The Companions of Jesus of Nazareth-a new family

Sacred Heart painted by Brother CharlesSacred Heart painted by Brother Charles

In the footsteps of Charles de Foucauld

"Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” ― Mother Teresa

1. Who are The Companions of Jesus of Nazareth ?

Walking the way of Jesus in the footsteps of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, we are a fraternity hidden in the heart of the world.

"The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Mt. 13:33).

“You are the salt of the earth” (Mt. 5:13).


Like yeast permeating dough to rise into bread and salt cutting bitterness to increase food flavor, we endeavour to allow Jesus of Nazareth to mystically present himself in our “own little world” to raise it up and cut its bitterness.

It is difficult in a world whose mentality and customs are dominated by a spirit contrary to the Gospel, to live in accordance with Jesus’ teachings on renunciation, poverty, chastity, and obedience without from time to time translating this fidelity into actions that go beyond Our Lord’s actual commandments. To some Jesus says: “If thou wilt,” and here one is no longer confronted with an obligation but rather a solicitation of love - Directory, p. 41

The family of Blessed Charles de Foucauld has grown and evolved over time, with religious congregations beginning and developing in a variety of countries throughout the world. The Little Sisters of Nazareth, for instance, were founded in Belgium and are primarily Belgian women. Religious congregations have been founded in Vietnam, as well as lay communities in several other countries. They came into existence as a zealous response to concrete needs.

One such unique community was developed by a Parisian French priest named Jean Francois Six. It was, and remains, a way for isolated people from many countries to connect and receive nourishment from the spirituality of Br. Charles in a non-territorial way of communication. His bi-yearly letters are translated into several languages and then sent to those in the Association he lovingly guides. It was unpopular in the USA and other English speaking countries primarily due to the language barrier and the difficulty to translate the material of an ongoing project.

The Companions of Jesus of Nazareth is built upon Jean Francois Six’s inspiration and model.

Only time will tell if this is to become a new family of the Foucauld family. However, that’s not very important, because the Companions are not about them but about you .

It is entirely free to become a member of this growing family. >Becoming a member begins with a 24-month program, after which you may take a private promise (not a vow) to live your particular Foucauld vocation in a hidden and yet dynamic way, whatever your state of life may be. Consider it a call within a call . The lessons for the 24 months consist primarily of writings about Br. Charles and the spirituality of living the gospel in a life of intimacy with JESUS. Br. Charles, then, is simply like a signpost directing a way that happens to pass right where you live. It is an obscure, narrow way in your own little sphere of the world. Upon this ordinary, hidden way, one is driven by love for Jesus in every person and place He lives.

This is the beginning of something new. The life and spirituality of Blessed Charles has remained French in many ways. Many of the Foucauld resources are not yet available in English. The Companions of Jesus of Nazareth are beginning as a North American community in a world quickly changing technologically, politically, socially, and culturally. As former traditions have been tossed away, we are like Jeremiah standing at the crossroads.

“Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls” Jer.6:16).

For the Companions, then, Blessed Charles stands with Jeremiah and points the way down ancient paths that walk with Jesus in Nazareth. The way is open to expand in time beyond these small national borders to other parts of the world, to grow into a beautiful catholicism.

2. Who is called to belong to The Companions of Jesus of Nazareth ?

Anyone may belong. We are brothers and sisters to all. All are invited in this way.

3.Jesus invites us, drawn by the charism of Br Charles: Nazareth. All are invited in this a way. It goes further up and further in to a mystical Nazareth. Here, Jesus calls Companions of Jesus of Nazareth for his own sake. To love Jesus for his own sake is to love him because he is our beloved brother, Lord, and is lovable, and worthy of all our love. It is to love Jesus not for our gain, but because we feel a passionate and dynamic love.

“Were not our hearts burning within us…”

The members of the Fraternity have come together “for Jesus’ sake” in the literal sense of the term, and in order to learn to know Him, to love Him more, and to pray to Him better.

They have come together also “for the Gospel’s sake”, because they have, each in his own way, received a call from God to conform their lives more to the teachings in the Gospel, and in particular, Our Lord’s precept:

“This is my commandment, that you should love one another, as I have loved you.” Directory, p. 39

By our entry into the Fraternity, we are bidden to live according to the spirit and example of Brother Charles of Jesus. In other words, we recognize Brother Charles of Jesus as our guide for his having received the grace to transmit to us a certain spirit and to help us to live by it. This ideal must therefore be defined, for this pursuit can alone give the Fraternity its true character and bring about unity in its members. The example of Brother Charles of Jesus is not only a lesson for us; it is also an instigation to live in the total generosity which was his.

As with Brother Charles of Jesus, Christ must become the very center of our lives. We must learn to live both for Him and by Him. To forget ourselves; to accept, or even sometimes to seek what comes hard to us; to persevere courageously in prayer; to keep our hearts always open to others and full of understanding readiness; to love at our own expense those who are close to us and broaden our hearts to the dimensions of humankind – such is the effort, and we understand quite easily the necessity of it. Directory, pp. 46-47

Companions of Jesus of Nazareth form a community of the Gospel and the Eucharist without any grandiose ideals to change the world, but with humble acceptance to change one’s own world. The Gospel calls “our own little world” Nazareth. In this home, the conversion of myself is the conversion of those around me.

We honor our identity as persons called and living Nazareth in our limited world. We may not be called to public leadership in any way, but the hidden, sometimes monotonous, and boring daily life is where I find Jesus in my own Nazareth.

While The Companions live our Nazareth fed by the Sacramental Life of the Roman Catholic Church, the we lovingly include any and all of those who see themselves outside of the institutional church, for whatever reason. They are joined with us by the one Jesus, who is Lord of all. We judge no one unworthy of our love, for no one is unworthy of the unconditional love of God poured out in the Blood of Christ. We see each person as worthy of our love just as is God Himself.

We are fed by the Eucharist (especially if we can attend daily Mass), meditate on the daily Gospel from the lectionary, and attend to the Eucharistic Lord exposed upon the altar whenever possible. Yet, we remember that even Brother Charles was deprived of daily mass and adoration months at a time. This deprivation was sustained by a constant longing of the heart to sit before the Lord again in this privileged way. Both the Eucharist and the daily Gospel are the one table where Jesus feeds us, and reveals Himself to us, in an intimate heart to heart exchange.

This communion with Jesus is also found in a dynamic sharing with all the people of the entire world, knowing they are the living body of Christ. Our spirituality is never a privatized spiritual life, for there is no true union with Jesus without a union with others. As long as one person is not free, all of us are not free. When one person is hungry, we are all hungry.

Like the model and pattern provided by Brother Charles of Jesus, our love is fraternal, rather than paternal love. We are equitable and inclusive friends of every person, little brothers and sisters of everyone. As Brother Charles of Jesus loved to think of himself as the “universal brother,” so the Companions of Jesus of Nazareth embrace a brotherly and sisterly love, which avoids any sense of arrogance, judgment, or condescension. The charism of Brother Charles hates the sin of paternalism, clericalism, and nationalism that he found in his time. Nationalism may lead to a sense of superiority that breeds a paternalistic attitude to the unique differences of others. We honor and encourage the differences in other cultures. We are to be, as Brother Charles called himself, the universal brother.

We are especially called to engage the periphery. For Brother Charles, the periphery was among the Tuaregs. The periphery consists of the people who least matter to anyone: the invisible poor, the marginalized, and those who don’t fit. We look at, love, and accept the persons in front of us. We interact with them as they are at this moment in front of us. Whatever the past or present life’s issues are that may define them, we accept and bond with them as the tangible love of God for them - and as Brother Charles would have done. The Tuaregs in the Sahara where Brother Charles lived never understood him or his mission. His love for them was never dependent on their returning that love. As blood and water flowed from the pierced side of Christ, so our love is that love of Jesus poured out for those invisible poor who have no power or prestige. The Tuaregs may live on our street or even be within our families. Poverty in our 21 st century is not only an economic moral issue. We can see and acknowledge many new tragic forms of poverty: loneliness, rejection, homophobia, and sexism among the many. Through this Christ-like process that engages social peripheries, The Companions of Jesus of Nazareth crucify this “us-them” relationship to become united in a fraternal “we.”

Holy familyHoly family

4. The Message of Charles de Foucauld: “Let us return to the Gospel ”

Following the way of the great saints who, like Francis of Assisi, are raised up by God to recall Christian people to the demands of the Gospel, Charles de Foucauld restated the most essential: “Let us return to the Gospel. If we do not return to the Gospel, Jesus will not live in us.” To return to the Gospel is to allow Jesus of Nazareth to live in us through a life of poverty of spirit and of availability to all by putting ourselves in the last place, and committing ourselves to humanity. Brother Charles, filled as he was with the passionate love of Christ, was wholeheartedly committed to the Gospel. It is from that source that we, members of his Family but many others with us, draw strength and inspiration. The Little Guide, p. 14

"Brother Charles invites all faithful to seek the strength to nourish their spiritual life and to proclaim the Gospel to the men and women of our time in the contemplation of Christ and in an intimate relation with him," the Pontiff explained. "In this way, they will become servers of the meeting between God and humanity." (Zenit.org, 2001)


What articulates the “charism” of following Jesus of Nazareth in the footsteps of Blessed Charles?

It is the purpose of the Fraternity to help its members to respond to the call Jesus has made to them; and it is owing to the fact of such a call that it is possible to speak of a “vocation” to the Fraternity.

The call can, however, vary in its form. At the least there must be a feeling of uneasiness at leading just an ordinary Christian life lacking in veritable generosity, together with a determination to get oneself out of one’s mediocrity. Others will feel more definitely impelled to a more generous gift of self in prayer, poverty, and charity. It is here that the call may be differentiated, especially in the beginning, according to situations, temperaments, and the liberty of grace. To enter the Fraternity, it is necessary to have decided to make a sincere and loyal effort to live the ideal it proposes. The individual starting –point is of little matter; the sole condition is that one shall have made up one’s mind to start out, with that confidence which comes from the certainty of answering a call from the Lord. Directory, p. 42


5. Expectations:

1.) Formation before private promise

After reading, meditating, or digesting the month’s lesson from the provided reading program, you are asked to give your response, in any way appropriate to you, by sending it via email to the coordinator of The Companions of Jesus of Nazareth . Your response is not corrected, graded, or compared to anyone else. It will not be shared in any way, unless you give specific permission to do so. The length of your response is not important.

The 24-session study program is not simply about accumulating intellectual knowledge. Rather, it is the story of who it the de Foucauldian family, and how you belong to it in a unique and mystical way.

The period of formation is two years. Each month we engage in a new lesson oriented to deepen a life of the Gospel, learn the charism of Brother Charles, and live in hidden communion and intimacy with Jesus; growing in our own Nazareth, just as Jesus grew up in that tiny village. Everything needed for the two-year (24 month) school of Nazareth is available for you on the Internet at no cost. You can begin the two-year period any time, as long as you follow the 24-month schedule.

Br. Charles wrote that “prayer is thinking of God while loving him.” The process of growth in prayer is a dance between knowledge and love. This program aims to foster a deeper life of prayer by building a minimum of theological knowledge to waltz with love. Through this growth, one ultimately aims at contemplation.

2.) Promise

At the end of the 24-month formation period you may, with the discernment of your spiritual director, make a promise to be a part of the Jesus Caritas family for one year. At the end of this year you may make the promise indefinitely. The promise is private. It is not a vow, and it is not binding under canon law of the Catholic Church. One doesn’t need the permission of a priest or other ministers of the Church to discern The Companions . Since the promise is private, it is between you, Brother Charles of Jesus, and God. Use of a spiritual director is most important. It is desirable that the promise is made before, during, or after mass; and especially on an important feast of Solemnity. Such holy days become holy waypoints in one’s own spiritual journey. The praying of the promise occurs in the hidden cell of your heart. The self-directed promise is a hidden and secret bond between the beloved and The Beloved, like Nazareth.

Normally, there will be two parts to the text of the consecration; the first will be more general and relate to the essential demands of the Fraternity ideal; the second may carry either a more personal promise or the offering of a resolution bearing on the three essential demands of the Fraternity: prayer, fraternal charity, and the effort in poverty. This second part will ordinarily not be definitive, because a resolution has to be able to be renewed or modified according to what Our Lord asks in an ongoing manner. Directory, pp. 45-46

Better than any other means, an act of consecration expresses the attitude of adoration in which we propose to answer Jesus’ call.

Such an act constitutes a gift of self which can be made only to God. Consecration is, indeed, a way of delivering over to God an object, a promise of oneself in such a way that the object or person offered shall belong to Him in a manner that is fitting to God alone. This offering of ourselves to the Lord with our promise is the best answer we can make to His call.

We could, of course, respond without giving our answer the form of a consecration or promise, generous though it may be. Nor is this required for admission to the Fraternity. It nevertheless remains both the natural expression and term of a true intimacy with Jesus and of a loving adoration of His Divine Person, as proposed and lived by the Fraternity in the wake of Brother Charles of Jesus. With consecration, the position is the same as with religious vows in that it adds nothing to the baptismal engagement; on the other hand, it defines better what is aimed at in its actual realization and in its employing of certain means in order to more surely achieve the perfection of charity. Directory, p. 44


Charles de Foucauld meditated frequently on the cross. In a letter to his sister, he wrote:

“Through the cross we are united to Him, who was nailed on it, our heavenly spouse. Every instant of our lives must be accepted as a favor, with all that it brings of happiness and suffering. We must accept the cross with more gratitude than anything else. Our crosses detach us from earth and therefore draw us closer to God.”

6. NAZARETH

The basic attitude of Nazareth is the fraternal love of a brother or a sister.

It is this face of Jesus that has seduced us; it is in his steps that we want to walk, by choosing to live among the simple people, among the poor. But people sometimes say to us, “You are deluding yourselves. And anyway, whether you like it or not, you are not like the poor". And that is true. Even for those of us who come from modest families, the education we have received, the guarantees of security that the community gives us, the absence of worry about the future of our relatives, distances us from the situation of the real “little ones”. What are we to do?

Perhaps we should begin by saying that destitution and certain forms of deprivation and poverty (physical, cultural, educational) are evils that we need to combat. It is not destitution that I choose, but I choose to live with people who suffer from destitution, to struggle with them in order to get out of it, seeking with them. That means that I refuse to take myself out of it on my own and that I accept, out of friendship for them, the deprivations they suffer from. Struggling against these deprivations, while bearing them with them, is not, perhaps, totally foreign to the attitude of offering our life from day to day.

A second thing that it is necessary to say is that, in any case, it is not a matter of being like the poor, but of being with them as brothers and sisters. And there, we are not the only agents: although there is an effort of adjustment on our side to make in order to be as close as possible, another part of the process does not depend on us. We cannot be “like them”, in many ways we are not “in the same gang”, but if they feel in us the desire to join them, it is they who take us by the hand in order to bring us to their side and welcome us into their life; and they ‘forgive’ us all our riches and securities. There are so many examples many of us could give of this true welcome that takes no account of differences!

Little Sister Cathy from a book to be published in the spring of 2019 by Living City Press.

Nazareth in Ancient Times

In the time of Jesus, the city of Nazareth was most likely a small and insignificant agricultural village. However, recent archaeological excavations within the convent belonging to the Sisters of Nazareth, that is across the street from the Church of the Annunciation, uncovered artifacts and the remains of a first-century courtyard house that reinforce the argument that Nazareth was an “early Roman Jewish settlement that was larger, and perhaps slightly wealthier, than is often envisaged.” Nazareth was situated a gentle five mile walk from Sepphoris. Here were discovered a wider range of imported artifacts. This leads to a second conclusion that those closer to this latter community embraced more Roman cultural influence, while “those closer to Nazareth chose a strictly Jewish material culture, perhaps denoting a more conservative attitude to religious belief and concepts of purity and rejecting ‘Roman’ culture as a whole.” Nazareth most likely embraced a vigorous anti-Roman sentiment. That Nazareth may have been slightly larger and more wealthy than often presumed, then it would have been the kind of “small town” that a craftsman like St. Joseph would reside. “Jesus’ family was in the artisan class and likely near the bottom of the economic ladder. He would have known what it meant to be poor, and to dwell among those eking out a living” (Martin, J.). Nazareth was a backwater town, but it “was in the middle of a complex series of roads and trade routes in Lower Galilee.” (Martin, J.) Nonetheless, it had little economic importance, nor religious significance. It was not mentioned in the Old Testament or other ancient texts. It was obscure, a conservative shadow of the bigger, more cultured Sepphoris. Other archaeological excavations indicate Nazareth was settled continuously from 900 – 600 BCE, with a break in settlement until 200 BCE, from which time it has been continuously inhabited.

Quotes are from the following article: Dark, K. (2015) Has Jesus’ Nazareth house been found? Biblical Archaeology Review, 41 (2). pp. 54- 63. Martin, James. Jesus: A Pilgrimage . Harper One, 2017. pp. 70-95.

Nazareth, the Home of Mary and Joseph

During the lifetime of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, it is believed the population did not exceed 500. Nazareth was a small Jewish village where people knew one another, and like Jesus, lived, prayed and studied in the Jewish tradition. They gathered in the synagogue, meeting for prayer and holidays. To this day, visitors can see the Synagogue Church, dating from the Crusader period, which was built to commemorate the spot where it is believed Jesus prayed and preached (see Nazareth sites and attractions). The New Testament mentions Nazareth many times, referring to it as the place of the Annunciation, the home of Mary and Joseph, the town that inspired Jesus during his childhood and early manhood, and the location of his clash with fellow citizens who disapproved of his non-conventional way of thinking.

Nazareth and Early Christianity

From the 1st to the 4th century AD, the small Christian presence in Nazareth was often persecuted for their beliefs. It was only later towards the 6th century, when legends of Mary’s life began spreading, that the town of Nazareth became the Christian pilgrimage site it is to this day. During this time, the Byzantines built one of the first churches on what was believed to be the site of the Annunciation. With the arrival of the Crusaders in 1099, an era of growth began, and they built a magnificent church in Roman style. With the defeat of the Crusaders in 1291 by the Muslim army, and during Ottoman Rule (1517 – 1917) Nazareth fell into decline. It was only in 1720, when the Franciscans built a new church, that the site of the Annunciation was again revived. In 1955, the church was demolished to carry out archaeological excavations and was finally rebuilt in 1969.

Nazareth Today

Nazareth, Israel. Today modern-day Nazareth is a bustling, growing city believed to be located very close to the origins of the ancient village. It is home to the largest Arab community in Israel and has a new quarter, Nazareth Illit, populated mainly by Jews. Amongst a fascinating array of churches of many denominations, a variety of cafes and restaurants has sprung up to make Nazareth a hot spot of tourism. When you take a day tour, you can walk the cobble-stoned streets of the Old City, visit the famous spring believed to be that which fed Mary’s well, and see the remains of a cavern believed to be Joseph’s carpentry shop. The life of Jesus of Nazareth comes alive as you witness the development of Nazareth through the ages, from an isolated village of little importance to the seat of one of Christianity’s most important sites.

Nazareth by Little Brother Marc

“I lost my heart to this Jesus of Nazareth, crucified 1900 years ago, and I am spending my life trying to imitate him as much as my weakness allows.”

It is a beautiful definition of his life that Charles gives here. His story after his conversion was, in fact, before all else, the story of “a heart given and lost”, the story of a real and strong friendship with Someone living and close, whose face fascinated him: Jesus of Nazareth. And it was within the dynamic of Jesus that he wanted to place himself: (“I seek to imitate him”). But this was a search that took time, going step by step, discovering little by little. At every step, Charles tries to interpret what “the Nazareth of Jesus” is like. So

on after his conversion, while he was seeking how to give his life to God, he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and while visiting Nazareth, walking through the streets, he "glimpsed", as he said, what the life of Jesus was like: the life of a simple inhabitant of this town, one of the anonymous people whom Charles saw in the streets. This fascinated him: it was this life, with no relief, that the Son of God chose! And as he looked at them with his view as a Westerner, son of a rich family, their life seemed to him one of extreme poverty and “abjection” as he called it.

He had also in his mind the image that people had at that time of the life of the Holy Family of Nazareth: a life of perpetual silence, of constant prayer, almost one of having one’s hands together all day long! To find these conditions of silence, recollection and poverty, in an intimacy with Jesus, he chose, logically, the monastic life.

“The Gospel showed me that ‘the first commandment is to love God with all your heart’ and that everything should be enclosed in love. Everyone knows that love’s first effect is imitation; I had therefore to enter the Religious Order where I would find the most accurate imitation of Jesus. I did not feel drawn to imitate His life in public preaching: I had then to imitate the hidden life of the poor and humble worker of Nazareth”


Prayer

Blessed Charles asked each person in his community to pray the following three prayers daily. We strive to pray these prayers with gratitude, love, and devotion, rather than through the sense of duty and obligation.

The Angelus

The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

The Word was made flesh.
And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary, full of grace . . .

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
That we might be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray,
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, Lord, thy grace into our hearts; that, we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord.

Veni Creator

Come, O Creator Spirit blest!
And in our souls take up Thy rest;
Come with Thy grace and heavenly aid,
To fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
Great Paraclete! To Thee we cry,
O highest gift of God most high!
O font of life!
O fire of love!
And sweet anointing from above.
Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts art known,
the finger of God's hand we own;
The promise of the Father,
Thou! Who dost the tongue with power endow.
Kindle our senses from above,
and make our hearts overflow with love;
With patience firm and virtue high,
The weakness of our flesh supply.
Far from us drive the foe we dread,
And grant us Thy true peace instead;
So shall we not, with Thee for guide,
Turn from the path of life aside.
Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
The Father and the Son to know,
And Thee, through endless times confessed,
Of both, the eternal Spirit blest.
All glory be to the Father and the Son
Who rose from death;
the same to Thee, O Holy Ghost, eternally.
Amen.

The Prayer of Abandonment
Father, I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
For I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence, vfor you are my Father.


References to the Directory: The original “Directory” by Bl. Charles is not translated into English. “Directory” is better translated in English as “handbook.” However, parts of it were used when the Lay Fraternities updated Blessed Charles’ Directory, and privately published it for the European Lay groups. The Lay groups eventually took the name of Secular Fraternity in the 1970’s. In 2002, an updated 3rd handbook was published in English called the “Little Guide.” This is specifically for use in the fledgling North American Lay Fraternities. Lay Fraternities are now an International group within the family of the many communities associated with Charles de Foucauld. They have their own structure with national and International connections.

The Little Guide can be found on the Lay Fraternity website. There are a number of resources on our website http://charlesdefoucauld.info/resources/ Website from the United Kingdom http://www.jesuscaritas.info/jcd/

Rev Leonard J Tighe: BlChdefoucauld@gmail.com