Vocation to dialogue

Father Paolo Dall’Oglio SJ., an Italian Jesuit who disappeared six years ago in Syria, re-founded the Catholic-Syriac monastic Community of Mar Musa, heir to a coenobitic and hermit tradition dating back to the sixth century, strongly committed to inter-religious dialogue with the Islamic world. Sister Deema reflects on the first of the Universal Apostolic Preferences “To show the way to God through Spiritual Exercises and discernment”.

Wisdom and prophetic literature teach us that God has done everything with wisdom and charity. The book of Genesis proclaims to us the creation of man. Thanks to his creation to God’s image, man enjoys a special dignity that makes him different from all other creatures and puts him at the apex of all creation. For the Lord made man little less than God and made him lord over the works of his hands (Psalm 8:6-7). The same book tells us of an event between God and man, that is, man’s being before God so that he may be in relation to him. The appropriate help for Adam – the book of Genesis continues to tell us – comes from the woman, whose creation gives us further confirmation of the importance of relationship as a constitutive element of human being. They are in fact intrinsically relational beings.

After the creation story, the Genesis story extends to tell us about man’s mission. He is required to guard God’s garden. He receives the mission of offering the whole world to God and transforming it into life in God and with God. The human being and his vocation are at the heart of the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. At the beginning of the spiritual exercises, he communicates to us the Principle and Foundation that shows the purpose for which we were created. The human person, in fact, is created to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord. In order to achieve this goal, he is helped by the created world. Thanks to this service that the human being can render to God, he is also called to practice what we can call a mystic of service through which he will do what the Lord tells him, and in the place where he lives he will do what he must do (T. Beck). Christians, as the Second Vatican Council teaches us, are called to build up the world and take an interest in their fellow human beings (Gaudium et Spes 34). Any human activity, in order to be fruitful, must be ordered toward man. An activity which is interested in obtaining justice must harmonize with the good of the human race, in accord with the divine plan and will, and must allow men to pursue their total vocation and fulfill it (GS 35).

We can therefore say that going towards the other, the desire to know him and to dialogue with him is a constitutive element of the human being. Each step towards the other person could be a step towards the fulfilment of man’s vocation, a vocation that finds its response through his dealings with others, through reciprocal duties, and through fraternal dialogue (GS 25). In his capacity to dialogue with God, man cannot live according to truth unless he acknowledges his dependence on the love with which God created him (GS 19 and 21). Such love is a personal love that is meant to be particular. It is a love that the more it is incarnated in reality, the truer it is. Father Paolo Dall’Oglio thus describes God’s love for Mary of Nazareth who is loved by God in a personal way. God has such an intense love for every man. Saint Paul invites us to have the same feelings as Christ. Through the spiritual exercises, Saint Ignatius invites us to allow Jesus to enter our lives in such a way that his powerful and unique presence can free me and lead me on an authentic journey of service.

Through a life of prayer, manual work and hospitality, the Community of Mar Musa wants to consecrate itself in order to incarnate God’s love for everyone and in a particular, specific and personal way for Islam and Muslims. Our experience over the years makes us feel that the other person who is different from me belongs to me and that I have a responsibility towards him. Hospitality and openness to welcoming the other offers us, day after day, the possibility of deepening our relationship with Islam in a totally existential way. This acceptance finds its maximum expression when it is transformed into prayer and intercession.

We monks and nuns of Mar Musa, aware of being weak, forgiven sinners, try to bring the world, and in particular the Muslim world, into our prayers and try to open ourselves up to the Spirit asking the Lord to suggest us and give us advice so that we can love more and more. Driven by this desire and love we go towards the Muslims and with them we want to go towards the Kingdom of God. History has shown us that such a journey has not always been an easy one, but we are called to spread the culture of tolerance, coexistence and peace and this is possible if we succeed in adopting the path of dialogue.

This article is translated by MAGIS.