COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Three Holy Name friars were among the presenters at the Eighth National Franciscan Forum held at the Franciscan Retreat Center here in June.
Michael Blastic, OFM, Michael Calabria, OFM, and Robert Lentz, OFM, contributed lectures and art to the forum, which was called “Mirroring One Another, Reflecting the Divine: The Franciscan-Muslim Journey into God.”
Approximately 50 participated in the June 19 to 22 event, organized by the Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure University. They were members of the First and Third Order of Franciscans, and lay women and men representing both religious traditions who have a deep interest in Muslim-Christian dialogue.
This year’s forum continued the theme of Franciscans and Muslims in dialogue, focusing on Christian mysticism and Sufism, according to Sr. Suzanne Kush of SBU, the onsite facilitator for the event. The overall theme of the sessions was framed by the image of the mirror — the place where people find God and themselves in new ways.
Each of the major presentations was mirrored by a response from the other tradition, Suzanne said.
Jan Hoeberichts’ presentation on The Franciscans and Islam was mirrored by comments from Yahya Hendi, Sr. Suzanne said. Fatima Betul Cavdar was mirrored by Michael Blastic’s comments on Clare of Assisi; Michael Calabria, presentation was followed by comments by Yahya Hendi. Fatima Betul Cavdar responded to Paul Lachance, OFM, presentation on Angela of Foligno.
Friars Make Presentations
Michael Calabria, a lecturer on modern languages at SBU, presented an historical sketch of the Muslim Ibn al-Farid, a contemporary of Francis in Egypt, and suggested parallels between the two.
Robert, a contemplative artist whose innovative icons are recognized throughout the world, presented a reflective paper and provided a piece of art, an Islamic mirror decorated with Sufi sayings.
F. Betul Cavdar, a young Muslim scholar and new mother, gave a presentation on how Clare of Assisi and Ibn al’Arab used the mirror to speak about God. Cavdar provided an insightful example of analogical dialogue that might have transpired between Franciscan and Muslim theologians.
Michael Blastic, an associate professor at the Franciscan Institute, said: “The forum was a great experience of living exchange between Franciscans and Muslims. I was especially struck by the presentation and witness of Jan Hoeberichts, who worked in Pakistan for many years with Muslims before returning to the Netherlands, where he now resides with his wife. His exegesis of the Praises of God opened up Francis’ experience of God as humility and patience, and demonstrated how Francis did not seek the conversion of the other, but left that to God, because God is patient towards everyone. This suggests that Francis did not have a strategic missionary plan, but sought simply to be present to others, simple and subject, and allow God to work in their lives.
Forum Gives True Picture of Francis
What emerged from both the rich presentations and discussions at the forum was the description of Francis as practitioner of a hermeneutics of solidarity, according to Michael Blastic.
“That is, Francis came to understand and appreciate Islam not from books or treatises on its nature, but from direct, concrete, everyday, real presence to Muslims,” Michael said. “Francis’ understanding of the other emerged from that location, that is, from where he shared life with them, in his being simple and subject to the other, while living his own Christian commitment without compromise. This, it seems to me, is the real challenge for Franciscans in today’s world and church.”
The photo above shows the cover of Franciscan Forum brochure.
— Jocelyn Thomas is communications director of Holy Name Province.