My Thoughts 01/12/2021

Today is the anniversary of the death of Charles de Foucauld.

He came from a French aristocratic background, and joined the army. After resigning his commission, he spent 15 months learning Arabic and Hebrew, and then travelled into Morocco. In May 1885, he received the Gold Medal of the French Geographic Society for his work.

He explored Algeria and Tunisia from September 1885 through January 1886. In Paris, he met a priest Fr. Huvelin to whom he went to confession. He wrote later of this moment,

“As soon as I believed there was a God, I understood I could do nothing else but live for him, my religious vocation dates from the same moment as my faith: God is so great. There is such a difference between God and everything that is not.”

After joining a Trappist monastery, he was ordained in 1901 and he moved to live a hermit life in Nazareth, with the poor Clares. He came to realise that Nazareth was not just a place but increasingly a way of life.

The last part of his life was spent in the Sahara, first at Bene-Abbes and then at Tamanrasset. He had a special love for the Touaregs, who were described as, “primitive, light years from Christianity, caught up in slavery and superstition, sometimes cruel and violent.”

They responded to Charles because he did not threaten them. He simply wanted to be with them, to accompany them in their day-to-day lives, to show Christ to them by being, more than by talking. He even spent much time studying their language and compiling a dictionary.

In these last years he was living in his own way the life of Nazareth, a poor man with poor people, without power or influence; praying constantly and deeply; open to the world, not sealed off from it; accessible to all.

On 1st December 1916 some tribes men rode up to the door, asking to see him. He was taken prisoner, and his house ransacked. Suddenly a couple of French troops appeared on the horizon, and, in panic the lad who was guarding him shot him dead. The raiders dispersed, leaving his body where it lay. A few yards away, his monstrance, containing the Blessed Sacrament was found buried in the sand.

The late Tony Philpot wrote,

“And thus died the deeply holy, very eccentric, self denying, compulsive letter writer, lover of Jesus, dreamer of great dreams, the unrepeatable and inimitable Blessed Charles de Foucauld.”

He is to be canonised next year on 15th May.

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest