3 - In memory of Rene Voillaume 1905 -2003, In the footsteps of Jesus following Brother Charles

'Jesus, I would like to write about you. How and why do I give myself to this impossible task? What right do I have to speak of you to my brothers and sisters? I know very well that no one can know you unless the Father reveals you to us. Didn't you affirm yourself that

‘No one knows the Father except the Son, and no one knows the Son except the Father and the one to whom he has revealed him.’

I know that, and you are my Lord and my God. I will soon be 90 years old, and all through my life, as far back as my memory goes, you have not ceased to show yourself to my soul. I know you so little and what I have received in the way of light on the unfathomable mystery of all that you are as Son eternally engendered by the Father - it is not in my power to express this knowledge nor to communicate it. I adore you and I love you. (Unpublished text, Cepie 1995).

Brother Rene VoillaumeBrother Rene Voillaume

It is always to Jesus that we need to refer. He is everything for us: life, resurrection, path to the Father, the one who takes us to pasture, Good Shepherd, physician of souls and of our bodies. He is the one who reveals God to us through human traits; whoever has seen him has seen God. It is in his soul that we need to learn to read what we need to do in order to go towards God. There is no use in reasoning in such an area as this. Come back without tiring to the living Jesus, your friend, your brother, your Lord, your God. It is by looking at him that you will learn to become as simple as a child because you will no longer reason. It is a matter of going to him in order to be transformed in him. (Zinder, January 2nd 1951-4 la suite de Jesus, p. 4 and 10-11)

Living with Jesus and for him should become for you a life as a twosome that is just as concrete and real in the faith as the life that you lead among people. However, this life with Jesus is different from the one you lead with people because it is lived in the obscurity and nakedness of faith. You must practise thinking, living and acting while taking into account the following realities: Jesus is risen, in the fullness of life and joy, and you can have intimate and constant contact with him now.

Jesus knows you at every moment in your exterior and interior life. Jesus is constantly attentive and always knows your words when you speak to him. He is present to you in many ways that you need to get to know. Through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance, you are able to enter into contact with the humanity of Jesus in order to receive from him a divine influence that heals the evil that is in your soul and in your body, and this increases the divine life in you. Jesus has a precise plan for you, and he is waiting for you to come into contact with him through your efforts and by conforming your will to his. At every moment, it only depends on you for a collaboration to be established with Jesus which has an invisible but real effect on other people.

The encounter with Jesus in death is a certain and close eventuality: you should think about it, desire it, rejoice in it in advance, and prepare yourself, by detachment, for this painful transition. The vision of God, the eternal joy of being with Jesus and of acting with him in the world and in the heart of people, with no other limit in time and space than that of his will, that is the goal of your life, which will come quickly and should be for you, from this time onwards, a reason for joy, courage and hope. (Rule of life of the Little Brothers of Jesus).

It is 72 years ago that I encountered him, and since then he has never left me. Yes, Charles de Foucauld came to me during the winter of 1921 when I was reading the story of his life written by Rene Bazin. I was 16 years old. His love for the person, of Jesus and the extreme generosity of his character won my heart. From that day on there was a union between the two of us which oriented my whole life and never failed. And now, in the eventide of my earthly life, I have the right to affirm that I owe him everything that was best in my life. I would like to thank him for that, and to share with my brothers and sisters what I received from him. However, all through my religious life, my relationship with Brother Charles, that man of solitude and the absolute, of hard and austere life but with a tender and joyful heart overflowing with an ever-youthful love for his "beloved brother and Lord Jesus", was not always an easy relationship! Sometimes I got tired of the style of his meditations, so imaginative and so little in conformity with what the life and appearance of Jesus was in reality. There were days when I was irritated by the multitude of his resolutions which often related to the minutiae of observances. And then there was the way of life for his 'little brothers', described in his rule, which was impracticable and unrealistic because it had never been tested by experience.

Jesus and CharlesJesus and Charles

Yes, I know all that. But I always went back to him, seduced by the simplicity of his love for Jesus, a love that he tried to express in everything and at every moment of his life. It was as if he had become possessed by this love to the extent that he sometimes lost a little of his common sense. And it was that that always took me back to him. Everything was reduced to Love, and to a love that was not afraid to be foolish or ridiculous. This foolishness, this unlimited imprudence did me good, refreshed my heart and scourged my rational temperament, my cowardice, my fear of giving everything without counting the cost. In him I found courage, a purity without shadow, and a path of asceticism: an asceticism without which we drag our feet, prisoners of our burdens, our mediocrity and our lazy selfishness. I never tried to adapt him to what I was living, in my world in my times. I took him as he was, as he thought, felt and lived. (Unpublished text, Cepie 1993).