Charles de Foucauld in 1904-1905


A Captain in the Regiment stationed at Beni-Abbes sets the scene for us.

“Fr. De Foucauld left on foot, driving in front of him a couple of donkeys which carried his modest baggage. (Laperrine was to say later “His packing is a miracle of neatness. He would make a sailor jealous.”) I had him accompanied for 75 kilometres, as far as Guerzim. There he joined up with the military convoy which was heading south. I made sure that there would be a horse available, if he wanted to use it, but afterwards I discovered that he did not do so. From there on he travelled with a charming cavalry officer, in whose tent he said Mass each morning.”
Charles himself , in his diary, explains why he undertook the journey. “A convoy is leaving this morning for the Touareg region. I can join this convoy, and maybe no other priest will have the chance for a long time, for years perhaps, so I consider it my duty to go.” What he tried to accomplish when he got there, he explained in a letter to a friend the following June: “To get into conversation, to distribute medicines and alms, to show hospitality, to insist that we are all brothers in God and that we hope one day to go to the same heaven, to pray for the Touaregs with all my heart. That’s my life.”Charles was a year away from his home at Beni Abbes. He returned in January 1905, but in May he was off again: the Touaregs had captured his heart.

Talking to TouaregsTalking to Touaregs

At he same time, he missed bitterly the silence and the regularity of the monastic life he had developed for himself. “My vocation is solitude, stability and silence.” But there was a more insistent vocation, to carry the presence and the knowledge of Jesus to a people so far away from the Church and from European civilisation. “The main element of my vocation, and of the Little Brothers (he spoke of them as though they already existed) is to imitate Jesus in his life at Nazareth, on the way of the Cross, and in his death.”