On this date in 1916, 98 years ago, Bl. Charles de Foucauld was dragged out of his little hermitage in southern French Algeria and killed by rebel bandits. Reading the story of the last years of his life could make you weep if it wasn’t for his strong, unwavering humble faith, in Jesus and in his mission among his Moslem brothers in North Africa.
He had good friends among the local people but no converts. He asked: “Is my presence here doing any good? If it does not, the presence of the Most Holy Sacrament certainly does it greatly. Jesus cannot be in a place without shining forth. Moreover through contact with the natives, their suspicions and prejudices are slowly abating. It is very slow and very little. Pray so that your child does more good and that better workers than him might come to clear this corner in the field of the family’s Father.”
While Bl. Charles did not found a religious order, many people have followed in his footsteps. If you see a poor community called the “Little Brothers of Jesus” or some such variation, they are probably inspired by Bl. Charles. A few years ago, I ran across a little elderly Charles de Foucauld sister in a remote area of Israel who invited me into her hermitage (though we did not speak the same language). She opened a tin which contained a few crumbly cookies and offered them to me with great ceremony. I remember that “meal” with more fondness than any 5 star dinner in a fancy restaurant.
There are little sisters and brothers of Jesus in the US. One community is the Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary in Salisbury, Maryland. Their mission: We are sent to help people believe in Christ Jesus who reveals the goodness of the Father, giving preferential love to the poorest of the poor. In the spirit of Charles de Foucauld, united as a community in the love of Jesus, in the spirit of Mary and under the protection of St. Joseph, sharing a life of faith, love and simplicity, we strive to cry the Gospel with our lives.
Charles de Foucauld composed this prayer as he meditated on the death of Jesus on the Cross:
This was the last prayer of our Master, our Beloved. May it also be ours. And may it be not only that of our last moment, but also of our every moment:
I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures — I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.