Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Charles, the "Little Brother" of Jesus

Charles, the "Little Brother" of Jesus. 

He desired to "shout the Gospel with [his] life." After his dramatic conversion/"reversion" to the Catholic faith, he felt called to love Jesus in an utterly radical manner. 

First with the Trappists in France, then in the Holy Land and Algeria, he sought to follow Jesus with a humility that worried his friends and his spiritual director, but they continued to support him, convinced of his holiness and the reality of his unique charismFinally, he went to live among the poorest and most forgotten people at the edge of the Sahara. He made his hermitage/"house-of-hospitalty" among the Tuareg, a nomadic Muslim people, and befriended them and gave special attention to their desolate black African slaves.

They called him "marabout" (holy man). He did not preach with words. He spent his days in adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and in serving the poorest of the poor. He was martyred - killed by bandits - on December 1, 1916. After his death, others began to follow his way of life. He taught us in a profound and (in a sense) "new" way that contemplative love and fraternal charity are at the heart of Christian witness. In May 2022, he will be canonized a saint. 

Charles de Foucauld is the saint we need today.

While living at Ben-Abbes in Algeria, he welcomed everyone. He said, "I want to accustom all the inhabitants, Christians, Muslims, Jews, and nonbelievers, to look on me as their brother, the universal brother. Already they're calling this house 'the fraternity' (khaoua in Arabic) - about which I'm delighted - and realizing that the poor have a brother here - not only the poor, though: all men."

He was familiar with struggles, dark-nights-of-the-soul, and loneliness.

Charles failed in his efforts to found a religious community during his lifetime, and he experienced much sorrow and pain and spiritual darkness and obscurity even regarding his own work. But in a letter of December 1, 1916 - which was never sent - he wrote these words: "When we can suffer and love, we can do much, it’s the most that we can do in this world: We feel our suffering, but we don’t always feel that we love and that’s an additional suffering!  But we know that we want to love and to want to love is to love."