September is a month that marks new beginnings: It’s a new school year for students and educators; it’s a new year for Jews; and new foods are harvested in the month of plenty. For the past 37 Septembers since preschool in Mexico, I have begun a new academic year. Each of those beginnings has been an opportunity to review my life, start a new hobby or continue an old one, and/or cultivate a relationship.
Krister Stendahl coined the term “holy envy," which means recognizing elements in another tradition that you admire and could, in some way, reflect in your tradition. In the 13th century during the Fifth Crusade in the month of September, St. Francis experienced holy envy after meeting the sultan, Malek al-Kamil. In their first encounters, both men tried to convert the other, though quite quickly realized that they both had a deep love for God/Allah. St. Francis was moved by the Islamic practice of prayer five times each day, which ultimately influenced his own devotion to prayer.
This September and beyond, I would like to leave room for holy envy. Perhaps you might want to join me in this.