SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD
Charles de Foucauld was born in Strasbourg on September 15, 1858.
He grew up in an aristocratic family.
“Son of a holy mother,
I learned from her to know God,
to love God,
and to pray.
Charles loved books, and read anything he could lay his hands on, but as he grew up Charles distanced himself from his faith. He continued to respect the Catholic religion
but he no longer believed in God.
“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 became known as “Fats Foucauld”!
He felt drawn to military life,
and served as a French army officer in Algeria, but left the army in 1882,
to pursue and explore Morocco.
Why Morocco? Charles got a thrill in “living on the edge”. After 15 months preparation, he left for Morocco
with a Jewish guide, Mordechai.
“In 1883 Europeans could travel visibly and safely only in that territory which came under the Sultan’s rule. They could only enter the rest of Morocco if they were disguised, and even then it was at the risk of their lives. They were considered spies and would be killed if recognized. Nearly my entire trip was made in the riskiests parts of the country.
I disguised myself from Tangiers onwards, to avoid awkward meetings.
I pretended I was an Israelite.
During my trip, my costume was that of Moroccan Jews,
my religion, theirs, my name, Rabbi Joseph.
I prayed and I sang in the Synagogue.
Parents pleaded with me to bless their children…”
In 1884, a poor beggar arrived at the Moroccan / Algerian border.
He was barefoot, thin and covered with dirt.
This poor Jewish beggar was none other than Charles de Foucauld.
He settled back in Paris with his family,
and published the account of his dangerous trip.
He received great accolades.
“I found myself in the company of people
who were highly intelligent, highly virtuous and highly Christian.
At the same time, an extremely strong interior grace
was pushing me.
Even though I wasn’t a believer I started going to Mass. It was the only place where I felt at ease and I would spend long hours there, repeating this strange prayer: “My God, if you exist, allow me know you!”
“Oh! My God, how much your hand was upon me and yet how little I was aware of it! How good you are!
How you protected me! How you covered me with your wings
when I did not even believe in your existence!”
In 1890 he offered himself to God as a Trappist monk.
“The Gospel showed me that the first commandment is to love God with all one’s heart and that we should enfold everything in love. The more one loves God, the more one loves people.
“I love our Lord Jesus Christ and I cannot bear to lead a life other than his.
I do not want to travel through life first class when the One that I love went in the lowest class.”
He left the order in 1897 to follow a 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 Tuareg nomadic desert people.
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 neediest, so as to fulfil the commandment of love towards them:
Soldiers set about building a chapel for him, where each day, Charles spent hours before the Tabernacle.
“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.
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 wanted to establish a new religious order.
This new order, the Little Brothers of Jesus, however,
would not become a reality until after his death,
but later influenced great figures
like Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day.
In 1904, he reported “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.”
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.”
450 km from where Charles was living and serving,
the French fort of Djanet has been invaded
by more than a thousand Senoussists armed with canon and rifles. They were on their way to Tamanrasset,
where Charles was violently killed on the first of December 1916..
He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on November 13, 2005
and today canonised by Pope Francis.
On this day, every day for the next week,
let us pray his prayer daily;
with intention for our own faith,
that we may be more drawn to Christ;
for our Church, for Ukraine, for our own particular intentions.
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.