Kargador at Dawn

Kargador at Dawn
Work in the Vineyard

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Prophets in our Time

Prophets for Our Tme: Are We Listening?
by Dorothy C.Buck

When I think of Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Muhammad, the ancient Hebrew prophets, Abraham, Elijah, Moses then John the Baptist and Jesus, in fact the religious reformers and visionaries of all cultures and traditions in every age, one word overshadows all else. They knew how to listen, first to God, then to the voices of others in the world around them. As Christians we talk of God “calling”us into relationship, of the prophets being “called” to speak publically for God, to challenge and confront the ways that God's voice was not being heard. In the Gospel according to Matthew John the Baptist is heard quoting the major Hebrew prophet Isaiah,
“ Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! ...A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”(Matthew 3:2, Isaiah 40:3)

Unless we listen to the prophets among us we are likely to wander farther and farther away from the kingdom of God's love into a maze of tempting cultural values and materialistic idols. We hear competing voices inundating our TV programs enticing us with more and more “things”we must have and that we are told will make us “happy”. Even cigarettes and an SUV are claimed to fulfill our longings for love and companionship, and more and more credit debt is the capitalistic means of achieving the successful consumer lifestyle that feeds our economy, but not our souls.

We have ample voices throughout our short history as a country who have warned us of the dangers of not heeding the call of the poor, of not feeding the hungry, offering a drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, and welcoming the strangers in our midst. Now we are challenged, almost beyond our capacity to respond, by the fear of terrorist attacks and the distrust and hatred felt towards this country in many parts of the world. Are we listening?

When Louis Massignon, the French scholar of Islam and a Catholic mystic started the Badaliya prayer movement in Cairo in 1934 with the Egyptian Melkite Christian, Mary Kahil, he was answering a call to a vocation grounded in love of God and love of others. As the Muslim Arabs became the majority in Egypt, Arab Christians were increasingly marginalized. While Mary Kahil devoted much of her life to both Muslim and Christian Arab women's rights she was also intent on maintaining the visibility and rich cultural heritage of Egyptian Christians in the midst of Islam.

The word Badaliya in Arabic means to take the place of, instead of, or substitution, and the prayer is an offering of oneself to God for the well being of others. Louis Massignon invited Mary Kahil to join him in devoting their lives and their prayer to the Muslim people around them. He understood the Badaliya as a call to feeling the pain and suffering of others and joining their experience of it to the sufferings of Christ for the salvation of all humanity. They took these words of Jesus seriously, “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors”.(Matt.5:44) It is not easy to feel persecuted or marginalized and be willing to pray for those who persecute us let alone feel compassion and love for them.

The Badaliya movement became a means of “crossing over” to the other, of entering into the Muslim life and community in order to grow in understanding and mutual respect. Louis Massignon was a prophetic voice in his time whose embrace of arabic culture and Islam pointed to a means of interreligious understanding that went beyond dialogue to the essence of Christian love. It led to a Muslim-Christian shared prayer group that survived until 1979 and to an annual Muslim and Christian pilgrimage that continues to this day in Brittany, France. In 1948 when the modern state of Israel was in its infancy Louis Massignon was outspoken in his prophecy of disaster for the whole Middle East if the three religions of Abraham were not reconciled to living side by side in peaceful co-existence. The path towards a Palestinian crisis was already clear to him. Was anyone listening? On June 1, 1962, five months before his death, Massignon wrote:

“... We do not tire in repeating that it is necessary to pray together, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, for the advent of this so desired and waited for peace. Every tentative economic and even cultural agreement, if it is not founded on a sincere movement of hearts, united in faith in the God of Abraham, Father of believers, can only frighten the third world and be rejected...”

This letter was written 45 years ago. Christians are still being marginalized in Arab countries all over the world and there are communities of Egyptian,Palestinian, Iraqis, and other Arab Christians throughout the Middle East struggling to live together peacefully with their Muslim and Jewish neighbors.The prophets among them are the many grassroots groups working in mental health centers, parents circles, the Holy Land Trust in Israel, Christian Peacemakers Teams, the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, Families Forum and Rabbis for Human Rights, along with many other human rights organizations from all over the world. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?' Here I am, I said, send me!' (Isaiah 6:8-9)

An Iraqi friend of mine speaks of growing up in Baghdad very much the way a young married Muslim woman wrote in her weblog this past Christmas 2004: “Iraqis have strong bonds between them in spite of religion or ethnic differences, we all work together, have neighbors from other religions, visit each other and respect our differences. My neighbors are Shias, my best friends are Christians and Kurds, and I am Sunni, but we all have good relations between us. Christians celebrate Christmas with traditions very similar to our Eid (feast). Muslims and Christians visit each other in Eid (by the way the Christians call their Christmas Eid too).... They serve our traditional Kulaicha besides some pastries just like us. My daughter has her share of gifts for Christmas too, and she always asks me why Santa doesn't come to our house too? I don't know what to tell her so I usually say that Santa brings your gifts and puts them in our friends house so you can take them from there.” (Dec.22, 2004. www. rosebaghdad.blogspot.com) Are we listening to the prophets among us?

Here in the United States, in the spirit of Louis Massignon, we recreated the Badaliya prayer for our time two years ago. We are responding to a quite different challenge than he and Mary Kahil were in 1934 since we live in a predominantly Christian society and it is our Muslim neighbors who are a distinct minority. Ancient medieval prejudices and misconceptions still inform our unconscious responses to Muhammad and Islam and we can no longer afford to allow ourselves to remain ignorant of them. Giulio Basetti-Sani was an Italian Franciscan priest who met Louis Massignon in 1936 and continued to refer to him as a mentor until Massignon died in 1962. Basetti-Sani describes his own misconceptions of Islam at the time and realized how influenced he had been by the rhetoric of the medieval crusades of the popes and fears of later 17th century Christian writers. When he presented these views to Massignon the professor answered, ”The medieval Christian world taught that Muhammad was a messenger of Satan and that the Allah of the Qur'an was not the God of Abraham. We should not do to others what we would not have them do to us”.

Basetti-Sani writes,” Massignon had alerted me against an unjust condemnation of (Islam) that precluded any sincere and productive dialogue between Christians and Muslims. Islam is a mystery linked with the blessing obtained by Abraham from God for his son Ishmael and Ishmael's progeny. This line of thought, taken from the Bible, is the one to take in order to grasp the significance of Islam. Before we parted Massignon gave me two thoughts meant as guidelines in my reorientation. One was from Augustine, ' Love sees with new eyes', and the other was from John of the Cross, 'Where there is no love put love, and you will find Love Himself'. It was true: my eyes had seen badly...Later, when my eyes were to see clearly, I would discover in Islam and the Muslims the reflections of the infinite goodness of God”. (Basetti-Sani. 1977. “The Koran in the Light of Christ” Franciscan Herald Press IL pp..17-18)

The media coverage of Islamic fundamentalist and terrorist groups hardly helps us to overcome our misconceptions of Islam and the teachings found in the Qur'an. Yet, Muslims are very clear about the distortions of their religion and use of it for violent behavior and political purposes by fundamentalist groups. The meaning of the Arabic word, Islam tells us a great deal about those of this faith tradition. Islam means “submission” and comes from the root for the Arabic word for “peace”,  salaam. Muslim believers are called to submit themselves entirely to the will of God, Allah, and to find within that experience an abiding peace. For most Muslims Islam is both a religion and a way of life that leads to peace, mercy and forgiveness.

“It may be that Allah will grant love (and friendship) between you and those who you (now) hold as enemies. For Allah has power (over all things); And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”. (Qur'an Sura 60:7)

”But if the enemy inclines towards peace, you (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah for He is One who hears and knows (all things)”.(Qur'an Sura 8:61)

Are we listening to our Muslim neighbors, co-workers, brothers and sisters in Abraham? At a gathering of Muslims and Christians co-sponsored by the Islamic Council of New England, the Massachusetts Council of Churches, and the Archdiocese of Boston recently there was a newspaper article distributed at the gathering. It is a description with interviews of the detention at the US and Canadian border of 40 Muslims returning to Buffalo from an Islamic conference in Toronto entitled, ”Reviving the Islamic Spirit”. Most of those stopped were American citizens and included everyone from the U.S.A. who attended the conference. They were stopped, fingerprinted and held for as long as six hours with no explanation. One 18-year-old student was singled out, searched, finger printed and questioned. He was forced to go along and when he refused he was told that he legally had no choice. He was initially told that his vehicle was being stopped as part of a random check but he noticed that everyone from the conference was being held. “We weren't treated as American citizens. We were treated as suspects”.

Others described the incident as “an ordeal, embarrassing, dangerous and un-American, If objections are not raised, what’s going to happen in the future”? were some of the quotes. The article states, “the Toronto conference was open to the public and featured well-known and well-respected Muslim leaders, many of whom have had discussions with White House officials”.(paraphrased and quote from Buffalo News, Jan. 31,2005 by Jay Tokasz, staff reporter).

At the Boston gathering the discussion led to one prophetic voice from a Muslim living in the Boston area, “I came to this country seeking the safety of a country with laws that protect my right to live my faith as a Muslim and to escape living in fear every day. Now I feel fearful again”. Someone else asked that we ‘”Christians” stand with them as they fight against the religious and racial profiling that each of them has experienced after September 11th in the name of “homeland security”. Are we losing the very democratic ideals that are the foundation of this country in our fear of the strangers in our midst? Have we not yet heard this Gospel passage?

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me......Then the just will ask him: ....Lord, when did we welcome you away from home or clothe you in your nakedness?....The king will answer them: “I assure you, as often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me”. (Matthew 25:31-40)

Louis Massignon's experience of compassion was the ground for his spiritual life and a prophetic call for our time. In one of his letters to members of the Badaliya prayer movement he writes:
“As long as God leaves us absorbed in our own suffering we remain sterile, nailed to ourselves. As soon as compassion brings us beyond ourselves to another's suffering than our own, we enter into the science of compassion experientially, we discover wisdom in it. In the immortal company of all creatures purified by angelic and human trial we glimpse the joy of tomorrow through the pain of today.
Our desire, Christ's desire, for substitution,“badaliya”, for the most unfortunate, for the abandoned, for our “enemies”, make us little by little guess the secret of history, which belongs, Léon Bloy said, to the souls of compassion and pain; and it is through “substitution” that they decipher it, by achieving it”. (Letter #1 1947 )
The Badaliya prayer led Massignon to more and more social action as he responded to the injustices in his country and in the world in his time. He remains a prophetic voice as we continue to face many of the same injustices that he describes so passionately in his letters. Isn't our Lenten fasting, prayer and almsgiving ultimately meant to draw us ever closer to the mind and heart of God, to the fulness of life in God? And doesn't that lead us to greater and greater compassion, hospitality and to the heart of non-violence and love? In 1957 Massignon wrote:

“In its edition last August 9th, ‘the Commonweal', the New York Catholic weekly,
completed an article in which the Badaliya was urged to hold firm to its program of non-violent action, in saying," (the Badaliya) remembers that it is better to suffer injustice than to commit injustice, and that is the test which, to a Muslim ("one who has surrendered to God")proves that he is a Muslim. And for us, as St. Augustine pointed out, it is the test of a Christian". (LM Convocation #11)

Thich Nhat Hanh poignantly captures the essence of the Badaliya prayer movement for our time. There are many prophetic voices to guide us. May we always listen to them:

“If any accident happens to one member of our family, the whole family suffers. When an accident happens to a part of our nation, it happens to the whole nation. When an accident happens to a part of the planet Earth it happens to the whole planet, and together we bear it. When we see that their suffering is our own suffering, and their death is our death, we have begun to see the no-self nature.....Whenever we love, we see that the person we love is ourselves; and if our loved one dies, we also die. Although we are sitting here, and we have the impression that we are alive, in fact we have also died. What happens to one part of the body happens to the whole body.....The pain of one part of humankind is the pain of the whole of humankind. We have to see that and wake up”.

(part of a response to the recent devastating earthquake in Asia on Dec. 26,2004, the Tsunami, by the Vietnamese Buddhist --Thich Nhat Hanh)

The Heart of the Soul

The Heart of the Soul
In 858 A.D. the Sufi mystic al-Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj was born in Persia. In 922 A.D. he was accused of violating Islamic law and, after imprisonment and torture, he was executed for blasphemy.

In his travels as a mendicant preacher and spiritual master, al-Hallaj tried to lead his followers ever more deeply into the reality of the human soul toward ultimate unity with the divine. His writings passionately described divine love as he sought to lose himself in God (Massignon 1983, 2:198):
One of the most compelling themes from al-Hallaj's devotional doctrine is that of the Virgin Heart, which refers to the secret place in the center of the human soul where God alone has access. Al-Hallaj stated (Massignon 1989, 133):

'Our hearts are one single Virgin, which the dream of no dreamer can penetrate ... which only the presence of the Lord penetrates in order to be conceived therein.'

Louis Massignon’s writings showed the deep layers of meaning evoked by this image of the Virgin Heart at the center of the human soul. His reflection on the subject revealed that our heart is "unsheathed," covered over by "veils" of illusions, assumptions, judgments, and attachments that prevent us from even imagining a place for the divine within us. This blindness prevents us from recognizing the same virginal point in the souls of others.

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God ... this little point ... is the pure glory of God in us ... It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody.

I understand this "point of pure truth" to mean that I must be capable of recognizing the sacred in everyone, as al-Hallaj did. To believe in the mystery of the Virgin Heart is to believe in a secret place in every human soul where the sacred is given to us despite our unworthiness, failures, and human limitations. That place cannot be touched by anything I do, and yet it calls me to transcend myself, to see all others as they are -- sacred. Only then can I say with Hallaj (Massignon 1983, 426): “My soul is mixed and joined together with your soul and every accident that injures you injures me.” (by Dorothy C. Buck)


Massignon, Louis. 1983. The Passion of al-Hallaj: Mystic and Martyr. Vol. 2. Translated by H. Mason. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Massignon, Louis. 1989. Testimonies and Reflections: Essays of Louis Massignon. Selected and introduced by H. Mason. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. 

Short Reflection for the Feast of All Saints - November 1st, 2015

Readings:  Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3: 1-3; Matthew 5: 1-12

Selected Passage: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5: 7-9)

Meditation: I have chosen the three above Beatitudes, because they ring a bell in my present quest as I read the gospel for the Feast of All Saints.  Yes, we need to show MERCY, and have a CLEAN HEART, AND BE PEACEMAKER! Do so… and we shall be called sons and daughters of God.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Short Reflection for the 29th Sunday in the Ordinary Time (B)

Readings: Isaiah 53: 10-11; Hebrews 4: 14-16; Mark 10 35-45

Text: “Jesus summoned them and said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  53:But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” (Mark 10: 42-44)

Meditation:  Take heed, God’s ways are NOT the same as ours. And the measure in the community of disciples is NOT the measure of the world. The Lord reminds us that the true measure of our discipleship is being the servant of all. Visit:  www.badaliyya.blogspot.com

Monday, October 12, 2015

BVM's Apparition at Fatima

Badaliyya Philippines
October 12, 2016

Dear Friends,

Despite the increasing crisis in the world today our theme for our prayer is one of hope and courage. October 11th of each year is a celebration of the BVM’s apparition at Fatima.  In his letters to the Badaliyya groups, Fr. Massignon wrote of the encouragement that he received from articles in journals. For those that might like to see what others in the Arab world are doing to encourage inter-religious dialogue and reconciliation there is a description of a meeting in Qatar held sometime which you can find at http://www.ewtn.com/vnews/getstory.asp?number=46898.

To honor Muslim and Christian relations, devotion is encouraged to the BVM at Fatima.  It is no accident that one of the daughters of the prophet of Islam is named Fatima married to Caliph ‘Ali.  The mother of Iman Hussein  - the martyr at Kerbala and Imam Hassan.

Thank you for your continuing interest in Massignon's Badaliya and for joining us in prayer and Spirit.

Baapa Jun Mercado, OMI
Cotabato City

Friday, October 09, 2015

Understanding Martyrdom in Islam

Understanding Martyrdom in Islam
Fr. Eliseo R. Mercado, Jr., OMI
Graduate School, Notre Dame University

         There is an evolving worldwide hysteria on Islamic Jihad following the terrorists’ suicidal bombing of World Trade Center, Pentagon and other US targets.  The shock over the massive civilian casualties and targets is shared worldwide.  All major media outlets brought live the tragic drama into people’s homes.

            The worldwide response is shock as well as prayer.  No one prior to the New York and Washington attacks thought of mega terrorists’ attacks against civilian targets and in the USA.  While people know the increasing hate and anger over the American policy in the Middle East and other parts of the world that continue to fuel “extremism”, especially in the Islamic world, nobody has predicted the simultaneous hijacking of commercial planes and use them against civilian targets like the World Trade Centers.

            The attack brought policy makers as well as policy strategists to go back to the drawing board and review their basics on Islam, Islamic Reform, Jihad and Martyrs in Islam.  This short write up is the first in our attempt to “decipher” the broad issues that cause our bones to shiver as the tragedies in New York continue to flash in our television sets.

The Martyrs in the Qur’an

            The word Shahid (martyr/witness) is mentioned 55 times in the Qur’an.  Save three passages, all the uses of the world Shahid is derived from the  meaning of the word Shahadah (confession/testimony). 

            The three passages referred to are Sura IV:69, XXXIX, 69 and LV, 19.
These three gave birth to a certain viewpoint that the word shahid means the person who is killed in the way of God (Al Azhar 1971 part 1 p. 150).  The one who had been killed in God’s way is called shahid, because he had given his life to help in realizing the victory of God’s Faith.  When a Muslim takes part in battle against unbelief and infidels, he offers his life in defense of his faith.  A shahid is the one who had fallen in such battle.

It is true that the term “Martyr” is often used in the Shari’a to describe the person killed while “fighting in the way of God.”  But in the Qur’an itself, the preferred description for those who were fallen  “fighting in the way of God” is “SLAIN” (S II: 154, III, 169 & 157, IV, 174, IX,3).  The Qur’anic preference  of the term “SLAIN”  to “MARTYR” is perhaps contained in S. III, 3.  This flows from the accepted belief that the “fallen” in God’s way is not merely a belief therein and idealism of its beliefs, otherwise none be slain and no blood be shed. But rather the execution of God’s right in these souls brought  by God from the faithful that they willingly accepted to sell at the price with which  He pleased them, that is, the Paradise (Sheik Abdul-Sattar  Al-Sayyid, Mufti of Tartus in Syria, 1391 AH).

Are Terrorists “Martyrs”? 

The attackers of the twin towers in NY, in some sectors, were considered “Martyrs”.  Yet, the Qur’an and traditions are very specific in prescribing assault against children, women and the non-combatants.  “And fight in the Cause of God those who fight you, but DO NOT TRANSGRESS LIMITS; for God loveth not transgressors”.  There are specific acts prescribed for a true “mujahid”.   These are the following:  “Shulul”, fraud, the killing of children, women, the aged, breach of faith, mutilating those who had been killed, the robbing of travellers on public roads, plunder, the narrowing down of  “halting-places” and failing to pay what one owes.”  In fact, ambuscades and blockades of roads and “halting places” for travellers are unqualified for jihad as the Prophet explicitly forbade as narrated by Abu Daud on the authority of the companion, Shal iba Mu’adh.  Not everyone killed in jihad gains martyrdom.  The prophet himself saw the commonly held “martyr” in hell.  The prophet said:  “Go and tell people that none would enter into Paradise save the faithful.

The “Martyr’s Qualities are the more exalted qualities outlined in S. IX, 112. “Those that turn (to God) in repentance; that serve Him, and praise Him, that wander in devotion to the cause of God; that bow down and prostrate themselves in prayers; that enjoin good and forbid evil; and observe the limits set by God;  (they do rejoice) and proclaim the glad tidings to the believers.”

October 09, 2015