Charles de Foucauld
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 military 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 up close the lived faith of Islam.
As soon as I believed that there was a God, I understood that there was nothing else I could do but to live totally for him. My religious vocation dates from the same hour as my faith.
Bl Charles de Foucauld
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.
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.
The weakness of human means is a source of strength. Jesus is the Master of the Impossible
Bl Charles de Foucauld
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 (Click for full text).
Brother Charles is sometimes remembered as a model of “desert spirituality” and for what has become known as the Prayer of Abandonment. It was taken from a much longer meditation which he wrote many years earlier, in fact while he was still a Trappist monk.
He imagined Jesus as he was dying on the cross and places these words on Jesus’ lips.
He introduces the meditation saying,
“It is the last prayer of our Master, of our Beloved… may it be ours… May it not only be the prayer of our last moment, but that of all our moments…”
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 you’re your hands
without reserve and with boundless confidence
For you are my Father.
Click each image below for a five part Biography on Br. Charles, his life, and his mission
Every Christian must be an apostle, this is not a counsel, it is a commandment. My apostolate must be an apostolate of goodness. On seeing me people should say to themselves, since this man is so good, his religion must be good. And if I am asked why I am so gentle and good I must reply, because I am the servant of the One whose goodness is still greater. If only you knew how good my Master Jesus is!
Bl Charles de Foucauld