March 2020

You have only one model, Jesus. Follow, follow, follow him, step by step, imitating him, sharing his life in every way

Dear Friends,

Two or three years ago, I was on holiday in Paris and happened to visit the church of Saint-Augustin. A church of great size, it was built 1860-68, and has the unlikely distinction of having a cast iron frame, and designed by Baltard who also constructed Les Halles – the great market of similar construction. Inside, under its huge dome, it all felt a little tired (like many Parisian churches, alas), but one thing caught my eye: an exhibition commemorating Charles Eugène de Foucauld who had worshipped there. His story proved to be very moving.

Charles was born in 1858. Orphaned at an early age, he entered the military (where he led a dissolute life upon inheriting a fortune) before an adventure in Morocco led him to turn to God. He became a Cistercian Trappist monk in 1890 and was priested in 1901. After a time in Nazareth as a hermit, he moved to the Sahara in what was then French Algeria. There he befriended the Berber people whilst living a life of utter simplicity and prayer. Greatly loved by them, he studied their ancient culture.

In 1916 a group of tribal Bedouin raiders seized him, and he was shot dead in the fracas which ensued. The Berbers greatly mourned someone who had honoured their ancient Muslim culture without that clash we increasingly see between people of different faith. His extraordinarily rich spirituality of a life focused on Jesus is an example to all Christians. He displayed the Gospel light, and in doing so build a bridge of love to those he met.

On our Lenten journey, I hope that it might be profitable to contemplate his example, and I finish with another quote from this person of great humility:

Our entire existence – our whole being – must shout the Gospel from the rooftops. Our entire person must breathe Jesus, all our actions. Our whole life must cry out that we belong to Jesus, reflect a Gospel way of living. Our whole being must be a living proclamation, a reflection of Jesus.

With love,

Michael

Charles de Foucauld – 1858-1916
Charles de Foucauld’s hermitage in the Sahara