Inspiration from Without

Brother Charles99 years ago (1 December 1916), Blessed Charles de Foucauld was killed by a bullet during a raid on his home in the desert. His spiritual itinerary led him to identify with the Tuareg people of North Africa (Algeria) and to live among them.

But at one point in time, Charles was not even a believer in God.  And all that started to change because he came into contact with the Muslim people of North Africa. He wrote of his experiences in Morocco:

… the sight of this faith and these souls living in the continual presence of God helped me to recognize something greater and truer than worldly preoccupations.

This experience of God’s “continual presence” in the midst of non-Christians inspired Brother Charles to look deeper and, eventually, give everything up for Jesus and become, in an unusual way, a martyr for the faith.

Just how much of Jesus are we seeing in our neighbours and how much are we learning from them?

Bring Them the Gospel

Blessed Charles de Foucauld with a little boy, Abd Jesus, whom he redeemed from slavery and his friend Father Charles Guérin, Apostolic Prefect of the Sahara

Bring them the Gospel not by your words but by your example, not by proclaiming it but by living it. Make the salvation of all people the one, single work of your life, until Jesus the Saviour, which is a name expressing perfectly [who Jesus is], likewise expresses perfectly what you are. But how can this be done? Be all things to all people with a single, clear desire in your heart: to give them Jesus.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld  (1858–1916)

The Trinity with Brother Charles

As we journey deeper and deeper into God, we become more and more aware of his presence in everything that is good and in all the opportunities to turn evil things on their head, we become more and more aware of his presence in other people, and we grow in our lived experience of God as a Trinity of Persons.

That is the Christian mystery that is at the centre of all the other great Christian mysteries: God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We will come to learn this more and more and see that God is a communion, a unity, and Love.

Some Catholics tend to have devotion that focuses more on Jesus, more on the Father, or more on the work of the Holy Spirit. And that’s OK. But then again, many Catholics have a very Trinitarian spirituality. This is spirituality that appeals more to me, personally. When I think of spirituality focuses on the whole Trinity, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity comes to mind, of course (she is even quoted in the Catechism to this effect).

Another saint with Trinitarian spirituality is Blessed Charles de Foucauld.

Charles de FoucauldBrother Charles is perhaps best remembered for his Jesus-centred thinking: “I should carry on in myself the life of Jesus: think his thoughts, repeat his words, his actions. May it be he that lives in me.” It is a very real part of his way of living his faith. He meditates constantly on the Gospels. He loves to adore Jesus in the Eucharist. He must become as Jesus so that Jesus can be taken to those who need his divine care and love.

But the spirituality of Charles is not only Jesus-centred. He was also conscious of the presence of an all-powerful Father. In one of his meditations he wrote down these words:

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 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.

And nowadays, those who are inspired by Charles’ example perhaps know this passage of his writing best. It is writing about the Father who governs all by his providence and to whom we can run like a little child.

In addition, Brother Charles himself prayed the Veni Creator, a hymn to the Holy Spirit, daily. He implored the Creator Spirit to come, bestow his sevenfold Gift (Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Piety, Counsel, Fortitude, Fear of the Lord) on us and guide us in ways beyond our conscious understanding and apprehension:

Come Holy Spirit, creator, come
from your bright heavenly throne,
come take possession of our souls
and make them all your own.

You who are called Paraclete
blest gift of God above,
the living spring, the living fire,
sweet unction and true love.

You who are sevenfold in your grace,
finger of God’s right hand;
his promise, teaching little ones
to speak and understand.

O guide our minds with your blest light,
with love our hearts inflame;
and with strength, which never decays,
confirm our mortal frame.

Far from us drive our deadly foe;
true peace unto us bring;
and through all perils, lead us safe
beneath your sacred wing.

Through you may we the Father know;
through you the eternal Son,
and you the Spirit of them both,
thrice-blessed Three in One.

All glory to the Father be,
with his co-equal Son:
the same to You great Paraclete,
while endless ages run.
Amen.

So here, with brother Charles, we have an example of Trinitarian spirituality, with no clear focus on any one Person of the most Holy Trinity. We can emulate this example, if we wish, by praying the Prayer of Abandonment and the Veni Creator, combined with a meditative reading of the Gospels or a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. In such an approach we would invite communion with each of the Three Persons individually and together.