Thursday, December 1, 2022

Saint Charles de Foucauld, the “Universal” Brother

For the first time, we mark December 1 as the commemoration of Saint Charles de Foucauld. 

His words below, excerpted from his letters, are expressed in the ardent language of late-nineteenth/early-twentieth-century French Catholic spirituality (a language, we should note, that sustained missionaries who courageously preached the gospel all over the earth). At the same time, the words of Saint Charles—the little brother of Jesus, the “universal brother”—express a heart drawn by Jesus far beyond the limits of any particular culture, a heart opened and wounded by the love of Jesus for all humanity, and sent into the desert to seek out the poorest and most forgotten of his brothers, to share their humble lives, to be radically available to them, to suffer with them and in solitude, to die alone and—apparently—forgotten deep in the Sahara on December 1, 1916.

“Pray very much: when we love we want to talk endlessly to the being we love, or at least look at him endlessly: this is what prayer is, familiar converse with our Beloved: we look at him, we tell him we love him, we rejoice at being at his feet, we tell him that this is where we want to live and die.

“What would we speak of if not of him who is our life, for whom we breathe, for whom alone we want to live, to whom we belong unreservedly and for ever, body, soul, mind and heart, all to him, all for him!

“And how divinely good he is to allow ants like us to love him. One look from him would be too much for us: him, infinitude, sovereign and infinite perfection! …us, such tiny, ungrateful, sinful creatures. 

“But not only does he look at us, he makes himself one of us; he 'takes delight in being with the children of men'; he watches over us and leads us in all our ways; he makes himself the least among us, suffers with us, for us and on behalf of us for thirty-three years, and dies through us and for us, bathing us and sanctifying all of us with his divine blood. How happy we are!”