Advent letter to the European Lay Fraternities

Dear Responsibles, Delegates, Members and Friends of the Lay Fraternity of Charles de Foucauld in Europe!

We write to you today in very changed and uncertain times. The Corona Pandemic has changed our lives beyond recognition. The European holiday that we had hoped would take place in August 2021 in Bonn, is unthinkable at the moment and impossible to plan for. We still hope that the European Delegates‘ meeting from Thursday 5th- Monday 9th August 2021 in Bonn, at Venusberg, can take place; however these plans are also very tentative. We will not be able to send out the invitations before February 2021, and therefore we ask for your understanding.

Looking back

In the first letter, one year after the 100th anniversary of the death of Brother Charles, we emphasized four aspects of his spiritual life:
- Accepted Life - Nazareth
- Tested Life - Desert
- Sanctified Life - World
- Devoted Life - God
With the experiences of the international assembly in Lebanon and in anticipation of our European Delegates’ Meeting we placed our life in the world at the centre in the second letter. In that letter we tried to focus on aspects of the "tested life - desert".
In the third letter last year, following our meetings at Minsteracres, we focussed on the path shown to us by Br Charles in his following of Jesus. This year, under the dark cloud of the Corona Pandemic, we decided to return to the first subject:

Accepted life - Nazareth

In the image of Nazareth Charles de Foucauld recognises Jesus who, as a child in a manger, accepted to become one of us and led the hidden life of a simple craftsman for thirty years. For us, too, Nazareth is thus a place of incarnation, the place where we can experience and accept our own life as given and therefore embraced.
The apostle Paul describes it thus in the letter to the Philippians: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2,5-11)

Change of location
He descended with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them‘ (Lk 2.51) He descended: His whole life long he did nothing but go down. He went down in becoming flesh, he went down in becoming a baby, went down in obeying, went down in becoming poor, rejected, persecuted, crucified, in always taking the lowest place” (Charles de Foucauld: The last place). The normal life that all people share, in the family, where we live, at work, in the everyday effort and conflict of our lives, with all its limitations. Often we can only keep going, endure the situation and try not to let fear or hatred take over. In spite of the need for "Social Distance" we can still carry out the small signs of human closeness and solidarity.

Be accepted - Accept

Charles de Foucauld was a seeker after truth and meaning, looking for acceptance and love. He attempted to satisfy this longing in numerous ways; whether in his youth by devouring books, or during his military service by hosting riotous parties, whether in his provocative relationship with Mimi, or in his Morocco expedition. It was only after his return that he started to immerse himself in the love of Jesus and through him to find acceptance from God, his father. We need the experience of being accepted to be able to accept our life and other people. We need this consciouness of being children, accepted and beloved children, daughters and sons of God, so that we can also say „My Father“ to God and „My sisters and brothers“ to all people, to our fellow creatures and to the whole creation.

Brother to all - All brothers and sisters

Muslims, Jews, to look on me as their brother, the universal brother. They start to call the house a Fraternité, and this is dear to me.“ (Letter to Mme.de Bondy) Blessed Charles directed his ideal of total surrender to God towards an identification with the poor, abandoned in the depths of the African desert. In that setting, he expressed his desire to feel himself a brother to every human being,[286] and asked a friend to “pray to God that I truly be the brother of all“ He wanted to be, in the end, “the universal brother”. Yet only by identifying with the least did he come at last to be the brother of all. May God inspire that dream in each one of us. Amen.
(Pope Francis: Fratelli Tutti [287])

Prayer to the Creator (Fratelli Tutti)

Lord, Father of our human family,
you created all human beings equal in dignity:
pour forth into our hearts a fraternal spirit
and inspire in us a dream of renewed encounter,
dialogue, justice and peace.
Move us to create healthier societies
and a more dignified world,
a world without hunger, poverty, violence and war.
May our hearts be open
to all the peoples and nations of the earth.
May we recognize the goodness and beauty
that you have sown in each of us,
and thus forge bonds of unity, common projects,
and shared dreams. Amen.

Thus we move to a time of waiting, to the time of the Advent. We are one in our thoughts and prayers with all who suffer under the weight of this pandemic, with all who fear the effects and restrictions, with all who suffer because of isolation. In all these circumstances we wait and search confidently for the signs of His incarnation in our midst. We wish you and your families a blest yule-tide and God's blessing for the new year 2021.

Moira and Martin