Yesterday, I was delighted to start the day with the news (from my bishop, no less) that the Covid-delayed canonisation of Charles de Foucauld (15 September 1858 – 1 December 1916) is going ahead on 15 May 2022.
An orphan from the age of six, Charles lived a life of debauchery until his conversion around the age of thirty. He joined the Cistercians but left them after about seven years, travelled to Nazareth, and after being ordained priest, he headed into the Sahara to live as a hermit. He learned the Tuareg language, and produced a dictionary for this. On December 1, 1916, he was dragged from a fort he had built, and shot.
Charles de Foucauld has been an inspiration for me for about half a century. I followed him through the Sahara – staying in oases (Tamanrasset) praying at his hermitages; a two week retreat at his hermitage in Béni Abbès; praying at his tomb in El Golea; Mass and sunrise at his Assekrem hermitage, high up in the Hoggar mountains.
I love his, “Je veux crier le Gospel sur les toits, pas par mes mots mais par ma vie” (I wish to shout out the Gospel on the roofs, not by my words but by my life).
Then there are the many who now follow his vision – he hoped to have followers, start a religious order, but it never happened during his lifetime. Now there are Little Brothers and Littles Sisters, in different groupings, living simply, poorly, contemplatively – often without making much of being Religious, working alongside those less well off, living the Gospel “not by my words but by my life”.
I have a strong appreciation for both the literal and metaphorical understanding of his, ““Il faut passer par le désert et y séjourner pour recevoir la grâce de Dieu” (“You have to go through the desert and stay there to receive the grace of God.”)
And then there is his desire to be the Universal Brother.
Let me conclude this post with his
Prayer of Abandonment
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:Prayer of Abandonment Charles de Foucauld
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.