Everyone always says that the Church in France is dead or dying but there are always wonderful signs of life. Today, I stumbled across this newish order of women called the Little Sisters of the Consolation of the Sacred Heart and the Holy Face. When I first saw the habit I thought: Charles de Foucauld. There is no mistaking the red heart with the red crucifix coming out of the top.
While Charles de Foucauld did not found any orders of men or women during his lifetime, after his death many Little Sisters or Little Brothers of Jesus have cropped up around the world, taking their inspiration from Charles’ humble and solitary life. These particular sisters were founded in 1989 in the diocese of Frejus-Toulon (Provence-France) and seem to be an active/contemplative order with an apostolate for children, the elderly and the sick. They say the Office in Latin.
Charles is not yet a saint but he continues to inspire people, almost 100 years after his sudden death. His alone-ness, his thirst for Jesus in the Eucharist and the value he saw in silent fraternity with the poor moves people to give Jesus their all.
Charles de Foucauld himself was a child of privilege, born in 1858 in Strasbourg, France. Leading a selfish and irreligious life that was a scandal to his family, he told a priest that he had trouble believing in God. The priest told him, “What is missing now, in order for you to believe in God is a pure heart. Go down on your knees, make your confession to God and you will believe.” This is exactly what happened. Charles left the Church filled with “that infinite peace, that dazzling light, that unfailing happiness.”
Charles eventually became a monk and moved to Algeria where he lived alone in the desert until he was killed in 1916 by rebels. Despite having few companions in life, after death he inspired many to live his life of poverty and solitude in imitation of Jesus in His hidden life in Nazareth. In the 1930’s, the Little Sisters of Jesus and the Little Brothers of Jesus were founded and established their first foundations in North Africa. Today, they are virtually in every country in the world or close to it. I stumbled across a Little Sister in an Israeli desert who gave me cookies and juice from her meager rations.
The evangelization that I am called to live is not through the word but through the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass. It is through prayer and penance and the practice of the Gospel virtues – love, fraternal and universal love, sharing even my last mouthful of bread with every poor person, with every visitor, every stranger, and welcoming each person as a beloved brother or sister. -Charles de Foucauld