On four Mondays in June, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity will gather in a Motherhouse classroom for an enrichment experience of Islam. There will be no textbook, exams or homework (but there are suggested vocabulary words.)
An engaging, well-prepared teacher, Sister Mary Bodwin, OSF, quickly points to St. Francis of Assisi’s encounter with the Muslim Sultan as-Malek as-Kamil in 1219 as an early Franciscan example of the importance of seeking to understand Islam. Indeed, St. Francis was alert to the theological and political beliefs of his time. He desired to be present among the Muslim people, and to meet them personally. Later after spending time with them, Francis walked away from the experience admiring their public, repeated call to prayer and the reverence shown to their holy book the quran.
Thomas Celano writes in the First Book of the Life of St. Francis:
Taking a companion with him, he [Francis] was not afraid to present himself to the sight of the Sultan of the Saracens… Before he reached the Sultan, he was captured by soldiers, insulted and beaten, but was not a afraid. He did not flinch at threats of torture nor was he shaken by death threats. Although he was ill-treated by many with a hostile spirit and a harsh attitude, he was received very graciously by the Sultan. The Sultan honored him as much as he could, offering him many gifts, trying to turn his mind to worldly riches. But when he saw that he resolutely scorned all these things like dung, the Sultan was overflowing with admiration and recognized him as a man unlike any other. He was moved by his words and listened to him very willingly.
What moved the Sisters to be present at this summer series at this time in history?