A Franciscan Ramadan


“Let us therefore have charity and humility and give alms because it washed the stains of sins from our souls. We must also fast and abstain from vices and sins…” –St. Francis of Assisi

“There are many whose fast is nothing beyond being hungry and thirsty.” – The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)

With the beginning of Ramadan and the month of sawm, I thought about my commitment and my life here as a Novice with the Capuchin Franciscans. Looking at our schedule of prayer, the commitment to charity, the denial of temporal things that separate us from God… I felt excited because, in a way, this life that seemed so separate from the American norm would now be shared by over 7 million people world-wide!

I also read an insightful article by Brian McLaren talking about how he as a Christian was choosing to share the experience of Ramadan with his Muslim neighbors. In the article he outlines the plan to observe the fast and the principles of the season in a Christian context, yet being respectful and hospitable to those of another faith. You can read the entire article here.

I was immediately intrigued by this idea. While his motives appear more focused on inter-faith dialogue, I looked at how he planned to use the time for spiritual and prayerful reflection. I’d never really fasted before; unless you count the times I ate a Filet-O-Fish instead of a Big Mac. Yet I was aware of many people, from Biblical times to Cesar Chavez, who fasted as a way to spiritually cleanse the body, be in solidarity with those who were hungry, deepen their prayer life, and affirm their dependence (submission) to God.

After praying and meditating on the idea, and then presenting the concept to my spiritual director, I decided that I too would also observe the fast for Ramadan. I don't happen to have a "Muslim friend" in which to "buddy-up" during this time (as McLaren suggests), however I feel this will be a way to deepen my prayer life as well as immerse myself into this Novitiate experience. I’ve think I've come up with a way to observe the fast as I continue to discern my vocation as a Capuchin friar.

For some pretty obvious reasons, I had to tailor a unique way in which to participate. First off, my prayers and testimony of faith (shahadah) will slightly differ from the common prayers of the Qu'ran. I do observe the requirement not to eat from before dawn throughout the day. However the evening meal at Novitiate is a community function, therefore my fast ends at 6:00 PM when we eat. I recognize it isn’t the full time that is prescribed, however the evening meal is an important aspect of community life. Also, since ministry is built in to the Novitiate program, I will look for new ways to fulfill the zakat. Most people don’t have the benefit of living in a community that is built around daily prayer and devotion to God like me…I want to look for ways to reach beyond the current work we do.

I mentioned that I am doing this for personal reasons; however I am excited to learn more about Islam and to understand the spirituality. As a Franciscan I cannot overlook the meeting of Francis and Maik Al-Kamil, the Sultan during the 5th Crusade. The example shown of this story is that two people can be respectful of each other while still discussing their own faith. While this time is meant for my personal relationship with God, I’d like to build that sense of inter-faith dialogue into my life as well.

Don’t be fooled – I haven’t got this all figured out and I can only pray that I have the fortitude to actually do the fast. My ultimate goal is to achieve a clearer mind and a better prayer life during this discernment period of Novitiate. My hope is that the observance of Ramadan will be a vessel which will help my spiritual development. I will post updates as well as reflections about this month, and how it affects me throughout my time here. Keep me in your prayers!

Peace and all good,
Br. Vito Martinez OFM Cap.

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4 Response to A Franciscan Ramadan

Qualis Rex
August 27, 2009 at 12:34 AM

Br Vito, you are walking a slippery slope. Mohamedanism is of the devil. Mohammed was a pedophile, a slave owner, a rapist and a murderer. This is recorded in the sunnah (life of Mohammed) as well as the many ahadeet (holy texts) of Mohamedanism. If you want to learn about Mohamedanism, you can easily do this by reading St John Damascene's first hand account, or "the golden legend". Mohammedanism is a lie, a forgery, a man-made religion built upon a desire for Arab hegemony and inspired by Satan to confuse humanity.

I fast every Friday; one meal a day (no meat, dairy or eggs) as well as Holy days of obligation and the seasons of Lent and advent. This is also called the "Benedictine fast" and was the norm up until recent centuries for all devout Christians. The Mohammedan fasts allows you to sleep during the day, then pig out and eat anything you want during the evening once the sun sets. Hardly a sacrifice. You can find anything you want within your own Christian tradition.

If you must study Mohamedanism, as I said, study what the saints who preceded you have said on it (they experienced it first hand). Then read the Quran if you wish (end to end, not just the warm fuzzy passages they will point you to). But for the sake of your immortal soul, do NOT listen and give in to the Mohammedan propaganda for the sake of some misguided PC ecumenism.

August 27, 2009 at 9:53 AM

I took some time to think about a response, 1. because I don't like to get into internet debates and 2. I wish to be respectful of your point of view. So this is the best I can give you:

"And may this, Our meeting with you, respected Representatives of Islam, be the symbol of, and first step towards, that unity for which God calls us all to strive for His greater glory." -Pope Paul VI

In my personal experience,and in the lives of saints that I have read, one can give a better testimony of faith by sharing their faith with others, rather then simply condemning their point of view. For me, that is the love of God that is spoken of in the Gospel.

I thank you for your concern, but as I mentioned, I have spiritual directors, theologians, liturgists, and a large library at my disposal...all of whom are able to answer questions and make sure that my overall goal is achieved: to reach a better sense of dependence on God.

I feel that, per Lumen Gentium, we are called to be a Pilgrim Church as well as to recognize that while we profess that we have the full truth in the one holy, and apostolic church, one can sometimes find a different way to express that truth.

September 26, 2009 at 11:58 AM

Bro,

As a fellow follower of Christ, admirer of St. Francis, and lover of my Muslim neighbors, I have great respect for you and your endeavor this year.

I happen to disagree respectfully but also strongly with Qualis Rex. In my brief readings of the Qu'ran, I have noticed a few things. First that it is incredibly incomplete in the direction it offers when compared to our scriptures. Second, that Mohammad thought that Jesus was amazing (referring to him as the Word from God, the Spirit from God, the Messiah, and one whom we must follow if we are to be accepted by God). I have also noticed that the Qur'an doesn't always agree with the orthodox Muslim perspectives (especially concerning issues like the Crucifixion and the corruption of the Christian scriptures- the former of which it does seem to say happened and the latter it implies could never happen).

Brother, please continue to follow the example that St. Francis set for us by boldly loving our Muslim neighbors. As followers of Christ we must admit that if the Gospel of His Kingdom is truly to be proclaimed in all the earth as a testimony to all nations as Matthew records our Lord saying (24:14), then it must be extended to our Muslim neighbors who represent 20% of the world's population and the portion which is least reached by our Lord's Gospel.

If you feel a particular interest in these people whom our God loves so much you might be interested in the way that people are beginning to use the Qur'an as a way to point our Muslim friends to the Christian Scriptures and to our Lord.

Thank you so much for your example and your encouragement through this blog,

N. D. Smith

September 26, 2009 at 7:39 PM

Thank you for your support and for your thoughts, Mr. Smith.

I was actually given a copy of the Qu'ran by a Bosnian imam when I was still in Grand Rapids. He knew of my plans to join the Capuchins, and asked if I'd ever read the Qu'ran. I told him I hadn't because I'd been told that not every English translation is good. He gave me a copy and I've had it with me ever since.

I've found that the greatest (and sometimes scariest) part of inter-faith dialogue is finding a common ground from which to start. Francis had his meeting with the Sultan only after he'd been beaten up by the guards. To step outside the norm and do something different sometimes creates resentment and fear from others. In the face of such adversity, my prayers are for patience and understanding.

Thank you again for your post, and may peace and blessings to you and your family.

Br. Vito Martinez, OFM Cap.