Reflection on the relevance of Brother Charles for today (from his writings)

Charles among the TouaregCharles among the Touareg
Little Brother Charles of Jesus died in 1916, and yet his life seems very relevant for our generation.

He knew what it was like to live in unbelief and to feel the emptiness of an absurd life filled with material ease and nothing else. Later he would write:

"For years my faith was totally dead; from the time I was 16, 1 lived without any faith at all. Nothing seemed proved with enough evidence; if people could follow such different religions with equal degrees of faith, that seemed to me reason to reject them all. The religion of my childhood looked the most objectionable of all, with its claim that 1 - 3 which I could make no sense of. I spent 12 years without denying anything or believing anything, giving up hope that truth existed and not even believing in God since no proof seemed sure enough. I lived, getting along as someone can when the last spark of his faith has been put out."

It was by courting danger that he got back a taste for living. He loved taking risks. He undertook a perilous exploration in the desert. And he experienced the long night of a terrible search for faith.

"My God, you kept alive in me an attraction for study, for serious reading and for things that were beautiful, as well as a repulsion for vice and for ugliness. I did evil but I didn't approve of what I was doing or like it. You made me feel a searing emptiness, a sadness that I have never experienced except then.
What inner graces! I grew to need solitude, quietness, to need to go into your churches, I who didn't believe in you. There was a restlessness, an anguish in my soul, a search for truth, that prayer I used to say, 'My God, if you exist, make me know it."

When the grace of God took hold of him, he changed his life completely, for he was a man who could not compromise. He wanted to live as Christ had lived and to do it in the fullest possible way.

"As soon as I believed that there was a God, I understood that there was nothing else I could do but to live totally for him. My religious vocation dates from the same hour as my faith."
Out of love for Jesus, he knew a life without securities, going his way poorly clothed, with the joy of being treated as worthless.

"I love our Lord and I cannot bear to lead a life different from the one he led. I cannot conceive of love that does not include a need, a compelling need, of resembling him and moulding my life on his."

For the setting of his new form of religious life, he chose the ordinary life of poor people.

"Like Jesus at Nazareth: charity toward the people who live here, charity toward travellers... and humility in my way of life, a humble, poor, hidden home."

With Jesus at Nazareth as his model, he wanted to make God pres¬ent to the people around him by a contemplative life among them.

"Jesus says to those who share his hidden life, “make souls holy by bringing me among them. Bring them the Gospel not by your words but by your example, not by proclaiming it but by living it. Make the salvation of all the one work of your life until I, Jesus the Saviour, which signifies perfectly what I am, expresses what you are too. How should you do that? Be all things to all people with a single desire in your heart: to bring Jesus to all you meet."
With DassineWith Dassine

He was extremely conscious of the needs of the most forsaken.

"Have a love that goes with special preference toward the so called little and the poor, re¬membering that it is directly to Jesus that the smallest act of kindness and love is addressed when it is done to the least among his brothers and sisters. Welcome them with respect and love, be all the more thoughtful and considerate toward them, for they are the suffering members of Jesus' body."

He defended the rights of the poor and those who were victims of oppression.

"We must love justice and hate wrong-doing. When temporal rulers commit a serious injustice against those who are in our trust, we must speak out and tell them, for we do not have the right to be watchmen who are caught napping or shepherds who do not care."

He wanted followers to come and share his life and to be called "Little Brothers of Jesus."

"The desire to bear the Name of the Lord we love burns within us, and so we have dared to make it ours, adding the name 'little' and 'brothers,' for he taught us so often that we must become little and urged us to call each other brothers."

He was part of his times and yet ahead of his times. "A silent forerunner," as he said. He rediscovered the idea of little communities and called them "fraternities"

"What I'm dreaming of is something very simple and small in numbers, something to resemble those simple communities of the Church's early days. To lead the life of Nazareth, working humbly and contemplating Jesus - a little family, a little monastic household, something very small and simple."

He sought to leave behind all the barriers of race and religion and be a brother to one and all, convinced that God is at work among us in all times and places, for he is Source of Life for every single human person.

"In each person, good or bad, the little brothers will see a soul to whom salvation is offered. They will make themselves all things to all people so that all may be saved. They will be the friends of one and all in order to be brother and sister workers for the salvation of one and all... You are all brothers and sisters and you have the one Father. We must love each person because they are our brother or sister and God wants us to look on each person and to love them as such."

He found Jesus in the Eucharist and drew all his strength from prayer.

"The Eucharist means God with us, God in us, God giving himself to us."

He felt impelled to be a witness to the Church, to the coming of God's kingdom to all those who live beyond its visible borders.
"My work is a work of preparation, of clearing the land. What I am to do is to bring Jesus among the people here. I am called to be in their midst this praying presence of the Church even though I am so unworthy. This is my calling. I want to witness to faith, love and hope by the way I live."

His extraordinary faith enabled him to take great risks.

"The weakness of human means is a cause of strength." "Jesus is the Master of the Impossible."

Was Brother Charles a prophet? Yes, but without knowing it him¬self. The essence of his life is the depth of his personal meeting with Jesus, the God who so loved us and so desired to save us that he revealed himself as a tiny infant at Bethlehem, as a humble work¬man at Nazareth, as a poor man who put himself totally into our hands, to the point of dying on the cross.

"It pleased God to make it so easy for us to be saved. He didn't attach salvation to knowledge or intelligence or wealth, nor to great experience or rare gifts that are not given to all. He attached it to something within the reach of everyone, absolutely every¬one. That is all it takes to win heaven, for Jesus attaches salvation to humility, to the act of making yourself little."

"Jesus said, *I have come to light a fire on the earth and how eager I am for it to be kindled.' 0 my God, kindle that fire in my heart and in the hearts of all people."