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The intuitions and spirituality of Charles de
Foucauld are at the origins of our way of life.
Born into a wealthy French family Charles lost his faith and his bearings after being orphaned at an early age. He barely made it through military school, was often disciplined for his behavior and for openly parading his mistress about town. He was lost.
He managed to pull himself together when needed as part of miltary operations in Algeria and it was through seeing the faith of the Muslim people there that his own journey towards faith began.
He left the military and undertook a very risky exploration of Morocco, which was closed to Europeans at the time, disguising himself as a poor rabbi and traveling with various caravans. This event aroused all the questions and yearnings of his heart as he faced his own vulnerability and witnessed upclose the lived faith of Islam.
It took him many years and wanderings before he met the one whom he called his beloved brother and Lord, Jesus. But when he finally encountered him, Charles was overwhelmed by the love of God he found in Jesus.
His inner quest took him to the Holy Land and later to the Trappists where he spent several years. The more his prayer became a mystical meeting with Jesus, the more he was drawn to seek Jesus in others. He came to understand his vocation as imitation of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. By this he meant a truly contemplative life rooted in the ordinary life of poor people. It was not a straight path or even very clear for himself. But he followed the thing inside of himself which kept pushing him further and deeper. This intuition led him to leave the Trappists and to eventually return to Algeria, to share with those from whom he had received so much, the love of God that he had discovered.
“It is love which should recollect you in me, not distance from my children. See me in them, and like me at Nazareth, live near them, lost in God.” Meditation— Charles de Foucauld
At the heart of Charles’ way of prayer was a
deeply eucharistic spirituality. He saw in the
gift of Jesus’ body and blood the sign of God’s abiding presence among us, a love capable of healing and saving our broken humanity and the image of his own way of presence to others.
His belief in this double presence -presence to God and presence to others - was a unifying and healing factor in his life.
Charles lived this out in Algeria, which played such an instrumental part of his conversion, and among the Tuareg people. He saw his way of presence and friendship, as well as his life
of prayer, as his mission and thought of himself
He understood that it was not a time for conversions, and felt that his life could be about creating bonds of understanding and respect with this people. He extensively studied the language and culture of the Tuareg.
In front of his house in Tamanrasset
Charles was killed Dec.1, 1916 in the confusion of World War I, having chosen to remain among those in Tamanrasset who were too poor to flee the conflicts in the area. He had been well aware of the risk to his own life.
He was beatified in Rome on Nov. 13, 2005.
Charles had no followers at the time of his death and would have remained virtually unknown had it not been for a biography published a few years after his death by Rene Bazin.
With local Tuareg tribesmen.
photo of Brother Charles,
taken a few months before his death.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld