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Charles de Foucauld, sometimes referred to as Brother Charles of Jesus, was the inspiration behind the founding of new religious communities for both men and women and is often credited with the revival of desert spirituality in the early twentieth century.
Born in France in 1858, Charles was orphaned at age six and raised by his grandparents. As a young man he lost his faith, and in spite of the discipline of his grandfather, whom he deeply respected, Charles lived a life that was a curious mix of laxity and stubbornness. Against advice, he took a risk-laden journey to Morocco in the early 1880’s. There he encountered devout Muslims whose practice of their faith inspired Charles to begin a search for the faith that was his own.
Upon returning to France, he continued his quest, and in 1886, at age 28, re-discovered God and made a new commitment that would guide the rest of his life. A pilgrimage to the Holy Land deepened his commitment still further. Charles entered the Cisterian Order of Strict Observance, the Trappists, first in France and then in Syria, a commitment of seven years. He then returned to the Holy Land and lived as a servant to the convent of the Poor Clares in Nazareth. It was there that he began to develop a life of solitude, prayer, and adoration. The Poor Clares saw in him a vocation to the priesthood, encouraged him in spite of his reluctance, and Charles was ordained a priest in 1901. Charles then moved to the Sahara where his desire was to live a “ministry of presence” among “the furthest removed, the most abandoned.” He believed his call was to live among those whose faith and culture differed from his own. To witness to Christ among them was not to be eloquent preaching or missionary demands, but “to shout the Gospel with his life.” Charles sought to live so that those who saw his life would ask, “If such is the servant, what must the Master be like?”
i Loving God, who didst restore the Christian faith of
Charles de Foucauld through an encounter with Islam in
North Africa and didst sustain him in the desert where he
converted many with his witness of presence: Help us to
know thee wherever we find thee, that with him, we may
be faithful unto death; through Jesus Christ, who liveth
and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now
and for ever. Amen.
ii Loving God, who restored the Christian faith of Charles
de Foucauld through an encounter with Islam in North
Africa and sustained him in the desert where he converted
many with his witness of presence: Help us to know you
wherever we find you, that with him, we may be faithful
unto death; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Preface of a Saint (3)
Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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