Several of us in the monastery have for years had a devotion to BL. CHARLES DE FOUCAULD. For me it began 45 years ago, before most of the world knew of him. At the suggestion of a friend I went to visit an old woman who had just lost her husband. While we were chatting I asked her about a strange looking wooden rosary with an enamel heart in the Middle. She explained that her husband had found this and became fascinated with its background, thus leading him to discover more about the future saint. She not only gave me the rosary but several books about the man. Upon reading them, I felt a great rapport, for some mysterious reason. Who knows what draws us to another?
Brother Charles of Jesus was born in Strasbourg, France in 1858. Orphaned at the age of six, he and his sister Marie were raised by their grandfather in whose footsteps he followed by taking up a military career.
He lost his faith as an adolescent and his idea of an easy life was well known, but he also could be strong willed and constant in difficult situations. In 1883 he undertook a risky exploration of Morocco. Seeing the way Muslims expressed their faith questioned him and he began repeating, “My God, if you exist, let me come to know you.”
|The young soldier|
On his return to France, he placed himself under the guidance of Fr. Huvelin where he rediscovered God. He was 28 years old. “As soon as I believed in God, I understood that I could not do otherwise than to live for him alone.”
A pilgrimage to the Holy Land revealed his vocation to him: to follow Jesus in his life at Nazareth.He spent 7 years as a Trappist, first in France and then at Akbès in Syria. Later he began to lead a life of prayer as a hermit.
Ordained a priest at 43 (1901) he left for the Sahara, living at first in Beni Abbès and later at Tamanrasset among the Tuaregs. He wanted to be among those who were, “the furthest removed, the most abandoned.”
He wanted all who drew close to him to find in him a brother, “a universal brother.” In a great respect for the culture and faith of those among whom he lived, his desire was to “shout the Gospel with his life”. “I would like to be sufficiently good that people would say, “If such is the servant, what must the Master be like?”
|Bl. Charles with Taureg|
On the evening of December 1st 1916, he was killed by a band of marauders who had encircled his house killed by thieves looking for gold and arms.
He had always dreamed of sharing his vocation with others: after having written several rules for religious life, he came to the conclusion that this “life of Nazareth” could be led by all. His inspiration and writings led to the founding of the Little Brothers of Jesus and Little Sisters of Jesus among other religious congregations. Today the “spiritual family of Charles de Foucauld” encompasses associations of the faithful, religious communities and secular institutes for both lay people and priests.
The Jesus Caritas website describes de Foucauld in these words: "While longing to establish a community, he never had a member. He was a human being: attractive and enigmatic, a product of his time yet classically mysterious."