On this day, 1st December in 1916 in the desert in Algeria a young Arab boy guarding a captured french priest who lived as a hermit, shot him dead. The name of the priest was Charles de Foucauld, known as Brother Charles. In May this year the Vatican announced that he is to canonized.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld was an officer in the French army. He became a Trappist monk, but left the order to live as a hermit. He was ordained to the priesthood in France, then settled in the Algerian Sahara. He evangelised the Touaregs, learning their language and culture. While he lived he failed in his attempt to found a religious order. Although he lived among the Touareg he never made any converts. By worldly standards his life was one of non-achievement.
Yet after his death, his writings and reflections on Scripture inspired the founding of the Little Brothers of Jesus and the founding of the Little Sisters of Jesus followed and today they try to live in his spirit of hiddenness like Jesus in Nazareth. Their houses are called Fraternities and they live a simple lifestyle among the poor, forgotten, among the ordinary and unspectacular. Today there is a group of little Sisters that live on the thirteen floor of a tower block in Hackney for example.
I have been been a member of the Priest fraternity of Jesus Caritas. This is a world-wide movement of secular priests. We meet once a month and the meeting comprises of three elements , an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament , a gospel study and discussions, and a review of life. I have been part of a fraternity for forty years.
My living by the spirit of Brother Charles is very imperfect, especially committing myself to Gospel poverty in the service of God and all my brothers and sisters. Also as priests of the fraternity we are encourage to do a monthly day in the desert. This sadly I do rarely. A typical day would be from about 10am till 6m in a quiet place and the only equipment you take with you would be some food, a New Testament, a book.
The late Fr Tony Philpot wrote of the desert day in this way.“The idea is to let the solitude soak into you, because God is found in silence rather as gold is found in spiky lumps of ore. It is a great breakthrough when you find you can handle silence and solitude-a great inner resource. How you use your day -walking, reading, sitting quietly- is up to you.”:
Let us pray that we may like Brother Charles, “shout the Gospel with our lives”, as we enter December and Advent.