Charles de Foucauld in 1904-1905

Future Missionaries

That intensity of love shows itself in the way he would plant himself in front of the Blessed Sacrament and pour out his heart - often on paper, in his characteristic clear spidery writing, in pencil or black or violet ink. The diary that he kept was kept out of obedience to the Bishop. But it gave Charles the chance to be almost obsessive in his exactness. On the journey we are describing today he jotted down instructions for future missionaries. How to make a water skin, when to pray, what to wear, what sort of camels to use ... not the very fast ones like the troops; not the very slow ones like the baggage trains. The best alms to distribute: dates for preference. If there is space in the missionary’s luggage he should bring vegetables with him, chillies, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, beetroots, turnips, pumpkins, onions; date fig, apricot and peach saplings. For every projected month of his stay the missionary should carry 130 needles, 50 handkerchiefs and a pair of scissors, for trading purposes. Then the medicines. Zinc sulphate for eye conditions, mercury for syphilis, potassium iodide for rheumatism, quinine for fevers, bismuth for intestinal complaints. And so, on and on. He sounds like a military quartermaster. Charles de Foucauld was a very exact man, with a talent for planning and micro-management which perhaps he had learned in the army, or maybe inherited from his noble forebears. The tragedy is that his very intensity frightened people who did not know him. When he was laying the foundations for the Little Brothers of the Sacred Heart he went so far as to design their first monastery in all its detail, actually sketch it out, as well as write a Holy Rule for them. But there never were any Little Brothers of the Sacred Heart. In his intensity, Charles left people behind.