Charles de Foucauld in 1904-1905

General Lyautey

Here’s an interesting episode. General Lyautey, a flamboyant and powerful officer, decided to visit Charles at Beni Abbes. He arrived with an entourage of junior officers. They pulled Charles away from his chapel and his prayers, laid on a highly alcoholic meal, found an old gramophone, and started to play some sexy records. Lyautey was watching de Foucauld, and wondering how long the priest would put up with this boozy military party before walking out. To his astonishment Charles didn’t walk out at all: he even joined in the laughter, stayed up most of the night, and increased the respect which the military had for him: he was still a man’s man. The next day, at 7 a.m., the General took his staff to Mass at Charles’ chapel. This is what he said.

“A hovel, that hermitage! His chapel, a miserable corridor on columns covered with rushes. A board for the altar; for decoration, a piece of calico with a picture of Christ; tin candlesticks; a flattened sardine tin with two bottles, that once held mouthwash, for cruets and tray! Our feet on the sand. Well, I’ve never heard Mass said as Father de Foucauld said it. It was one of the greatest impressions of my life.”
So that was Charles at Beni Abbes.