Charles de Foucauld in 1904-1905

Missionary for Christ

This was the secret of his sanctity. Maybe it also made him a little naive. His old friend Laperrine was not above using Charles for his own purposes. If he was to pacify these warring tribes, to instal a man of peace at the heart of them would be a master-stroke. More than that, a man of peace who had taken the trouble to learn the local language, but who at the same time was an intimate friend of the French army of occupation. What better ambassador could there be ? Brother Charles did not see himself as an ambassador for France, but as a missionary for Christ. But in order to achieve this, he sometimes seems in his simplicity to be too much in the Colonel’s pocket. On the other hand there were times when he became very disillusioned with the French army. There was an occasion when Laperrine, who served under the Governor-General in Algiers, came up against another officer and his troops who answered to the French Colonial Office in Paris. Laperrine had pacified the Touareg in his territory, and they were now officially the allies of France; but the other officer had done no such thing, and was still on a war footing with them, which involved sorties and attacks and bloodshed. The fault was with the chaotic and dysfunctional way the French behaved in Africa. The two officers almost declared war on one another, and it took Charles de Foucauld to calm them down. These skills he had. He was a curious mix of worldly wisdom and holy innocence.