Stevenson Trail

Making the greatest possible sacrifice for God, brother Charles de Foucauld parted from his family on 15th January 1890, to enter, on the following day, the Trappist monastery of Notre Dame des Neiges.

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Charles de Foucault

Brother Charles de Foucauld of Jesus

Important dates in the life of brother Charles
Charles de Foucauld 115 September 1858 Birth at Strasbourg, 30 October 1876 Entrance to St. Cyr School for Officers, 10 June 1883-1884 Reconnoitering in Morocco, End of October 1886 Conversion, 16 January 1890 Joins the Trappists at
Notre Dame des Neiges (France), 11 July 1890 Arrives at the Trappist Monastery of Akbes (Syria), 23 January 1897 Leaves the Trappists, 10 March 1897 Servant of the Poor Clares in Nazareth, 9 June 1901 Ordination to the priesthood, 28 October 1901 Arrives in Beni-Abbes (Algeria), 11 August 1905 Starts living at Tamanrasset
(Ahaggar - Algeria), 1 December 1916 Killed at Tamanrasset.

His early life 1854 - 1864
He was born into a rich, Christian family: "... My Lord Jesus... I, the son of a holy mother, who brought me to know you, to love you and to pray to you, as soon as I was able to understand a word..." Retreat at Nazareth

Charles de Foucauld 2Exodus to Nancy 1870 - 1873
He knew the suffering of being left an orphan. Both parents died before he was 6 years old. He was welcomed by his grandfather who loved him dearly. From him he inherited the gifts of sympathy and generosity, of love for his family and for his country, as well as love of study, of silence and of nature. He knew the suffering of the 1870 war, the invasion of his town which he and his family had to leave. They took refuge in Nancy. It was there that he made his First Com-munion, very fervently, upheld by the faith of his family, especially that of his grandfather and his cousin Marie, for whom he had a great admiration. She help him through her kindness and understanding throughout his errant years and during his religious life. He went to school at the Lycée of Nancy.
"If I worked a little at Nancy it was because I was allowed to read lots of things which gave me a taste for study. But these readings, as you know, did me a lot of harm." Letter to Marie de Bondy

Charles de Foucauld 3Continuation of studies at St. Genevieve's in Paris 1874 - 1876
He began to lose little by little his faith. In 1874 he became a boarder at the Jesuits in Paris, studying philosophy. "If only you knew all the objections which were a torment to me.. Children are thrown into the world without being given the arms needed to fight enemies... lots of enemies are waiting for them as they begin their adolescence. Chris-tran phrlosophers long ago clearly resolved all these questions that a youth feverishly asks himself, without real-ising, that the answer is there, full of light and clarity, so close to him..." Letter to Marie de Bondy (written after his conversion)
"I didn't have any bad teachers - in fact they were all very respectful. Even these, however, do harm because they are neutral. Youth needs to be instructed not by neutral teachers but by believing and holy people. And even more so, by teachers who know about religious things, knowing. how to explain their beliefs and inspiring young people with firm confidence in the truth of their faith..." Letter to Raymond de Blic

Charles de Foucauld 4Student at St. Cyr - 1876
As he wanted to prepare for a military career, he entered St. Cyr School for Officers. These were lazy years. He hardly worked, lived a solitary life, lazed around, delighted in literary works. He did not find a sense to his life. Thinking over this period, in August 1901, he wrote to Henry de Castries: "I lived for 12 years neither denying nor believing any-thing, despairing of the truth and not believing in God as there did not seem to be any evident proof of his exis-tence. I lived as if the last spark of faith had died out".

1878 The death of his grandfather
He was 19. He wrote: "I was so saddened at the loss of my grandfather, whose intelligence I admired, whose infinite tenderness surrounded my childhood and my youth with an atmosphere of love. The warmth of which I can still feel with emotion. It was a very great sadness. Even now 14 years later, I still feel it..." Letter to Henry Duveyrier
Charles de Foucauld 5This death was a breaking point for Charles and he began to drift. From despair he let himself go, neglected himself, went from party to party, wasting the morey his grandfather had left him. His family was upset. However, he finished his studies at the Cavalry School at Saumur when he was 20. He had a brief spell in the army.

Charles de Foucauld 6The start of an inner journey
Later, at Nazareth, as he looked back on these years, he wrote: "I went further and further away from you my Lord andmy Life. So my life began to be a death, or rather in your eyes it was already dead. And in that state of death you still preserved me. You preserved in my heart past memories, respect for what is good, an attachment, which seemed dead like fire under the ashes but was still alive, to some wonderful, , holy people, respect for the Catholic religion and for religious people. My faith had disappeared but respect and esteem remained intact. I did bad things but didn't approve of or love them. You made me feel a painful emptiness, a sadness which I had never felt before. It came back every evening when I found myself alone in my apartment. It made me feel dumb and heavy during socalled festivities which I had organised, but during which when the time came I remained silent, disgusted and extremely bored..."

Charles de Foucauld 7Traveler in Morocco 1883 - 1884
He prepared for this journey, through this country which was then closed, by studying seri-ously, learning all that was necessary to accomplish his plans. He contacted Rabbi Mardochée who was willing to act as his guide. He dressed-up as a poor Jewish Rabbi from Central Europe. It was a real scientific expedition full of dangers which was very successful. He won a gold medal from the Geographical Society. During the journey he fell in love with Morocco. He was moved by the welcome the people gave him, by their faith in God regardless of what people thought, and by their prayer.

Deep inside himself, when he returned from Morocco, he wasn't satisfied. In 1901 he wrote the following to Henry de Castries: "When I was in Paris, having my journey to Morocco printed, I found myself with people who were very intelligent, vip-tuous and Christian. I told myself that perhaps this religion is not so absurd after all. At the same time I felt a very strong interior grace. I started to go into Church, even though I didn't believe. Only there did I feel at ease, I spent long hours repeating that strange prayer, God if you do exist, make me know you".

Charles de Foucauld 8The light october 1886
Acting on his cousin's advice, he went to see Fr. Huvelin, known and much appreciated spiritual director. It was a very decisive meeting: "In making me go into a confessional on one of the last days of October between the 27th and 30th, I think you gave me all I needed 0 my God! If there is joy in heaven when a sinner is converted, that day when I went into that confessional there certainly was joy! O Blessed Day! 0 Day of great Bless-inge! I asked for religious lessons, he told me to kneel down, made me confess my sins and sent me to Communion, just like that". Retreat at Nazareth
Throughout his life, Charles remained i close contact with Fr. Huvelin, become his "spiritual father".

Our ladie of snowSpiritual journey during 1886 - 1889
A sentence used by Fr. Huvelin in a sermon fascinated him: "Our Lord really took the last place, no-one could take it from him". He thought only of following the path of Jesus the poor man. Fr. Huvelin advised him to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This helped him discover the face of Jesus. He met him in Bethlehem, in Jerusalem, on Calvary in the mystery of His suffering. Finally at Nazareth he realised that for 30 years Jesus lived there as a poor artisan of the village. Nazareth would remain for the rest of his life a constant search in imitation of Jesus which would lead him ever more forward.

"As soon as I believed that there was a God I understood that I could do nothing else but live for Him. My religious vocation came at the same time as my faith. God is so great! There is such a difference between God and all that is not Him. I did not feel that I was to imitate His public life of preaching; I ought then to imitate the hidden life of the poor, humble workman of Nazareth. The Trappist life seems closer to this than any other life". Letter to Henry de Castries

Making the greatest possible sacrifice for God, he parted from his family on 15th January 1890, to enter, on the following day, the Trappist monastery of Notre Dame des Neiges. Thus doing what Fr. Huvelin had said, "He made a love affair of religion"

Charles de Foucauld 9His years as a trappist 1890 - 1897
He was given the name of Brother Marie-Albéric. A few months later he was sent to the Trappist Monastery of Akbes in Syria. He was very happy there and loved the work which brought him closer to Jesus of Nazareth. The brothers who knew him there said he was a model of obedience to the rule. But his nostalgia for Nazareth came back again...

Charles de Foucauld 10Servant of the poor clares at Nazareth 1897 - 1900
At his insistance, he left the Trappists in February 1897. His superiors had recognised that he had a vocation which was different and personal... exceptional.Pushed by his passionate searching to imitate Jesus of Nazareth, he left for the Holy Land so as to lead, there where Jesus had lived, a life of prayer, of humble work and hiddenness. For three years he was a servant at the Poor Clares in Nazareth. He lived a life of poverty in a hut. He spent long hours in silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and meditated on Scripture. Little by little he understood very strongly that to love Jesus is to enter into His work as Saviour and to become, following Him, the brother of everyone, especially of those who do not yet know the love of Christ.

Charles de Foucauld 11"My Lord Jesus, he will soon make himself poor who loves you with his whole heart, for he will not bear to be richer than his beloved."My Lord Jesus, he will soon make himself poor who reflects that whatever is done for the least of your creatures is done to you, and whatever is withheld is denied to you, and so he will try to comfort all who come across his path."He will quickly make himself poor who takes your words in simple faith. 'If you would be perfect sell all you have and give to the poor"For me it is not possible to say I love you without feeling an impelling desire to imitate you, and above all to share all the pains... and hardships of your life. To me it is not possible, O my God, to be rich and at ease and enjoy a prosperous life, when you were poor, struggling, living laboriously. I cannot love thus". Retreat at Nazareth

Charles de Foucauld 12Priestly ordonation 1901
Until now he had not wanted to be a priest because he feared that it would take him away from his ideal of poverty and of the last place. But so as to bring Jesus to the most forsaken, and out of love for the Eucharist as well as a love for souls, he accepted ordination at the age of 43. Where and how could he now live in imitation of Jesus of Nazareth ? "I must now live this Nazareth life not in the Holy Land so dear to me, but amongst people who are spiritually ill and those who are the most forsaken. This divine banquet of which I have now become the minister, I must now present not to my brothers, family or rich neighbours, but to those who are the most crippled, blind, poor, to those who are most abandoned and have no priest.

Beni-Abbes 1901
"I've just been ordained priest and I'm getting ready to go to the Sahara to continue "the hidden life of Jesus of Nazareth, not to preach but to live in solitude the poverty and humble work of Jesus, whilst trying to do good to souls, not by the word but by prayer, by offering holy Mass, by penance and by the practice of charity".
He then left for the Sahara and settled in Beni-Abbes near the frontier with the Morocco he loved and towards which all his longings tended. Amidst this isolated population he wanted to live a life of prayer and adoration centred on the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. But also he wanted to be there as a brother of everyone, totally available. "When one loves one wants to speak ceaselessly to the loved one, or at least to look at him ceaselessly; prayer is none other: familiar conversation with our Beloved. One looks at Him, tells Him one loves Him, rejoices to be at his feet, wanting to live there and to die there".

Charles de Foucauld 13He wrote to Bishop Guerin: "The poor soldiers still come to me. The slaves pile into the tiny house that we've built. The travellers come straight to the "fraternity". There are lots of poor people.... every day there are guests for supper, to sleep, to dinner..." He wrote to his cousin Marie de Bondy: "I want all the inhabitants, Christians, Mos lems and Jews to get used to seeing me as their brother. They begin to call this house the fraternity and it is so good to hear that". He denounced the injustice of slavery, he spoke of it incessantly to friends who had influence. "We must love justice and hate iniquity, and when the government commits a serious injustice against those in our care, we must speak out... we haven't the right to be sleeping sentinels dumb watchdogs, indifferent pastors". Letter to Dom Martin

Charles de Foucauld 14Attentive to events
When he chose Beni-Abbes, Brother Charles went as far as he could, but the road opened on the South to Touareg country in the Ahaggar, there where no other priest could go. His friend Laperrine wrote to him at length about this in June 1903. He spoke of the wonderful witness of a Touareg woman Tarichat Oult Ibdakane, , following a battle: "She is against the killing of those who have been injured. She has taken them into her home to look after them, refusing to let Attici in when coming back injured from the battle, because he wanted to kill them himself. When they were better, she had them repatriated to Tripoli".
Brother Charles admired this gesture and deep down felt called, although with some regret, to leave Beni-Abbes. He wrote to Fr. Huvelin: "I feel deeply called more and more to this journey, in spite of my reasonings and the horror I feel at leaving Beni-Abbes".

On 13th January 1904 he set off for the mountainous part of the Ahaggar which is right in the south of Algeria.
"It's necessary to go through the desert and to stay in it so as to receive God's grace. In it, there's a selfemptying, a getting rid of all that isn't God in oneself, a complete emptying of one's soul so as to leave all the place for God alone... The Hebrews went through the desert, Moses lived in it before he received his mission, St. Paul, coming from Damascus, went through Arabia. It's indispensable. It's a time of grace. It's a period through which every soul wanting to bear fruit has to pass of necessity. silence is needed, that recollectedness, that forgetfulness of all creation wherein God builds his Kingdom and forms the inner spirit - the intimate life with God - the conversation of the soul with God in faith, in hope and in charity... Later, the soul bears fruit in the exact measure by which the inner self has been formed..."Letter to Fr. Jerome

Charles de Foucauld 15Arrival in Tamanrasset 1905
After a year's journey of about 1,500kms, across the desert, he got to know the Touaregs. He was accepted by Moussa Ag Amastane, the chief of the Ahaggar. He settled at Tamanrasset. As the years went by the two became great friends. The long walks he took allowed him to know the life of the people and be close to them. He learnt their language and worked a lot on it out of respect and love of their culture. Little by little Brother Charles transcribed the poems which were sung around the fire in the evening to transmit the history and the "soul" of the Touareg people. Dassine, a well-known poetess in the Ahaggar encampments, provided a precious collaboration to this work. He looked on everyone as his brother and as reported of him, said one day to a Protestant friend: "I am sure that God will welcome into heaven those people who are good and honest. They do not need to be Roman Catholic. You are a Protestant, others are unbelievers, the Touaregs are Moslems. I am sure that God will welcome us all if we merit it".
Charles de Foucauld 16Living amongst them he became part of their family. People often came to ask for his advice. He understood the hopes his friends had for better living conditions. He tried to see how to help them. He shared all he had during the famine of 1906-1907. It was then that he became seriously ill. He had to reach this lowest ebb so that the Touaregs might help him, offering him goat's milk which they had to go quite a distance to find because of the famine. Roles were reversed and from this moment the friendship between Charles and the Touaregs deepened.

Charles de Foucauld 17Little brother of Jesus
For some time he had felt that a new religious family should be founded. But he was alone. In 1904 he wrote to Suzanne Perret: "Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone. I am not dead, therefore I am alone. Pray for my conversion so that in dying, I bear much fruit... Jesus wants me to work to build this double family (Little Brothers and Little Sisters). How can I work at this ? By , in offering myself, by dying, by sanctifying my-self, by loving Him... Our Lord is in a hurry. This hidden life of Nazareth, so poor, so abject and recollected is not imitated."
In his diary of 1909, recalling a conversation with father Huvelin, he notes: "My apostolate must be that of kindness. seeing me people ought to say "since this man is good, his religion must be good". And if they ask me why I am gentle and good I must say "because I am the servant of One who is a thousand times better than I am. If only you knew how good my Master Jesus is!...I want to be so good that others will say if the servant is like this, what must his Master be like ?"
"To reach the love of God by loving our neighbour. These two loves go together. To grow in one, is to grow in the other. How are we to acquire love of God? By practicing charity towards other human beings"
. Letter to Louis Massignon

Charles de Foucauld 18Three times Brother Charles went back to France. He saw his family but above all he went to make known a lay association he wished to set up. He saw the importance of the role of the laity in evangelisation. This association had a three-fold aim:
⁃ a Gospel-like life: to lead Christians to life lived in conformity with the Gospel in imitation of the "One and Only Model"
⁃ a Eucharistic life: to develop in them the sense of the Sacrament of love.
⁃ an apostolic life: to go towards non-christians.
"We do good not by what we say or do, but by what we are, to the extent that Jesus is in us" Directory of the Union of the Brothers and Sisters of the Sacred Heart

Charles de Foucauld 19The grain of wheat falls in the ground 1st December 1916
"It was when He was reduced to nothing that Our Lord Jesus saved the world..." Letter to Mgr. Guérin
Making this conviction of faith his own he wrote to his cousin Marie de Bondy on the morning of December 1st: "Being reduced to nothing is the most potent means we have of uniting ourselves to Jesus and doing good to others".
The repercussions of World War I touched the Ahaggar. The region became insecure. On the evening of December 1st during an attack led by rebels, Brother Charles let himself be taken without resisting, was tied up, robbed, then killed. He welcomed his own death as a true disciple of the One who was silent during His Passion.Very much alone without even one disciple to continue his mission. Since 1929, his body lies in El Golea.
Charles de Foucauld 20In an extract from his meditation of St. John 19 verse 30 "bowing his head, he gave up the Spirit" we read: "My Lord Jesus you are dead. You died for us! If we really believe this we ought to want to die, to die a martyr's death; to accept suffering in death instead of being afraid! It won't matter for what motive we are killed if we ourselves receive that unjust and cruel death as a blessed gift from you, rj we thank you for it as for a gentle grace, as a blessed imitation of your end... The motive for killing us won't matter, we will die out of pure love and our death will be a sacrifice pleasing to you. If this is not martyrdom in the strict sense of the word, and in the eyes of the world, it will be one in your eyes. It will be a very perfect image of your death and a loving end which will lead us straight to heaven".
"There is not, Ithink, a word of the Gospel which has made a deeper impression on me and transformed my life as this one: Whatever you do to one of these least ones, you do it to me" (Mt 25:40). If we believe that these are the words of uncreated Truth, of the One who said: "This is my Body, this is my Blood"... we ought, with all our strength to look for and love Jesus in these"Little ones", these sinners, in the poor..." Letter to Louis Massignon

"Father, 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 spirit, 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."

Charles de Foucauld 21Brother Charles of Jesus
"Presence to Christ in the Eucharist and presence to Christ in the poor; these are the two pillars in the life of Brother Charles, , and they are linked together. He gave up trying to live this life in the Holy Land because he felt urged to "live Nazareth in'a place where it would be most useful to his neighbours". He went off to the desert on a road of bare faith and pure hope. He gave himself to a difficult task. He was alone on a long, hard road - the end of which he knew he would never see: to prepare people's hearts to know and to love God better. Thus he inaugurated in the Church a new way of living the evangelical counsels by sharing the life of the poor." From a Little Brother of Jesus

Following Brother Charles of Jesus, Christians of every country, of every culture, have heard and still hear this call to an evangelical life. Thus communities and associations of priests, reli-gious, lay people, came into being and form the Spiritual Family of Charles of Jesus. Representatives from these communities and associations meet once a year and so witness, by their diversity, the unity of their mission. The Spirit which animated Brother Charles of Jesus lives on in the Church for and through men and women of today.

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