A couple of interfaith moments here at St. Francis over the past week: the first was last Friday evening, as a group from St. Francis shared a meal with a Muslim community based out of Cary. The Muslim community is in the midst of the celebration of Ramadan, which means that they fast during daylight hours – no food, no water – and only eat after the sun goes down. So it was after 9:00 pm that, as we gathered outside in the back parking lot of a strip mall in Cary, we lined up for helpings of rice, chicken, lentil soup, and watermelon, and a little side dish of rice pudding.
We sat together outside at round tables. At my table, our hosts spoke about how important it was for different religions to simply sit down with one another, to hear each other, and that dialogue and listening can go a long way toward ending all the misunderstanding that is out there. Our hosts were gracious, and we invited them to join us at St. Francis for our Interfaith Prayer Vigil on the following Sunday evening. We told them the story of how, 800 years ago, St. Francis of Assisi travelled across the Mediterranean to meet with the sultan during the Crusades, how the sultan welcomed Francis, and how they spoke of peace in the midst of the Crusades. Christian-Muslim dialogue is in our Franciscan blood.
On Sunday evening St. Francis hosted an Interfaith Prayer Vigil in our chapel in honor of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.” The service began at 7:30 and the chapel was full. Members of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities each read excerpts from the scriptures, from the writings of St. Francis, or from the encyclical itself. It was a nice turnout, with a reception afterwards, and a witness to the importance of our pope’s prophetic words. Here is an excerpt from one of the prayers, taken from the encyclical itself: “All powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.” Beautiful words from our beloved pope. Thanks to all who helped organize.
And finally, on Monday June 22, at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon, at the diocesan offices, we officially signed the documents that transferred “beneficial ownership” of Bethany Hills Baptist Church from St. Francis to Our Lady of La Vang. Our Lady of La Vang, a Vietnamese Catholic Community, expects to take full occupancy of that building by the spring of 2016. We look forward to welcoming them as new neighbors. It’s also our hope that by that time all the road work on Leesville Road will be completed. We know it’s not easy getting here with all the construction. We’re grateful you’re here.
Happy holiday weekend, and blessings on your week!