1st December 2016, 100th Anniversary of the death of Brother Charles

Jesus CaritasJesus Caritas

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death, December 1, 1916, we have gleaned several pearls.

At the prayer vigil for the opening of the Synod on the Family, last October 3rd, Pope Francis referred to Charles de Foucauld and the spirituality of Nazareth:
"Charles de Foucauld grasped the import of the spirituality which radiates from Nazareth.  Through his apostolate of loving kindness, he became everything to everyone.  Attracted by the eremitic life, he came to understand that we do not grow in the love of God by avoiding the entanglement of human relations. For in loving others, we learn to love God, in stooping down to help our neighbour, we are lifted up to God.  Through his fraternal closeness and his solidarity with the poorest and the most abandoned, he came to understand that it is they who evangelize us, they who help us to grow in humanity.” (extracts)

With Charles de Foucauld, a way of being in today’s world.

from Marc Hayet, little brother of Jesus  (extracts)
'What do I find significant in the life and ideas of Charles de Foucauld, what are the characteristics of his message that mark me, and why do I love him?' * To go into the world without fear, encountering the farthest and the different. * To leave my comfort zone where I have my bearings, my reference points (“the Holy Land, so greatly loved”) in order to encounter the one who is farthest away and bring him the best I have. * To look at the world not as a dangerous place but as the place we can meet God. It is not the place where I live that hinders my relationship with God.  What can hamper it is my way of being in this place. If I am there lovingly, I am there with God as surely as when I am at church or in the chapel.  We could say that Recollection comes from love. * To announce the Gospel by means of an attitude of dialogue. For Charles announcing the Gospel is entering into dialogue with another person, and dialogue is not first of all putting forth my arguments in order to “lay out my wares”, if I dare say so, but respecting others in their journey and listening to what they have to tell me.   The fundamental attitude of dialogue is to believe that others are sincere and are seeking sincerely with whatever light is at their disposal; to not doubt their good faith; to not doubt their ability to open up; and to become enriched by their values.  It’s not nothing to acknowledge the good in other people, to tell them that I appreciate this good and thank God for it.  * The last word belongs to God. To trust the work of the Spirit in the heart of each person.  This is also to trust human persons and to believe that they are capable of a free and forthright response if they are faithful to the enlightenment they have received.  It is especially to reaffirm that “God wishes all of humankind to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”.   Charles, in the midst of the Arabs and the Touaregs, sought to adopt as much as possible the style of life of those among whom he lived.  The grace of this & ldquo;so little and approachable” is that this put him in a receptive disposition for recognizing and receiving the signs of God’s action in people’s hearts.  
* Living and bearing the Gospel of tenderness.   Finally today’s world is quite hard.  It is a world of competition and grief for the little and weak!  In our neighborhoods we are surrounded by people who are alone and lonely, even with their cell phones always turned on.   Our way of being in the world must be as bearers of tenderness.  I think that we have all experienced the power oftenderness in opening people up, especially when we meet wounded people.  I hope, too, that we have all experienced the tenderness that others have had for us and which has given us life again. I find that’s a wonderful portrait of the Christian in today’s world.  
Ch de Foucauld, talking to TouaregsCh de Foucauld, talking to Touaregs

Spirituality of DIALOGUE as seen in CHARLES DE FOUCAULD

By Jean François Berjonneau, of the Priests Fraternity (Diocese of Evreux, France) - extracts
We can consider Charles de Foucauld as a pioneer of dialogue, because with the Muslim populations he encountered, especially the Touaregs of Tamanrasset, he instituted this “dialogue of life” presented by the Council as the fundamental basis of all dialogue.
By devoting all his energy and much of his time to learning the language of the people where he lived and by developing the simplest of conversations rooted in the things of everyday life, Br Charles knew how to open up a dialogue between his hosts and himself, in a climate of trust, to the point that he became for them “a friend”.  He thus showed that the Mission of the Church is also to foster brotherly and sisterly relationships, respecting the differences of culture and religion.
Brother Charles began a spirituality of dialogue which can still inspire us today in our encounters not only with Muslims but also with those who do not share our faith.  
I will now give you some of the elements that seem fundamental in this process of dialogue:
Accept to go elsewhere (go out to the peripheries) To experience genuine encounter, we must always go away from being “cozily at home” to go to where the other is, to their space, their terrain.  We must accept changing scenery, getting out of our “bubbles”, and living a real migration to the other.
Fundamental respect for the freedom of others. Brother Charles never used coercion in trying to spread the faith.  While maintaining a deep desire that the Muslims with whom he lived might discover the Christian faith and the person of Christ, he always respected their freedom.  There was even a time when he understood that he would make no conversion of Muslims to the Christian faith.  But he decided firmly to live in the midst of this people with whom, in the name of Jesus, he had in some way contracted a covenant.  He wanted to pursue the dialogue of friendship already begun.  In that, he felt certain that he was in line with the spirit of the Gospel of Jesus who totally respected the freedom of those he encountered.
Jesus taught us to go out ‘as lambs in the midst of wolves’, not speaking harshly and rudely, not insulting, not bearing arms”(1912).  
It is good for us to recognize with Brother Charles that the testimony of our faith can only pass through the deepest respect of the persons we meet.   Gain their confidence which the Council invites us, calls for clarity, gentleness, humility, kindness, generosity, patience, trust, and prudence!
Brother Charles characterizes his mode of relationship as follows: “First of all, silently prepare the ground by your kindness, intimate contact, good example, loving the other from the bottom of your heart, making yourself esteemed and loved by them.  By doing that, make prejudices disappear, obtain trust, and acquire authority – this requires time – then speak in particular to the best disposed, little by little, giving to each according to what he or she is capable of receiving.” Adjust ourselves to God’s view of us and those we encounter
There is a contemplative foundation to dialogue and encounter that we must never forget. It is inhabited by the Spirit of the Risen Christ constantly calling us to go out and meet our brothers and sisters who believe otherwise than we do.  God looks at them tenderly.  Do we know how to be for them reflections of this divine kindness?
Ch de Foucauld, in conversation with a friendCh de Foucauld, in conversation with a friendIt can happen that some Muslims remind us of our own relationship with God and ask us,“And you, how do you see your relationship with God?  How do you pray?” Get together on the land of our common humanity.  
Brother Charles wanted to share as closely as possible the living conditions of the Touaregs in the midst of whom he was living.  He was not content to just live with them, though, but was interested in issues of development and how to improve the daily life of the people. He thus traced the path for a dialogue based on the common living conditions that we likewise share with the people of our neighborhoods.
When possible, instigate a spiritual dialogue.
We are together on our pilgrimage journey to the one unique God.  Above and beyond cultural and religious differences, the same love guides both he Christian and the Muslim on a path of respect, trust, and mutual listening. We Christians, with the Muslims who so desire, can meet on the ground of prayer, adoration, and the love of God and neighbor and tell each other how we situate ourselves under the eyes of God in discerning and accomplishing his Will.


This reflection shows us that the experience of dialogue is truly a spiritual path. God came in the person of Jesus to meet humankind and not to judge it.  He did not come with power and glory, but in the simplicity of Nazareth and a life shared in the midst of a people, giving his life for them.

Charles de Foucauld – crying the Gospel by his whole life

Symposium in Rome from September 10-11, 2016 - (extracts)
For the Centenary of his death, the spiritual family of Italy, with its different branches, planned a rendezvous in Rome at the Conventual Franciscans (Seraphicum) and at the Trappist Monastery of Tre Fontane.
It was beautiful to be together as a family for this festive occasion, to experience the great diversity of the participants, and to feel the joy of meeting with old friends in order to live something together.  The centenary of a death was turned into a feast because of a life given out of love for Jesus and his Gospel.  
After the word of welcome by the Postulator, Fr Bernard Ardura, the speakers (historian Maurilio Guasco, Disciple of the Gospel Sr Antonella Fraccaro, and  theologian Pierangelo Sequeri) covered the historical, spiritual, and theological aspects of the message of Brother Charles.
The panel discussion in the afternoon presented six testimonies on how today we live the spirituality of Brother Charles in the Church of Italy.  An excellent performance about Brother Charles, prepared by the “Discepoli del Vangelo” and a group of young people concluded this first day of the Congress.  The next day, Sunday, we all gathered at the Trappist Monastery of Tre Fontane for the Closing Eucharist presided over by the local bishop and followed by a meal together at our place.  
Also in Rome, the spiritual family had asked for an audience with Pope Francis.   We were thus invited to the Jubilee audience on Saturday October 22, among 100,000 pilgrims from all over.  Pope Francis did not address us in particular.  His teaching that day was centered on DIALOGUE, which seemed significant to us.

Young people of the Spiritual family of Brother Charles at Taize.

The little sisters of the Common Year share about the meeting
TaizeTaize As part of the year marking the centenary of the death of Charles de Foucauld, young people from Europe gathered at Taize from Sunday August 21st to Sunday August 28th around the theme of “crying the Gospel at the heart of the world”.  There were 85 representatives from 21 different countries and from the various families: Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of the Gospel, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel, Disciples of the Gospel, the Association for Friendship, Jesus Caritas Priests, and the Secular Fraternity.
Sunday evening, we little sisters of the Common Year joined the group that had been hiking for 5 days from Macon in the rain and sun.  The group grew from day to day until, at Taize, we became a big family of young people and adults who had either joined us on the way or once we arrived.  They were from all the various Christian denominations.  Some even came from Syria, Rumania, and Iraq.  
Each morning, we had a time of meditation on Biblical texts concerning mercy with Fr Matthew of Taize, then a time of sharing in small groups.  In the afternoons, we shared among ourselves on our theme, listened to a few testimonies and to Fr Michael Davide, met with the prior of Taize Brother Alois, and had small group sharing, workshops and various games.  
Many of us did not know Taize.  We were marked by its ecumenical spirit and found common points with the brothers in their simplicity of life and respect for others in their diversity.  
From our exchanges we can say that for us today crying the Gospel is a testimony of life in the style of the Visitation:  
- respecting others, without proselytizing, because in each person there are seeds of the Good News;
- in dialogue with other religions and especially with our Muslim brothers and sisters;
- and practicing hospitality like Abraham because hospitality “speaks” and opens up hearts to the possibility of encounter.
We returned full of joy and thanksgiving for those who organized this get-together.  It was a gift that enriched us humanly and spiritually and opened our hearts to Charles de Foucauld’sbig family.