After the health crisis, the worst reaction would be to sink ourselves further into a consumerist fever and into new forms of selfish self-preservation…” Pope Francis’ warning finds a striking outcome in the life of Charles de Foucauld. It is not insignificant that the one nicknamed the “universal brother” is one of the seven saints proclaimed by the Church in 2022: the viscount and geographer, the eternal adventurer, the Saint-Cyrian who became a hermit in the solitudes of the Algerian desert, will soon be canonized, while the official recognition of a miracle is recorded. In 2016, a boss launched an appeal to pray the intercession of Charles de Foucauld for his worker, named Charle (without s), who had fallen sixteen meters on the restoration site of a chapel. The accident took place in Saumur, a town where officer Charles de Foucauld had joined the cavalry.
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Beyond the radical nature of his career, why does Charles de Foucauld speak so much in our time? Is this the call of the great distances? The need to reverse the direction of our lives? For a hundred years, spiritual families resulting from his charisma have multiplied. Writers, adventurers and simple seekers of God are passionate about this man who left to preach the Gospel in silence, in a land of Islam. However, no one could adopt his way of life – and no one, moreover, had agreed to join him in his Algerian hermitage of Tamanrasset. But his trajectory irresistibly inspires our contemporaries, torn between the thirst for the absolute and the temptation to be immediately satisfied.
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“Charles de Foucauld addresses in each of us this desire to surpass ourselves,” underlines Father Xavier Lefebvre, parish priest of the Saint-Augustin church in Paris, where the future saint experienced the decisive moment of his conversion during a confession to Father Huvelin, in October 1886. “For years, Charles sought fulfillment, in the army, in magnificent festivals and feasts, but without God. The temptation of our time is to seek to achieve something solely by oneself, which we find, for example, in the practice of extreme sports. » Throwing yourself from a steep summit on skis, crossing the void on a wire without being roped… “We seek to prove to ourselves what we are worth, to respond to this injunction: “Show who you are!” continues Father Lefebvre. Charles deFoucauld urges us to take a step back: only divine love can fulfill our desire for the absolute. »
Holiness by example
In frugality and simplicity, Charles de Foucauld weaved a way of life on the outskirts, where “secure friendship” with his Berber brothers gave him a completely different security than that of his sated but restless youth. His perpetual quest, from La Trappe Abbey in Nazareth, where he wrote his most beautiful prayers, to the vastness of the Sahara where he was murdered on December 1, 1916, was in no way an escape from reality. “Charles deFoucauld felt an ever greater, ever stronger dual call: to join Christ in poverty, and to become close to everyone to preach the Gospel by example, without moralism,” explains Father Lefebvre. In the sands of Hoggar, the future saint had found an antidote to despair, which our time so needs.
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Article published on May 28, 2021