Beatitudes Visit the Daughter of Zion Havurah

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Ed. This article appeared in The Hebrew Catholic #82, Fall-Winter 2006. All rights reserved.

Beatitudes Visit the Daughter of Zion Havurah
Marty Barrack

On October 13-16, 2005, the Daughter of Zion Havurah in rural northern Arkansas received a visit from Father Sebastien Pelletier and Nikki Borchardt of the Catholic Community of the Beatitudes.

David and Kathleen Moss visited the Community of the Beatitudes two years ago. They were so impressed with the Community’s charism that they offered to pay the cost for two Beatitudes community representatives to come and share with the Daughter of Zion Havurah their Friday night Shabbat service. Of course, Daughter of Zion happily agreed. A lot of planning goes into this kind of visit, and we very much appreciated Kathleen’s diligent work in setting it up.

The Beatitudes are canonically a Private Association of the Faithful, Carmelite in spirituality, headquartered in France, in the Archdiocese of Albi. Many of their houses are in France, but they also have houses elsewhere in Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Oceania. Cardinal Stafford originally asked them to come to Denver, and Archbishop Chaput was the first to house them in the United States, where they are based in Denver. The community received its first formal recognition from the Holy See in 2002 and anticipates final Vatican recognition in 2008.

The Denver house, located on the Rocky Mountain (west) side of Denver, is responsible for nearby St. Catherine of Siena parish. At present the Denver house has three priests and nine other residents. As we look at the Denver community’s web site at http://www.beatitudes.us/, under Daily Schedule in Denver, we notice “Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Latin Vespers 5:30 pm.” That part looks familiar for a Catholic institute of consecrated life, but then we see: “Tuesday, Saturday: Byzantine Vespers 5:30 pm.” Immediately we sense that this community deeply embraces “Catholic,” the universal dimension of the Catholic Church that reaches out to each different culture in its own idiom. (Acts 2:5) But then we see, “On Saturday, Vespers of Resurrection are followed by a potluck and Jewish Religious dances.” Jewish religious dances? And right after it, “The Community celebrates Shabbat around the table every Friday night at 7:00 pm.” Shabbat?

Yes, Shabbat. After Vatican II’s teaching on the people Israel, the Beatitudes came into being with a charism to pray for the illumination of Israel, observing that we penetrate the mystery of Israel not through books but through prayer.

They read Romans 11:17

“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the richness of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you.”

Israel will not “come back to the Church.” Rather, the Church belongs to Israel, the root. The Beatitudes pray that the whole tree, roots and branches together, will recognize Rabbi Yeshua the Messiah. Pope Pius XI reminded us, “We are all spiritual Semites.”

We are all spiritual Semites in the election of the people Israel. St. Paul made the crucial distinction. (Rom 11:28)

“As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”

Abraham is our spiritual father as well as father of the Hebrew people. (Gen 17:5)

“No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”

In Hebrew, avram had meant “exalted father,” but avraham meant “exalted father under God.”

The Beatitudes’ spirituality for Israel emphasizes its eschatological dimension. They pray that we may share the destiny of Israel in salvation history. Father Sebastien said that Beatitudes members take the commitment, written in the Book of Life, that if one day Israel is slaughtered, as it has been several times in salvation history, they will be ready to share the same destiny. TheCatechism of the Catholic Church teaches,

(675) “The Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.” It adds, (677) “The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.”

I was particularly taken by Father Sebastien’s word “illumination” of the people Israel. Many Hebrew Catholics believe that the word “conversion” of the Jews is improper because a Jew who becomes Catholic does not change his religion but completes what he has already begun. I’ve been using “completion” because the risen Rabbi Yeshua greeted his apostles, Shalom alekhem. The Hebrew root of shalom, SHLM, is also the root of shalem, complete, and shlemut, perfect, implying a close relationship between these words. On the Cross, Rabbi Yeshua declared, “It is finished.” (Jn 19:30) After He rose from the tomb, His shalom alekhem indicated that now the apostles could be at peace because His Final Sacrifice, and theirs by participation, consuming the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, was complete and perfect. But the Beatitudes’ word “illumination” is also appropriate. (Jn 8:12)

“I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Father Sebastien and Nikki arrived Thursday evening. Father is a young man, about 37 years old, of French Canadian descent from Quebec, with a delightful French accent. Nikki is even younger, about 25. Father Sebastien, shepherd of the Denver house, stayed with Irene and me. Nikki stayed with Ariela and her husband Joe.

On Friday morning we all went to Daily Mass, where Father Sebastien concelebrated Mass with our pastor, Father Kevin Atunzu. At our parish, St. Michael’s in Cherokee Village, Arkansas, we have Perpetual Adoration. After Mass, Father Sebastien asked if he could spend an hour with the Blessed Sacrament, and so Irene and I joined him there. Ariela and Joe took Nikki for something to eat. After an hour, when Nikki and her group arrived for their holy hour, Irene and I took Father Sebastien on a tour of Star of the Sea, the tiny rural community of devout Catholics where all the street names are Catholic (Irene and I live on Madonna Drive).

On Friday afternoon Father Sebastien retired to his room to do some of his work while Irene went to visit her mother who lives nearby, and I continued my apostolic work. Then, in the late afternoon, Sister Judith came by to pick up Father Sebastien for some time with him. At Ariela’s, Nikki baked the Shabbat bread.

Friday evening was a highlight of the visit, as Father Sebastien and Nikki led us in a celebration of the Beatitudes’ regular Friday evening Shabbat service. We had more than a dozen people seated around Ariela’s dinner table including Ariela and Joe LeGendre, Ronda Chervin, Sister Judith, Bill Windel, Gail Demarest, our pastor Father Kevin Atunzu, our Latin Mass priest Father William Define, our Deacon Jim Thompson and his wife Helene, and Irene and me. Nikki began the evening by lighting the Shabbat candles with the traditional Hebrew prayer, observing that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave new meaning to lighting candles by giving us her Son, the light of the world. Since it was Friday evening and we are Catholic, Joe prepared a wonderful seafood gumbo for the Shabbat dinner.

We gathered around the table as Father Sebastien gave a talk on the Beatitudes Community’s charism for the Jews. Then Father Sebastien and Nikki led us in Hebrew songs, many of them sung to remarkably Jewish-sounding melodies composed by Ephraim (he uses only that name), who founded the Beatitudes in France in 1973. Father Sebastien poured the traditional wine, and passed the freshly baked and delicious Shabbat bread around as each of us broke off a piece and fed the person beside us. It was delightful to see faithful Catholics singing and praying like joyful Chassidim. After the singing we enjoyed Joe’s wonderful seafood gumbo. As always at Ariela and Joe’s, we all ate our fill and there remained plenty left over!

Saturday began as always with Daily Mass, fittingly on the feast day of the great Carmelite St. Teresa of Avila. I served as lector. Father Sebastien concelebrated and gave the homily.

Ariela and Joe took their small pontoon boat out on Lake Sequoyah to show Father Sebastien and Nikki the area from a different vantage point. Nikki, who had studied architecture, noticed several homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Father Sebastien had a wonderful time trying to fish, but evidently his gift is fishing for men. He then devoted some time to wrestling with Hunky, Ariela and Joe’s friendly dog. The expression on Father’s face was priceless when he found out that Hunky is a pit bull. Ariela and Joe then took our guests to spend a holy hour at the Adoration Chapel.

At 4:30 pm Father Sebastien concelebrated Vigil Mass with Father Kevin at St. Michael’s. Then, after dinner, he celebrated the Beatitudes community’s Shower of Roses Night Prayer. As many Catholics know, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, as she lay dying, promised to shower roses, intercessions, upon the earth. The Shower of Roses is a night prayer the Beatitudes do only in October. In this beautiful prayer, through the intercession of St. Therese, they, and we, ask God for particular intentions, with great confidence in His mercy through her intercession. As Nikki played beautiful contemplative music on a piano keyboard, Father Sebastien invited each of us present to pray for specific intentions we might not ordinarily pray for. He then asked each of us to write a letter to St. Thérèse with our prayer intentions, and place it in a self-addressed sealed and stamped envelope. We were also given a novena to pray for the next nine days. The Beatitudes community will keep the sealed letters for a year and pray over them for the intercession of St. Thérèse with Christ. Next October they will put the still-sealed letters in the mail so that each of us will get our own letter back. We will open the letter and see what God has done in our lives in response to our prayers.

The Sunday morning part of the visit was brief. At 3:00 am the LeGendres brought Nikki and the Barracks brought Fr. Sebastien to a meeting place between their two homes so our visitors could start their journey to the Memphis airport. Their early flight let them reach Denver in time for Sunday Mass.

This visit was a beginning. We Catholics who welcome inquiring Jews into the Church need to know and support one another. Classical music fans often hear one section of an orchestra introduce a theme and then other sections take it up and play variations on it. In God’s great orchestra of charisms, each of us plays the instrument given us. We all need to know one another and maintain active relationships so that the orchestra can play Christ’s symphony for the Jews. If someone writes to David asking for help in defending the Catholic faith against an anti-missionary, David often passes the request to me. If someone writes to me looking for Hebrew Catholic companions, I often refer him to David, who introduces him to the AHC and invites him to join the online discussion group. Through this visit the Community of the Beatitudes has become more visibly and closely part of the symphony. Now, if someone writes to us asking about a Catholic institute of consecrated life with a special charism for the Jewish people, we can refer him to the Community of the Beatitudes in the country where he lives. (For those outside the United States, the Denver house can tell inquirers where Beatitudes houses in any particular country are located.) And when Father Sebastien encounters someone who needs the charisms God has given us, he knows where to find us.

Those who would like to contribute to the work of the Community of the Beatitudes can send their donations to:

Community of the Beatitudes
2924 W 43rd Ave
Denver, CO 80211-1635
(720) 855-9412 • info@beatitudes.us • http://www.beatitudes.us/

  • You are my witnesses (Is. 43:10)  •  You shall be my witnesses (Acts 1:8)