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charles de foucauld

Father, I abandon myself into your hands;

do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me,

and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.

Charles de Foucauld lived a remarkable life of adventure, deprivation and devotion. He was a man of extremes, an aristocratic bon vivant whose conversion to Christianity led him to embrace a life of radical solitude and prayer.

He said of himself, “At 17 I was totally selfish, full of vanity and irreverence,

I was running wild.”

“I was in the dark. I no longer saw either God or men: There was only me.”… “I sleep long. I eat a lot.

I think little.”

He served as a French army officer in Algeria, but left the army in 1882, and went as an explorer to Morocco.

In 1890 he joined the Trappist order, but left in 1897 to follow an as yet undefined religious vocation.

He was ordained in France to the priesthood in 1901.

Thereafter he left for the Sahara, living at first in Beni Abbès and later at Tamanrasset among the Tuaregs of the Hoggar. He wanted to be among those who were, “the furthest removed, the most abandoned.” “I felt called straight away to go to the “lost sheep”, to the most abandoned, the most needy, so as to fulfil the commandment of love towards them: he returned to Morocco. Foucauld was inspired by the "hidden life" of Jesus in Nazareth and hoped that other disciples of Jesus would be as well. He championed a life for religious that would not only be found in enclosed communities, monasteries or convents but also lived amongst ordinary people. He hoped lay missionaries would come to the southern part of Algeria. He envisioned Christians who would participate in the local economy and live a Christian life among a Muslim population. All this in the early 1900s. During many hours of adoration in front of the Eucharist, Foucauld had images of the role of the church. Missionaries should live among the poor and be witnesses to the life of Christ. They should not necessarily preach the Gospel with words, but live the joy and simplicity and poverty of a life like that of Jesus. 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?”

He thought the liturgy should be celebrated in the language of the people of the country where it was being celebrated. Foucauld wanted the Catholic worship of God to be open and understandable to non-believers.

His belief in the real presence in the Eucharist was so strong that he felt the presence of Christ in the Eucharist had a spiritual effect on the persons around it. He believed the real presence held the world together.

He wanted to establish a new religious order and wrote several rules for this religious life. This new order, the Little Brothers of Jesus, however, would not become a reality until after his death.

“I wanted to compose a very simple rule, apt to give to a few pious souls a family life around the Sacred Host.” “My rule is so closely linked to the cult of the Holy Eucharist that it cannot be followed by a group without there being a tabernacle."

In 1916 he asked - "Is my presence here doing any good? If it does not, the presence of the Most Holy Sacrament certainly does it greatly. Jesus cannot be in a place without shining forth. Tomorrow, it will be ten years that I have been saying Holy Mass in the hermitage in Tamanrasset and not a single conversion! It takes prayer, work and patience.”

He was killed in 1916 on this day, 1st December, by a group of rebels in the Algerian desert where he had lived in the midst of a Berber tribe for 10 years, drawn to serve the poor and the forsaken.

Those who were influenced or inspired by Foucauld include Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Pope Francis canonised Charles de Foucauld on 15th May, 2021.

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