Saint Charles de Foucauld

On September 1, 1858, he was born in Strasbourg into a noble family, Charles-Eugene de Foucauld. His parents died, one after the other in 1864 and Charles and Maria, his sister, are entrusted to his grandfather, Colonel Morlet, a good but weak man. He completed his studies in Paris at a Jesuit college and began to prepare for admission to the military school. His interest in studies was very poor. At 16 he lost his faith. Two years later his grandfather died and he inherited a great fortune that he began to squander in a resounding way. He entered the Samur cavalry school in October, where he will come out with the last qualification: number 87 out of 87 students. He led a life of revelry and indiscipline full of eccentricities. However, he drew well and cultivated himself by reading a lot. In 1879 he joined Mimi, a disreputable young woman, and lived with her. Two years later, her regiment is sent to Algeria and Charles took Mimi with him, posing as her wife. Discovered the fraud he is demoted and he returned to Europe. On the occasion of a revolution in Tunisia, he returned to Africa and for eight months he proved to be an excellent officer but, seduced by the desert, he abandoned the army and settled in Algeria where he began an exploration of those lands not visited by any European at the time. He took Rabbi Mordecai as a companion, dressed as a Hebrew and clandestinely toured Morocco for a year. There he tried to marry her to a young Algerian woman, but he will break her relationship in the face of the categorical opposition of her family.

He returned to France after two years of absence. He then dedicated himself to collecting all possible information about Morocco, always in a hidden way, afraid of being discovered by the Arabs. Between 1887 and 1888 he published two important works: “The recognition of Morocco” Y “Morocco itinerary”, which receive rave reviews. He acquires fame as a great explorer for the quality and quantity of information collected and for the precious social and customs observations that he includes in his stories. He receives the gold medal of the “French Society of Geography” and thus places himself in a world of honors.

Driven by deep spiritual concerns, in October 1886 Charles entered the church of Saint Augustine in Paris to seek advice from Father Huevélin, whom his cousin Maria Bondy had told him about. The priest asks him to confess and receive communion immediately, then they would talk, and he accepts it. The following years he spends in his family’s house and has frequent conversations with his confessor. His soul is filling more and more with God and he begins to think about becoming religious. At Christmas 1888 he went to the Holy Land and there his irrevocable decision matured: to become a monk. He returns to France and sets out to be a Trappist. He gives all his possessions to his sister and definitively renounces all human glory.

In January 1890 he left for the trap of Our Lady of the Snows in France and entered the novitiate under the name of Frater Marie-Albéric. Six months later he leaves for another much poorer trapa, that of Akbès, in Syria, a very remote region that at the end of the 19th century was only reached after several days on the road. There he took care of cultivating the garden, doing the most humble jobs until 1896. However, an inner voice called him to an even deeper solitude. Following the advice of Father Hevélin, with whom he would continue to correspond, he made the first project of a religious congregation “in his own way”. He is sent to Rome to further study and there he asks to be excused from his vows. In 1897, the Prior General of the Trappists released him to follow his vocation.

He leaves again for the Holy Land and begins a hermit’s life in a convent of the Poor Clare sisters in Nazareth, where he is their servant and messenger, living in a simple cabin near the cloister. He remains there for three years and becomes a beloved figure in Nazareth for his spirituality and his continued charity. The Poor Clares and his confessor urged him to request priestly ordination. He returned to France to prepare himself and was ordained a priest on June 9, 1901. Shortly after, he went back to Algeria, to the Beni-Abbès oasis to spiritually help a French military detachment. He builds a simple hermitage with a chapel. From there he alerts his friends and the French authorities to the drama of slavery. He rescues several slaves, tours the land of the Touaregs, the loneliest region in the interior, learns their language, writes a catechism for them and begins to translate the Gospel, settling in a town at 1,500 meters above sea level where he builds a small cabin on the one that installs the chapel and a simple room. Father Foucauld is now divided between the poor of Beni-Abbès and those of Tamanrasset, which are 700 km away from the desert. Charles is the only Christian. In the absence of the faithful, it is forbidden to celebrate mass; he supplies it by making his life a Eucharist. In 1908, exhausted, he fell deathly ill. The Touaregs save him by sharing with him the little goat’s milk they had in that time of drought. Between 1909 and 1913 he made three trips to France to present his project of the «Petis frères» of the Sacred Heart, an association of lay people for the conversion of infidels.

During the world war the desert turns out to be a dangerous place and remains in Tamanrasset. To protect the natives from the Germans he builds a fort. He continues to work on his Touareg poetry and proverbs. On December 1, 1916, some bandits apprehended him and murdered him. In his death he was alone… or almost alone. In France there are 49 registered in the Association of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that he managed to get approved by the religious authorities. His death was like a seed. In 2002 nineteen different fraternities of laymen, priests, men and women religious, lived the Gospel that follows the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld. On May 15, 2022, Pope Francis canonized him.

Saint Charles de Foucauld – Omnes