the Badaliya 1947.)

Let us pray for all those who are living the Badaliya in the Middle East and everywhere that they continue to be a shining light to the world of God's Merciful Peace and Love.

Peace to you.