THE THIRD POST THIS WEEK DEVOTED TO THE FASCINATING AND INSPIRATIONAL LIFE OF CHARLES DE FOUCAULD. About to be proclaimed a saint, Charles is an encouraging example of faithful Christian living to those of us who have much to overcome!
CHARLES ARRIVED IN BENI ABBÈS, ALGERIA - 1901
“The Natives made me perfectly welcome and I am forming relationships with them, trying to do them a little good.”
"The soldiers set about building me a chapel, three cells and a guest room out of dry bricks and palm tree trunks.”
“I want all the inhabitants to get used to looking on me as their brother, the universal brother…
They are beginning to call the house “the fraternity”, and I find this very touching”
Each day, Charles spent hours before the Tabernacle.
"The Eucharist is Jesus, it is all of Jesus.
When you love, you feel like speaking the whole time with the one you love,
or at least you want to look at him without ceasing.
Prayer is nothing else. It is the familiar meeting with our Beloved.
We look at Him, we tell Him we love Him,
we rejoice to be at His feet.”
But there was constant knocking
at the door.
“From 4.30 am to 8.30 pm, I never stop talking and receiving people:
slaves, the poor, the sick, soldiers,
travellers and the curious.”
The fraternity was built,
and Charles waited
for brothers to come.
But the brothers did not come.
It was too dangerous
for Europeans to stay there.
In June 1903,
the Bishop of the Sahara
spent several days in Beni Abbés.
He had just visited the Tuaregs, nomadic people.
There were no priests available
to go there,
so Charles volunteered,
and left to live with the Tuaregs
in January 1904.
A FRIEND TO THE TUAREGS (1904 to 1916)
Departure from Akabli with Commander Laperrine accompanying him on his expedition, they came to Tamanrasset in southern Saharan Algeria, where the nomadic people grazed their camels and goats. Charles built his hermitage in the town itself, after initially moving amongst them to gain their trust and to learn their language.
He was one of the first French white Europeans to enter the area. “My vocation normally involves solitude, stability and silence, but for the moment I am a nomad, going from camp to camp, trying to build up familiarity, trust and friendship. This nomadic life has the advantage of allowing me to see a lot of people and get to know the country.”
“I have just finished translating the Holy Gospels into Tuareg language. It is a great consolation to me that their first book be the Holy Gospels. I will stay here, the only European… very happy to be alone with Jesus, alone for Jesus.” “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. Moreover through contact with the natives, their suspicions and prejudices are slowly abating. It is very slow and very little.
My apostolate must be the apostolate of goodness. If someone were to ask why I am gentle and good, I must say, ‘because I am the servant of someone who is far better than me.”
“The Tuaregs in my neighbourhood give me the greatest joys and consolations. I have excellent friends among them. My work on the language is going well. The abridged dictionary is finished and its publication will begin in a few days’ time. The dictionary of proper names will be finished in 1914 along with the more complete Tuareg-French dictionary. I think that by 1916 I will finish the collection of poems and proverbs and by 1917 the texts in prose. The grammar book will be for 1918 if God gives me life and health.”
“Tomorrow (in 1916) 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.”
For two years, war had been tearing Europe apart. It was beginning to come to the Sahara too. 450 km from where Charles was living and serving, , the French fort of Djanet has been invaded by more than a thousand Senoussists (in an uprising against France) armed with canon and rifles.
They were on their way to Tamanrasset. Charles was, as a Frenchman, particularly vulnerable.
He was violently killed on the first of December 1916.
"Veni Creator" - a daily prayer of Charles'
Come, Spirit of love, You unite Christians, You teach them to live in peace, You put each one at the service of others.
Come Spirit of forgiveness, You reconcile us, You help us to understand one another,
You remove all barriers.
Come Spirit of power,
You give courage in combat,
You make us love the truth,
You invite us to look for God.
Come Spirit of light,
Teach us to know the Father.
Help us to know who the Son is,
And make us always believe in you,
You who unite the Father and the Son
In a unique love. Amen.
God Our Father, you called your servant Charles de Foucauld to discover the infinite greatness of your love by contemplating the life of Jesus of Nazareth, your Son,
who became flesh,
who humbled himself to the point of death, who was raised to life,
and who sent the Holy Spirit
as his first gift to those who believe.
May we find, as we lovingly read the Gospel, and as we adore the Eucharist,
a fountain of inexhaustible life in Christ, and a missionary courage and energy which will bind us in a spirit of universal fraternity.
Thus we can work together to bring about your plan for the salvation of all people. We ask you this through Jesus,
your beloved Son, Our Lord.
Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
The Prayer of Abandonment
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.