IN THE DESERT - 1
A week ago Pope Francis announced that Blessed Charles would soon be named Saint Charles de Foucauld (Charles de Foucauld was declared “blessed” in 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI). Charles’ pathway through his life was an exciting journey! Over the next day or two we’ll explore his life as it passed through a desert of faith to a lively faith in a desert.
A CHRISTIAN HOME (1858 to 1873)
Charles was born in Strasbourg, France. His mother, father and paternal grandmother all died in 1864. The grandfather took the two children, Charles (6 yrs) and Marie (3 yrs) into his home.
He wrote - “Son of a holy mother, I learned from her to know you, to love you and to pray to you. Was not my first memory the prayer she made me recite morning and evening: ‘My God, bless father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, grandmother Foucauld and my little sister’?” ……“
I always admired the great intelligence of my grandfather whose infinite tenderness enveloped my childhood and youth with an atmosphere of love, whose warmth I still can feel.”
GODLESS YOUTH (1874 to 1876)
Charles was intelligent and studies were not difficult for him. He loved books, and read anything he could lay his hands on. Little by little Charles distanced himself from his faith.
He continued to respect the Catholic
religion but he no longer believed.
“If I worked a little in Nancy it was because I was allowed to mix in with my studies a host of readings that gave me a taste for studying but which did me the harm that you know…” “I remained twelve years without denying or believing anything, despairing of the truth and not even believing in God. There was no convincing proof.” “At 17 I was totally selfish, full of vanity and irreverence, engulfed by a desire for what is evil. 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.”
MILITARY LIFE (1876 to 1882)
After two years of studies at Military College, Charles became an officer. His grandfather had just died and Charles inherited everything. He was 20 years old. For several years, Charles would seek his pleasure in food and parties. At that time he was called “Fats Foucauld”.
But in October 1880, Charles was sent to Algeria. He liked the country and the inhabitants interested him:
“The vegetation is superb: palm trees, laurel bushes, orange trees. It is a beautiful country! For my part, I was enthralled.
In the midst of them all there are Arabs in white burnouses or dressed in bright colours, with a crowd of camels, small donkeys and goats, which have the most picturesque effect.”
However Charles’ refusal to listen to his superiors in an affair involving a woman eventually cost him his employment.
Having only just returned to France, he learned that his regiment was being sent to Tunisia:
“An expedition of this kind is too rare a pleasure to let it slip by without trying to enjoy it. I was indeed sent back to Africa, as I had requested but not quite in the regiment that I had wanted. I was part of a column which manoeuvred on the high plateaux, to the South of Saïda. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed camp life as much as I disliked garrison life. I hope that the column will last a long time. When it is finished, I will try to go somewhere else where there is action.”
In January 1882, the columns were disbanded and Charles was again back in the barracks.
“I hate garrison life…I much prefer to take advantage of being young in order to travel. At least in that way I will be able to learn something and not waste my time.”
On January 28 1882 he resigned from the army.
Grateful to L'Association Famille Spirituelle Charles de Foucauld
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.