Pope Francis and Charles de Foucauld - 100th anniversary and the Synod on the Family


On December First it will be exactly one hundred years since Charles de Foucauld fell to the ground like a grain of wheat. On the occasion of this centenary, we thought we would prepare a special issue of the News of the Fraternities so that we might listen again to the voice of Charles speaking to us of themes which were very dear to him.

But how should we choose them? Pope Francis inspired our response. During the year 2015, the Pope explicitly mentioned Charles de Foucauld on several occasions: when speaking of work in the Encyclical “Laudato Sii”; when speaking about evangelization in a secular context during a retreat for priests in June. The most recent reference can be found on October 3, 2915, in the Pope’s meditation during a prayer vigil in St. Peters Square on the eve of the opening of the synod on the family. It is a very beautiful text on the way that Charles de Foucauld nourished his spiritual life in the contemplation of the “Family of Nazareth” and an invitation to look upon family life today in the light of the family of Jesus. Obviously, we were particularly moved by the way the Pope expressed himself: it left the impression that he had deeply assimilated the thought of Foucauld to the point where he expressed himself in terms very similar to those used by Charles.

So we will begin by reading a long excerpt from this papal homily, then we will pick up some of his key points, illuminating them by the texts of Charles de Foucauld.

This issue is special in another way: it has been prepared and published in common by the Little Brothers of Jesus and the Little Brothers of the Gospel. As you know, in 2015 “Rome” approved the statutes of the federation that our two Fraternities have formed together. The common publication of this issue of News of the Fraternities is a way of affirming, during this centenary year, our desire to walk together, like brothers who draw water from the same well.

NB: Charles uses the language of his epoch and it takes a bit of effort to enter into his “style”. But certain words he employs have changed their meaning over the course of time. To make the text easier to read, we have sometimes replaced these words with their modern-day equivalent. We always give references so that those who wish to do so can read the original text.

Charles de Foucauld and the Family of Nazareth

Excerpt from a talk given by Pope Francis on St. Peter’s Square at the prayer vigil in preparation for the opening of the synod on the family (October 3, 2015).

“Each family is a light, however weak, in the obscurity of this world.

The very history of the presence of Jesus among the people takes form within a family, where he will remain for 30 years. His family was a family like many others, living in a village lost on the borders of the Empire. Charles de Foucauld, perhaps like few others, sensed the implications of the spirituality which emanated from Nazareth.

This great explorer, hastily abandoned his military career, fascinated by the mystery of the Holy Family, by the daily relationships of Jesus with his parents and neighbours, working silently and praying humbly.

Fixing his gaze on the Family of Nazareth, Brother Charles became aware of the sterility of the desire for riches and power; he lived “entirely devoted” to all people through the apostolate of kindness; although he felt attracted to the life of a hermit, he understood that a person does not grow in the love of God by avoiding the servitude of human relations. Because it is by loving others that we learn to love God; it is by bending down towards our neighbour that we are raised up to God Himself.

Through fraternal proximity and solidarity with the poorest and most abandoned, he understood that, in the end, they are the ones who evangelize us by helping us to grow in humanity. In order to understand the family of today, let us also enter – like Brother Charles – into the mystery of the Family of Nazareth, in its hidden, ordinary and common life, like most of our families do , with their pains and simple joys; a life made up of serene patience when things go wrong, of respect for the condition of each person, with this humility which liberates, and flourishes by rendering services; a fraternal life which surges from the fact of sensing one’s self as part of a single body.

The family is a place of evangelical holiness, realized in the most ordinary conditions. Within it, we breathe the memory of generations and cast roots which enable us to go far. It is a place of discernment, where we learn to recognize the design of God on our own lives and to embrace it with confidence. It is a place of gratuity, of a discreet, fraternal presence in solidarity, which teaches us to go out from ourselves, to receive the other, to pardon and experience pardon.”

NAZARETH, a life with Jesus and the Holy Family

Holy Family at Nazareth by Brother CharlesHoly Family at Nazareth by Brother Charles
“This famous explorer hastily abandons his military career, fascinated by the mystery of the Holy Family, by the daily relationships of Jesus with his parents and neighbours, working silently and praying humbly.”

"Holy Virgin, Saint Joseph, take me with you and seat me at the feet of our Lord.

Make me live my life of Nazareth with you, that is to say His life of Nazareth, this life so lost in God, so contemplative; the whole life of Jesus , both lost in God and so contemplative; He never lost the presence of His Father; he gazed upon Him unceasingly, to adore Him unceasingly, to unceasingly doing His will; my food is to do the will of My Father…I am not alone, my Father is always with me, for I always do what is pleasing to Him…You leave me alone, but I am not alone for My Father is with me…be that at Nazareth, in the desert or in Your public life, Your inner life, O Jesus, has always been the same: always and everywhere, You were equally lost, plunged into God…Your occupations changed exterioraly but even though you accomplish perfectly all Your exterior acts, [..] you never ceased to be interioraly in the abyss of God. O Jesus, make me live this life of continual contemplation which will never cease to be yours and which was the source, the foundation of Your existence, […] You have given me a life of prayer, of reading, of humble labour where I speak little, very little, and where I eat, but very little, poorly, simply: it is Your life of Nazareth, recollected, silent, poor, self-effacing, laborious….O Jesus, make me lead it perfectly, in You, by You and for You!...Give the same grace to all Your children for Your glory!
July 20, 1898 at Nazareth, Meditation on the Feast Days of the Liturgical Year, page 486

Be humble, humble in your sentiments since you have very low sentiments of yourself, humble in your words, in your acts, humble in your whole life, loving the little ones and socializing with them, humble in your manners, humble in taking the last place everywhere and always; humility always.
March, 1898, Nazareth, Cry the Gospel from the Rooftops, page 106

The Apostolate of Kindness

Fixing his gaze on the Family of Nazareth, Brother Charles became aware of the sterility of the desire for riches and power; he became all things to all peoples through the apostolate of kindness

Let us fear riches; they are not an evil in themselves for God is infinitely rich, but, given our weakness, they are a great danger for we run the risk of attaching ourselves to them and, in that measure, they detach us from God. Above all, above all let us be poor by pure love, in order to resemble Jesus Who was poor! Let us be poor through obedience to His word since He has so often recommended poverty and turned aside from riches…and let us be poor as He was, possessing nothing, nor using anything which poor workers cannot have.
The Goodness of God, page 251

In his notebook, Charles wrote the advice he had received from Abbe Huvelin when he visited France in 1909:

- My apostolate should be the apostolate of kindness. When people see me they should say: “Since this man is so good, his religion must be good”.
- If they ask me why I am so meek and kind, I should say: “Because I am the servant of One who is much better than I am. If you knew how good my Master JESUS is”. The priest is a monstrance, his role is to show JESUS; he should disappear and make JESUS seen;
- Try to leave a good impression in the soul of all those who come to me.
- Make myself all things to all people: laugh with those who laugh, weep with those who weep, in order to bring all of them to JESUS.
- Make myself available to all, to draw them all to Jesus.
Notebook of Tamanrasset page 188.

Let us hate sin but love sinners “for whom Christ died”; let us pray for these brothers who have gone astray and let us be kind to them. “You are all brothers for you have the same Father in Heaven; perhaps bringing this goodness to our straying brothers, will lead them to our Master. Every Christian is a monstrance; as much as is possible for the great human misery, he should make Jesus be seen in him, above all Jesus in the love and kindness of His Heart.
Letter to Pierre Leroy, March 24, 1916, Tamanrasset
1903 with wounded soldiers at Taghit, near Beni Abbes1903 with wounded soldiers at Taghit, near Beni Abbes
In many texts of the final period of his life, Charles often invokes the evangelizing role of Priscilla and Aquila, a married couple who collaborated with St. Paul, as models of this apostolate by an ordinary life, permeated by the Gospel, lived out among the people:

To sell cretonne and blue cotton at reasonable prices. Here you have a very simple way to make everyone come to you, of finding the doors wide open, of breaking the ice…if, in doing so, the seller is a good person, a good impression is made, friends will be made all over the region and that is the beginning…..honest small French merchants would be welcomed with joy by the authorities who are ashamed of their compatriots established in the South; the only Frenchmen who set up shop in the Oasis are sellers of alcohol…it is shameful! Christians like Priscilla and Aquila are needed, silently doing good while leading the life of poor merchants; in relationship with everyone, they would be esteemed and loved by all and they would do good to everyone…they would earn their living without difficulty, the authorities would receive them with open arms; there would be no obstacle; they only have to be found’
Letter to Father Voillard, December 13,1905, Tamanrasset

Every Christian should be an apostle; […] Be an apostle, but how? By the best means, adapting themselves to those to whom they are speaking; with all those with whom they are in contact, without exception, by kindness, tenderness, fraternal affection, the example of virtue, always through humility and meekness, which are very attractive and very Christian; with some, never speaking a word about God or religion, being patient, as God is patient, being good as God is good, loving, being a tender brother and praying; with others, speaking of God, in the measure in which they accept that […] Above all, seeing every human being as a brother – “You are all brothers, you have a same Father Who is in Heaven” – see every person as a child of God, a soul saved by the blood of JESUS, a soul loved by JESUS, a soul we should love as ourselves, and for whose salvation we work. Banish the militant spirit far from us; í send you as sheep among wolves’ says JESUS. And what a great distance there is in this way of doing things and speaking as did JESUS and the militant spirit of those who are not Christians - or bad Christians- and see enemies who must be combatted instead of seeing sick brothers in need of healing, wounded people on the edge of the road to whom we should be the Good Samaritan.
Letter to Joseph Hours, May 3, 1912, Tamanrasset

What do we do for the evangelisation of our African Empire N W. It could be said that we don’t do anything […] We would need a large number of good priests, (not for preaching: they would be received like Turks preaching Muhammad in the villages of Brittany […] (but for making contact, making themselves loved, inspiring esteem, confidence, friendship, breaking down the barriers between themselves and the people, preparing the field before sowing ); it will then be necessary to have good Christian lay people of both sexes to fill the same role, to make even closer contact, to enter there where a priest cannot go, especially, in the homes of Moslems, give an example of Christian virtues, show what a Christian family is like, the Christian spirit; next we would need good women religious, with or without the religious habit, who would tend to the sick and raise the children who are very mixed in with the population, broken up into groups of two or three in places where there is a priest and several Christians…Don’t seek to make conversions for a long while, but love, be kind and the conversions will come by themselves after a variable time – 25 years, maybe 50, maybe 100 years but they will come of themselves, as the fruit ripens in the measure in which religious instruction will spread.
1909 - Construction of the house in Tamanrasset1909 - Construction of the house in Tamanrasset
But if these unfortunate Moslems do not know any priest, if they see so-called Christians who are unjust exploiters, tyrannical and harsh, giving an example of vice, how will they be converted, why would they not hate our Holy Religion, how will they not become our enemies, little by little?
[…] I will add another observation: whether we want to administer our African Empire well or evangelize it, it is necessary to know its population. But we know very little about it: that is due, in part, to Moslem customs: but that is an obstacle that can be overcome. There is still the deplorable fact that we are ignorant of our African population to a frightening degree: I have hardly left North Africa for 32 years (it was only for 10 years, time I spent in Asian Turkey, Armenia and the Holy Land); I haven’t seen anyone, be it an officer, a missionary, a colonizer or anyone else who had a sufficient knowledge of the native peoples; for my part, I know my little corner of the Touareg fairly well, but the rest I know only very superficially. There is a vice which must be corrected = administrators, officers and missionaries should have closer contacts with the population, long stays at the same post (with promotions for administrators and officers within their posts) so that they might know the people and report with exactitude to their superiors and those who will be informed by these functionaries.
Letter to Fitz-James, December 11, 1912, Tamanrasset

The confidence shown to me by the neighbouring Touaregs is growing; old friends have become more intimate; new friendships are being formed. I do services for them as best I can, I try to show them that I love them; when the occasion seems favourable, I speak of natural religion, of God’s commandments, of His love, of union to His Wil, of love of neighbor…I don’t think that I should go too fast: that would alienate them….The Touaregs have the same character as our good rural folk in France, of the best of our peasants. Like them, they work hard, are prudent, do not waste money, are distrustful of novelties and full of suspicion concerning persons and things that they do not know…[…] Truth will only be acquired over a long period of time, through intimate contact, much virtue and the blessing of God.
Letter to Father Voillard, July 12, 1912, Tamanrasset.

In a letter to White Father after the death of Mgr. Guerin, his bishop and his friend, Charles describes the model of evangelization which he has developed It is particularly suited to the apostolate in the Sahara. If the priest is a monstrance everywhere, who should disappear so that Jesus might be shown, without any other role than to make Him seen, it is all the more true in these places where most of the souls cannot be reached, neither by offering them dogma, nor by slowly drawing near to them through the school, but only by letting them see a sort of radiance of the goodness of JESUS and trying to make them say: “since this man is so good, his religion must be good”. The Reverend Father Guerin was made for such an apostolate of kindness, he who was so humble, so meek, such a faithful imitator of the HEART of JESUS.

The love of God and love for people

“Although he felt himself attracted to the life of a hermit, he understood that a person does not grow in the love of God by avoiding the servitudes of human relations. Because it is by loving others that we learn to love God; it is by bending down towards our neighbour that we are raised up to God Himself.”

We do not have two hearts, as someone once said to me, one of fire for God and one of ice for people; we only have one and the more it is warm for God, the more it will be warm for those whom God gave us to love.
Letter to L-J Balthasar. April 30 1893. Trappist Monastery of Akbès.

We have only one heart, the same heart with which we love God is that with which we love people; if our heart becomes warm, takes fire, melts in the practice of the love of neighbour, in that same measure will it be more warm, more tender for loving God. Our heart cannot be a flame for God and ice for people; nor of fire for people and of ice for God. It is of ice or fire, warm or cold; if it is warm for God, it will be warm for people. Thus the more our heart increases in warmth by applying itself to the love of people, the more it makes itself capable of loving God. What they say is true – that if you want to acquire love for God, the best manner of doing so is to apply the heart to loving people. In this way, the love of neighbor is not only one of the most certain signs of the love of God but also one of the surest means of acquiring it.
To the Least of my Brethren, page 137.

For my immediate installation, two places seem habitable to me: 1) the rocks on the right bank of the wadi, 2) the summit of the gara of Tit (about 120 meters above the valley) […] The second place has the advantage of being far from people and from noise and conducive to solitude with GOD…the first place has the inconvenience of being near people and exposed to a lot of visits […] May the Spouse deign to tell me which of the two locations He wants for me today: “Today and in the future, if you can do so, set me up at the first site in caves similar to those of Bethlehem and Nazareth, where you have both the perfection of imitating me and that of charity; as for as contemplation goes, it is love which ought to draw you into Me interiorly and not distancing yourself from my children; see Me in them; like I did at Nazareth, live near to them while lost in God. In these rocks where I Myself have led you in spite of yourself, you have the imitation of my dwellings at Bethlehem and Nazareth, the imitation of My whole life at Nazareth, charity for the inhabitants of the place and the travellers nearby; the hope of doing more good by being more in contact with souls, that of having someday brothers living in a place where they can multiply and become a regular fraternity; finally, and this is immense, you have the presence of the very holy Sacrament within a short time, since you can set up the oratory in just a few days”.
Notebook of Beni-Abbes, May 26, 1904

My duty is also simple: to love, to love God and neighbor, to love my neighbor to arrive at the love of God, these two loves always go together: to believe in one, is to believe in the other: to grow in one, is to grow in the other. How to acquire the love of God? By practicing charity towards people.
Letter to Louis Massignon, August 31, 1910, Tamanrasset

To allow one’s self to be evangelized by the poor

“Through fraternal proximity and solidarity with the poorest and most abandoned, he understood that, in the end, they are the ones who evangelize us, by helping us to grow in humanity.”

At every step in his life, Charles notes with admiration what he has received in the way of example, from the generosity and simultaneous simplicity of those around him.

Hadj Bou Rhim, Bel Quasem el Hamouzi, you who risked your lives to protect me from danger, you to whom I owe my life, whose distant memory fills me with emotion and sadness, where are you now? Are you still alive? Will I ever see you again? How to express my gratitude and my regret of not being able to prove it to you?
Finally, may all those whom I do not mention – not because I have forgotten you but because their list would be too long, please accept the homage of my gratitude.
Introduction to Reconnaissance au Maroc, Octobre, 1887, Paris

At St Jean de Luz, 1913, during a trip to France with OuksemAt St Jean de Luz, 1913, during a trip to France with OuksemWhen I mend the clothing of these little orphans, I tell myself how happy I am to do this job which was so common in the house of Nazareth and think of how much you would be happy to be doing it. […] Imagine that, for three days last week, I had a strange task: the maid who takes care of the orphans became a bit sick and I was given the responsibility of replacing her during the day, another replaced her at night; from 5:3/4 of the morning until 6:1/2 of the evening I took care of these poor children without leaving them for a minute; you can imagine how it seemed odd to me to suddenly find myself watching out for 9 little Turks from 6 to 15 years old (there are only 9 of them at this moment); I couldn’t keep from thinking about those who say that a person enters the religious life so as to avoid the cares of life, when I saw myself in the middle of this little family […] These poor children were as nice as possible during my three days of supervision; they couldn’t have made my job any sweeter; pray a bit for them; what will become of these little children?
Letter to Marie de Bondy, November 29, 1893, Trappist monastery of Akbès

During these days I’m sort of taking care of a good Maronite novice; since the two religious who know Arab well are absent, I was asked to speak to him a bit; he is a convert, about 30 years old, a good worker, without much instruction, but strong as a Turk. It’s wonderful to see the simplicity, confidence, the humility of this beautiful soul and, at the same time, the graces the good Lord has given him; he has marvelous gifts of prayer; I tell you about him because the very sight of him edifies me and makes me look at myself; when I see the differences between us, it frightens me and makes me touch with my finger the truth of Our Lord’s word when He says that He reveals Himself to the little and humble”…How this is true and I see it when I am confronted with the virtues, graces and spiritual gifts in the soul of this poor worker!
Letter to Marie de Bondy, November 29, 1983, Trappist monastery of Akbes

The community of Akbes(Charlesis not in the photo)The community of Akbes(Charlesis not in the photo)

You can always address me, in all confidence, if you want some advice about your state of soul; for I am convinced that, one day, you will be as Christian as I am – I don’t say that you will become a hermit – St, Louis wasn’t – but you will be a Christian: you already are, without knowing it; you are profoundly affectionate and totally disinterested; you are perfectly frank and loyal; you love only truth and justice and you walk straight to where you find them: you are courage itself and when you see something good which can be done, you do it without a shadow of hesitation: such a soul is a Christian soul. A heart which is affectionate, disinterested and righteous is always a Christian heart…
Letter to Louise de Foucauld 1st july 1897, Nazareth

I bless you for having done all you could do to give the benefit of the truth of Islam to souls and for ridding them of this burden of fables that make you groan every time that you hear them.. Is it astonishing that the Moslems have invented false ideas of our religion when almost all of us has fantastic idea about their beliefs?...You re-establish the truth concerning “the destiny of the Turk” and the “paradise of Mahomet”, and you have painted a remarkably accurate picture of this extreme simplicity of their customs which is so beautiful and of great decency... I cannot refrain from telling you again that I was very edified by your book and found numerous examples to imitate.
Letter to Henry de Castries, August 14, 1901, Notre Dame des Neiges At Beni Abbes with Paul and little Abd Jesus of whom Marie de Bondy became the godmotherAt Beni Abbes with Paul and little Abd Jesus of whom Marie de Bondy became the godmother

Your godchild has been a great help to me; he serves my Mass every morning as best he can! while nibbling away at his breakfast; thanks to him, I can celebrate Mass before the soldiers get up, before the day and all the movement; it is a real joy to have peace at that moment.
Letter to Marie de Bondy, September 12, 1902, Beni-Abbes

Pardon my handwriting; it is my own fgault to begin with but it is also a bit chilly and above all your godchild who has climbed up my knees and can’t stay still for a minute; there he sings and even dances sometimes and it seems to me that it would be better to test your patience and eyesight that to chase this poor little kid from the place where he has settled himself. He was not spoiled in his early infancy and we have to make the roof of JESUS nice for him. He has always been very kind and well-behaved; we continue to live in community, he, Paul and myself.
Letter to Marie de Bondy, November 29, 1902, Beni-Abbes

Pardon this scribbling: beside the fact that I usually write quickly and poorly, Abd Jesu is hanging from my neck and nibbling at my ears; as I’m his only playmate he has; it’s necessary to let hjim have his way; the fact that he is as happy as a chaffinch is of no little merit since he doesn’t have any other but myself as company.
Letter to Marie de Bondy, March 30, 1903, Beni-Abbes

A few days ago, I received a letter from Commandant Laperinne containing the following passage: “During the massacre ar Flatter’s Mission, a Touareg woman of a noble family had a very beautiful gesture, opposing the slaughter of the wounded, taking them into her house and treating their wounds there and refusing to let Attissi enter her home when he returned also wounded from the battle of Amguid against Dianoux and wanted to finish off the wounded himself; and when the wounded were healed, she had them repatriated to Tripoli. She is now about 40-43 years old and has a great deal of influence and is famous for her charity”. Is this soul not ready for the Gospel? Is there not reason to write her very simply to tell her that the charity she unceasingly practices and that with which she received, treated, defended and repatriated the wounded of the French Mission 22 years ago are known by us all and fill us with grateful joy to God…
God has said: “The first commandment of religion is to love God with your whole heart. The second is to love all other persons, without exception, as one’s self.” God has also said: “you are all brothers. You have a same Father, God” and “the good and evil you do to people, you do to God”. Admiring and giving thanks to God to see you practicing charity towards people, which is your second duty, the first being to love God, we are writing this letter to tell you that, among Christians where hundreds of thousands of souls, men and women, renouncing marriage and earthly goods, consecrate their lives to praying and meditating upon the Word of God and practicing kindness, all these religious men and women who will hear about you, will bless and pray to God for your virtues and will pray that He shower you with blessings upon this earth and with glory in Heaven…We are also writing to you to insistently ask that you pray for us, certain that God, who has put into your heart such a firm desire to love Him and serve Him, listens to the prayers you address to Him and we supplicate you to pray for us and all people, so that we may love and obey Him with our whole soul. To Him be glory, blessing and honor and praise, now and forever. Amen
I’m going to send a copy of this projected letter to Mgr, Guerin, asking him if wants to write it himself or if we wants me to write it – and offering him – if I establish relationships, - if I remain alone – if, at this moment it seems to be the will of God – that I go to make a very simple visit to this woman.
Notebook of Beni-Abbes, June 21, 1903

Beloved and very venerable Father,
Once again, I am obliged to change all my projects. The reason is a rather serious health problem which I secretly confided to you […] I don’t know what all that was; first there was a great general fatigue with a total loss of appetite, then I don’t know what in the chest or rather, I believe, the heart with such a shortage of breath that the least movement had me gasping for air and I thought my end was near. I kept absolutely immobile and still do. I interrupted all my work; they went and rounded up all the goats in a 4 mile vicinity who still had a bit of milk in spite of this terrible drought and the good God willed that, after having gone downhill, thanks to the goat milk, my immobility, or rather by His will rather than through human means, I evidently have bounced back. My appetite has returned, I’m obviously much better; I believe this was not the time to hear the voice of the spouse.
Letter to Mgr. Guerin, January 24, 1908, Tamanrasset
Searching for waterSearching for water
When I was sick near the end of January, among the Touaregs, people here were very kind to me; I’d like to make a few friendly gifts to some of them; that would be well received in this land where people are so poor; that makes them come out of their shell and enables us to know one another better.
Letter to Marie de Bondy, March 8, 1908, Tamanrasset

You ask me if I am not very isolated and what I do for food. . There has been very little rain: two little groups of two tents each arrived today and installed themselves nearby; on at ¾ of an hour from the hermitage, the other at 1h i/2, in the neighboring ravines; they are very nice people who have become real friends, especially the group which is nearer. Two days will not go by without someone coming to visit me; yesterday I had the visit of a grandmother, a very good woman, mother of 6 children, most opf whom are married….
Letter to Marie de Bondy, October 19, 1911, Asekrem

When the good God will make it rain, we will have so much milk that we wont know what to do The same way we all become attached with it and my neighbours bring me some every day without accepting payment for it.
Letter to Marie de Bondy, January 19, 1912, Tamanrasset

I have at least 4 “friends” here on whom I can rely totally. How did they become attached to me? The same way we all become attached to one another. I did not give them any gifts but they understood that they had a friend in me, that I was devoted to them, that they could have confidence in me and that they were for me what I was for them….I can ask them any counsel, information, service and I am sure that they will do their best.
Letter to Garnier, February 29, 1913, Tamanrasset

The mystery of the Family of Nazareth

In order to understand the family of Nazareth in our modern world, let us also enter – as did Charles de Foucauld – into the mystery of the family of Nazareth, into its hidden life, a common and ordinary life, like that of most of our families, with their sorrows and simple joys ; a life woven of serene patience in the middle of adversities, a life of respect for the conditions of each member, of this humility which finds freedom and flourishing in service; a life of fraternity which comes from feeling that one is a member of a sole body”

‘He descended with them and came to Nazareth” (Luke, 2/50)……

He came to Nazareth, the place of the hidden life, of ordinary life, of family life, of prayer, of work, obscurity, of silent virtues practiced without witnesses other than God, those very close to Him, his neighbours, witnesses of this holy, humble, kindly, obscure life which is that of the majority of people and of which He will be an example for 30 years…
June 20. 1916, Voyageur dans la nuit, page 208 Holy familyHoly family

Jesus has established you in the life of Nazareth for always: the lives of mission and solitude are only exceptions for you: practice them each time that His Will clearly indicates that for you: as soon as that is no longer clearly indicated for you, return to the life of Nazareth. – Desire the establishment of the Little Brothers and Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Follow the regime as one follows a rule, without it being a strict duty for you and only in that which is not contrary to the life of Nazareth; whether you be alone or with other brothers, take only that which is really possible for living perfectly the life of a Little Brother and Little Sister in a Nazareth which serves as a cloister, whose objective is the life of Nazareth, in everything and for everything, in its simplicity and flexibility, using the regime only as a rule which will help you to enter into the life of Nazareth for certain things (for example, until the Little Brothers and Little Sisters are properly established, no habit – like Jesus at Nazareth; no cloister; like Jesus at Nazareth; not an isolated habitation, but near a village; like Jesus at Nazareth; not less than 8 hours of work every day (manual or other, manual as much as possible); like Jesus at Nazareth; no great landholdings, nor great houses, nor great expenditures, not even great alms-giving, but extreme poverty in everything; like Jesus at Nazareth.
In a simple phrase which says everything: Jesus at Nazareth. Follow the rule of the Little Brothers to help you to lead this life as if you were reading a pious book; put resolutely aside everything which does not serve for the perfect imitation of this life. Do not try to organize, to prepare, the establishment of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: when alone, live like you will always remain alone. If you are two or three, several, live like you would never be more numerous. Pray as Jesus did, pray as much as Jesus prayed, always making a great place in your prayer for Him….Like Him, also making a great place for manual work, for this is not a time taken from prayer, but a time given to prayer; the time of your manual work is a time of prayer. Faithfully recite the Breviary and Rosary each day. Love Jesus with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself for love of Him…Your life of Nazareth can be lived anywhere: lead it where it will be most useful to your neighbour.
Carnets de Tamanrasset, July 22, 1905


“The family is a place of evangelical holiness, realized in the most ordinary conditions. It breaths the memories of generations and sinks roots which will allow it to go far. It is a place of discernment, where a person can learn to recognize God’s design on one’s own life and embrace it with confidence. It is a place of gratuity, of a discreet, fraternal solidarity, which teaches us how to go out from ourselves to embrace the other in order to pardon and experience pardon.”

My God, You brought me back to this family, the object of my childhood’s passionate attachment….You inspired them to receive me as a prodigal son who is made to feel as though he had never abandoned his father’s roof. You gave them the same kindness towards me that I would have expected had I not gone astray. I will wrap myself up more and more around this beloved family….I lived there surrounded by such an air of virtue that my life returned in the flashing of an eye; it was springtime returning life to the earth after winter.
Retreat at Nazareth, November 8, 1897

Do you have an Easter party for your children? I hope so. It is good to decorate their minds with memories which warm their hearts….We ourselves experienced the sweetness of these memories…and it is good that the children add a joy of family to the religious feasts,…. a family touches the good God so closely! For us, the feasts are a major event – as is fitting; they help so much to enter into the life of Our Lord and of the Holy Virgin and are a very fitting homage from our part!...
Letter to his sister Mimi, May 3, 1892, Trappist Monastery of Akbès
The family during a journey in 1909The family during a journey in 1909
When a life is deeply rooted in God, it is also founded on goodness for He is the Sovereign Good and when the members of a family are united in a true faith, there are always moments of deep peace and profound consolation […] You have been able to reunite and spend time together during these days with those whom God has so closely linked us; it is a real joy to feel that you are so close to one another, so united; such a sweetness and such strength; this is so good for you and for your children; we keep our memories of the past, of those we love and who are here no longer; at present, we help one another; we gather, in common, strength for the future…
Letter to Raymond de Blic, January 17, 1894 (Trappist Monastery of Akbès)

How close I will be to you during these feast days which are becoming more and more feasts as your family grows […] The family is such a wonderful thing; it puts the goodness in all things which are good…
Letter to his sister Mimi, July 29, 1894, Trappist Monastery of Akbès

May your family also be a holy family, my dear Mimi; I desire it with all my heart and I ask it from God as best I can […] You are really blessed to have a pious husband like Raymond, to have your children at Jesuit schools…bring them up piously…If you rear them for God, they will be for Him; if you rear them for the world, it could be feared, alas, that they become worldly…
Letter to his sister Mimi, January 6, 1898, Nazareth

I hope you have made a crib and a tree for your children…these are wonderful memories which do good throughout a lifetime….Everything that makes Jesus loved, everything that makes the family home loved is so healthy! These are the childhood joys which join what is sweetest in religion to what is sweetest in family life, in what is most tender in family life, and they do a good which lasts into old age.
Letter to his sister Mimi, December 17, 1898 Jerusalem

You are getting ready for your vacations and you are all happy. May JESUS give you nice vacations, holy and perfect ones according to His HEART, not just for the present times, but good for the future, rooting in the hearts of the children this family love, this family life, this family home, this church steeple which is such a security for the future, which makes the vision of good and of happiness henceforth inseparable, which makes that we cannot love evil since a pure and beautiful vision shines forth from the depths of our soul…make yourself loved by them, my dear, make them love one another among themselves, make them love your tender reunions where all 8 of you are together, make them love your home at Barbirey and, above all, make them love your solitary church, your tabernacle and its divine Guest….
Letter to his sister Mimi, July 13, 1903, Beni-Abess

May JESUS protect you and your family May He make your nest of Barbirey another Nazareth, may He make your family an imitation of the Holy Family, of all the children of the Holy Virgin and Saint Joseph, true and faithful brothers and sisters of JESUS! From the tabernacle of your church, so near to your roof, may JESUS extend His blessing upon all of you!
Letter to his sister Mimi January 7, 1904, Beni-Abbes

It is during these months of vacation that you, along with Raymond, will inculcate in them the spirit of family, the spirit of duty, the Christian spirit….When they were younger, they understood less, were not sufficiently developed; they had less appreciation for parents who were so good, of whom they were never deprived…They are now at an age to understand, better prepared to judge…It is the moment to impress, on their hearts and souls, the love, the culture and the taste of all that is good.
Letter to his Sister Mimi, June 25, 1904, near Insalah