A Christian is the most beautiful church that exists. The living God abides in her. Close your eyes, close your ears, make silence within and listen to the Voice which says to you, “If someone loves me… That day, you will know that I am with you… Whoever eats my flesh… Live in Me and me in you…”
Tomás Morales Pérez SJ (1908–1994)
On 1 December 1916, Blessed Charles de Foucauld was shot dead at his small fort in the Sahara. Was he a martyr? If so, it was of charity, not directly for the faith, for though he was shot because of his presence to others (however difficultly entwined that was with his own country’s policies and the details of a world war), it was not because of any article of the faith, nor because of any direct animosity towards a group of human beings as such.
But what he was, was a model for the kind of life this blog promotes. Of course, he was human, with weaknesses, limitations, feelings, and even faults. But he was a model. He loved the Eucharist. He loved his neighbours. He had no formal apostolate, except perhaps one of translation, scholarly work, and “presence” to others (if these things can count as activities of a formal apostolate).
To a degree, his model of spirituality was in the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross – even before they were declared Doctors of the Universal Church. Over and over he read them. He knew with them that it is when we are most annihilated that we pray best and that it is love which makes prayer best.
His spirituality is known for its Trinitarian emphasis: on Jesus in others and in the pages of the Gospel, on the Father to whom his most famous prayer is addressed, on the Spirit known in the Veni Creator.
He believed in the value of silence and thought that earth was preparation for heaven, not only by what we do but by the time we spend, seemingly uselessly, with God. After all, the spirit was not made for noise but for taking things in; and if we want to give God to others, we must live in him ourselves; a spring can only give what it already has. He described the purification brought about by silence as a “desert” experience.
Above all, this man went on a journey of discovering what it means to see Jesus in others and to live a life of “Nazareth,” a quiet life that passes under the radar with and among people who may never have even heard the Gospel in its entirety (like Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Nazareth). This involved standing up to injustices and taking clear positions on social justice. But it also involved a mere “being with” and a “togetherness,” a legitimate love and appreciation of the other. It was a spirituality of presence, even when the effects of presence seem fleeting. Such a “Nazareth” spirituality is accompanied by a respect, a great respect and preference, for the poor and abandoned. It involves poverty and humility of means; for Jesus did not use much or write large when he evangelized by his presence in Nazareth. It involves a recognition that the majority of people live their lives in Nazareth, not in the greatest acts of apostolate or at the highest heights of the world.
There is a general theme of how one can be a contemplative in the midst of action, though not hanging all one’s contemplation on the accomplishment of activity. It is a strange message to modern ears, but it is much needed. And it is one that, though he was himself a priest, Charles felt was relevant to laypeople.
Counting today (23 November) and 1 December itself, there are nine days left in the centennial year of the blessed’s death. For my part, I think this is a great time to get to know, and to love, Brother Charles better. At the very least and even if we do not focus our attention and thoughts on Charles, we could spend our time as he recommends:
To pray means to think lovingly about Jesus. Prayer is the soul’s attention that is concentrated on Jesus. The more you love Jesus, the better you pray.
When you become totally consumed by this Eucharistic Fire, then you will be able to thank with greater awareness the Lord God who has called you to be part of his flock, and you will enjoy that peace which those who are happy according to the world have never tasted.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901–1925)
Feed on this Bread of Angels from which you will draw the strength to fight inner struggles, the struggles against passions and against all adversities, because Jesus Christ has promised to those who feed themselves with the most Holy Eucharist, eternal life and the necessary graces to obtain it.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901–1925)
If souls but understood the Treasure they possess in the Divine Eucharist, it would be necessary to encircle Tabernacles with the strongest ramparts for, in the delirium of a devouring and holy hunger, they would press forward themselves to feed on the Bread of Angels; the churches would overflow with adorers consumed with love for the Divine Prisoner, no less by night than by day.
Blessed Dina Bélanger (1897–1929)
To maintain this divine friendship, frequent the sacraments, namely Confession and Holy Communion. When you approach the altar, do so for this one reason alone: to let your soul be melted more and more into the fire of divine love. Remember that you are dealing with the holiest action that we can perform. How could our dear Jesus have done more than to give himself to be our food! Therefore let us love him who loves us. Let us be deeply devoted to the Blessed Sacrament.
Saint Paul of the Cross