The Spring Can Only Give What It Already Has


The soul will bring forth fruit in exactly the measure in which the inner life is developed in it. If there is no inner life, however great may be the zeal, the lofty intention, the hard work, no fruit will come forth; it is like a spring that would give out sanctity to others but cannot, having none to give; one can only give that which one has.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld  (1858–1916)

Not Asleep, Fighting for Justice

Charles de Foucauld and freed slavesWe must stand up for the rights of our neighbour who is suffering from injustice. We must defend them all the more vigorously because we see Jesus present in them. This undoubtedly is our duty because of our love for others for Christ’s sake. We have no right to be ‘sleeping watchmen’ or dumb watchdogs [cf. Is 56:10]. Whenever we see evil we must sound the alarm.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld  (1858–1916)

Special Preference

Brother Charles of JesusHave a love that goes with special preference towards the humble and the poor, remembering that it is directly to Jesus that the smallest act of kindness and love is addressed when it is done to the least among his brothers and sisters. Welcome them with respect and love, be all the more considerate towards them, for they are the suffering members of Jesus’ body.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld  (1858–1916)

Eyes on the Divine Model in the Gospel

Brother CharlesRead and re-read ceaselessly the Holy Gospel… so as to always have before one’s mind the actions, words and thoughts of Jesus, in order to think, speak and act like Jesus, to follow the examples and teachings of Jesus, not the examples and ways of behaving of the world. So easily do we fall into this latter, as soon as we take our eyes off the Divine Model.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld  (1858–1916)

Ordinary Time and the “Sacrament” of Nazareth

At St John Church in Siem Reap, Cambodia

The majority of the year is Ordinary Time. The majority of the lives of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were lived in Nazareth. Both can be barely seen: few major festivals in the year, and few major remembrances of the divine life in Nazareth in the Scriptures. Yet they comprise the majority. They comprise the vast majority.

Indeed, of the life in Nazareth, the most significant external happening seems to be Mary’s visit of Elizabeth and the sanctification of John the Baptist. But all this happened without words and without to-do. Mary went. She spent time. Jesus, from all eternity, chose this silent way to overflow peacefully his life, by mere presence almost imperceptible, into the life of his holy cousin: the sanctification of the greatest figure of the Old Covenant happened by mere communication and diffusion of the good, without preaching, without miracles, without the grandest and most obvious of things to see. The Visitation by which John the Baptist was made very holy was simply one event of many in the average run of life.

Under the radar it all passes, except for the keenest of spiritual senses… and even then, through no fault of our own, we may miss it. It is by an almost imperceptible diffusion, radiation, and overgrowth of good from within pushing towards the outside that Nazareth has any meaning. Jesus lived, worked, sweated, prayed, interacted with his neighbours: and what did it amount to? Not even the Gospel writers tell us in any detail. But undoubtedly, since even one of Jesus’ actions could have been enough to redeem the whole human race, all that, if we were to write down all the things that Jesus did in Nazareth alone, “I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25).

For isn’t that the Gospel? God became man and man became God in the person of Jesus. This is that great mystery of Nazareth – and of Ordinary Time, if we may say so – that Charles de Foucauld clung to all his life: Jesus lived on earth, in a concrete place, with concrete neighbours! And into such a small space, the infinite flowed, diffused and radiated outwards. Perhaps we didn’t see. But it happened. This mystery has never been plumbed to the full in Christian history. Blessed Charles de Foucauld and those who love him, the philosopher Jacques Maritain, Saint Francis de Sales and the Visitandine spirituality, are just some examples of those who have stared into this mystery for years and years, never to exhaust it (for Saint John the Evangelist tells us that we never shall). Jean-Pierre de Caussade SJ, spiritual director to a Visitandine community, comments along similar lines and condenses much into few words:

There are remarkably few extraordinary characteristics in the outward events of the life of the most holy Virgin… Her exterior life is represented as very ordinary and simple. She did and suffered the same things that anyone in a similar state of life might do or suffer. She goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth as her other relatives did. She took shelter in a stable in consequence of her poverty. She returned to Nazareth from whence she had been driven by the persecution of Herod, and lived there with Jesus and Joseph, supporting themselves by the work of their hands. It was in this way that the holy family gained their daily bread. But what a divine nourishment Mary and Joseph received from this daily bread for the strengthening of their faith! It is like a sacrament to sanctify all their moments. What treasures of grace lie concealed in these moments filled, apparently, by the most ordinary events… Sacrament of the present moment! Thou givest God under as lowly a form as the manger, the hay, and the straw.

This “sacrament” of the present moment of Nazareth is simply that the infinite is bursting into the finite at every place and time in history. And God knows that our finite eyes will never see it all. Did we even catch all that happened in the Visitation? Yet that was but one of the most visible events in thirty years of the Holy Family’s life in Nazareth, that obscure town from which nothing good was thought to come (Jn 1:46). But even there, even then – indeed especially there, especially then – this “sacrament” of the present moment came to be, burst forth, and diffused and radiated outwards in ways unpredictable and not totally perceptible to human minds.