Meeting with other Religions : « Fountains of Mercy »

(by F. Patrick Chocholski)

How did we come to the idea of sharing the Mercy of God with muslims and members of other religions ?

In our little association "Family of Mercy," we are now several groups in the Rhone-Alpes Region of France who meet once a week for a Bible sharing on mercy - a sharing which leads to prayer and action. It’s always a beautiful experience to come together in these "Schools of Mercy" to be challenged by the Word of God. We ask ourselves, "What does the the passage of scripture say ? What does God want to tell us about his Mercy here ? What is our response to the Lord as he invites us to share this mercy ?" Each meeting is a challenge. It’s not always comfortable. But it’s always new (like love). And it’s always a marvellously enriching and fulfilling time together.

However, during a conference I gave in Paray-Le-Monial, on Divine Mercy Sunday 2002, I suggested to the audience to "widen their tents of Mercy." I had based my talk especially on the writings of Fr Christian de Chergé, the Prior of Tibhirine, Algeria who was assasinated together with his monks in 1996 by terrorists. He once said : "(Christians and Muslims), There is an urgent need for us all to enter into mutual mercy. A "common word" which comes from God and is inviting us to this. It is indeed the richness of God’s mercy which manifests itself every time we modestly enter into the need of what the other person’s faith says about mercy, and even more, how it lives with mercy. This exodus towards the other person can in no way, turn us away from our journey towards the Promised Land, if it is indeed true that our paths are bound to converge when it is the same thirst which draws us to the same well. Is there a way to quench each other’s thirst mutually ? This can only be judged at the taste of the water. True, living water is that which no-one can contain or cause to flow. The world would be less of a desert if we could recognise a common vocation, to multiply the foutains of mercy on our way. And how can we doubt this vocation if we allow the one who is All-Merciful to call us together to the one table ; the table of sinners ? Oh, you good people of the Book, come along and share our common vocation. God’s treasure is Bread which can only be savoured as a multitude."

To my surprise, this suggestion was taken to heart by Monique who I hardly knew and who has begun a journey of consecration in the Family of Mercy, since then. She knew of some Muslims susceptible of responding to the call. She was thinking in fact of an Immam and one of his friends whose name is Abd errahman (Arabic for Servant of the All Merciful.) The first meeting with them was full of promise. As a result, we decided to bring our respective communities (parish and mosque) together to discuss topics enlightened by the mystery of the Mercy of God. We got such a taste for our meetings that we now meet once a month. There is no ambiguity : the leader of each community develops the topic based on his own tradition (circa 15 minutes). There then follows a time for sharing, parting from our respective sacred texts. Thus, we enrich ourselves with mercy and at the same time, dig fountains which allow us access to the One God by different approaches. The One God, who is always so much greater in Mercy than anything we can ever say about Him. And the water we share - with deep respect for our differences - is always refreshing !

Naturally, we work to create a climate of trust from the outset. This growing trust allows each of us to express ourselves, with respect and be true to the different faith traditions we represent. In this commom search for mercy, the dialogue becomes a proclamation, with all the fruits known and unknown (to us) which the grace of the Lord produces. For us Christians, the veritable Face of Divine Mercy is the Only Son of the Father. We never omit to speak about the Beauty of the Word in one way or another. "Tell of my Mercy to the whole world !" is how Faustina received her mission from the Lord and which she transmitted to the Church. Certainly - it is our faith and our experience - that only the Church can present the one who is Mercy Accomplished to the world. The Church is not catholic for nothing ! And the more we live in the humility of the Mercied of this life, the brighter Mercy will shine. Indeed, we must make ourselves small so that HE can grow ! ..
Since the birth of Fountains of Mercy, other initiatives have seen the light of day - initiatives which are shared and supported by the Director of Muslims of the whole province. We are also organising exchanges on Mercy in schools and and even in local government.

Recently, here in the Drome Region - and this was broadcast on France 3 television - we have been asking ourselves the question, "Is it possible that the One God is calling us to a "common mission" ? And if so - in what way and how much ?" Everyone agreed that it would need to be a mission of Mercy, a mission of the Merciful God. Did we dream this ?? This would mean that being missionary of Mercy would not only be reserved to Christians !!? ….