Thursday 24 March 2022

Charles de Foucauld - J Frawley - CTS Biographies

Charles de Foucauld
J. Frawley
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860820809
CTS Booklet B659

I had this booklet on a list of out-of-print titles from the Catholic Truth Society that I have interest in tracking down. That list currently sits at about 120 volumes. And I have about another 200 I want to read that are still in print or available as eBooks. Over the last several years I have read over 275 volumes from the Catholic Truth Society. What drew me to this one was the coming canonization of de Foucauld. He is to be canonized on 15 May 2022, unless there is another covid-19 delay. I reached out to the CTS and they plan a volume on Charles, I am not sure if it will be a reprint of this volume or if it will be a new work on the soon to be saint. This volume was published in 2000, and is dedicated to the author who passed away late in 1999. The process o his canonization began in 1927, he was declared Venerable by Saint John Paul II on 24 April 2001. Blessed by Pope Benedict XVI on 13 November 2005. The description of this booklet is:

“In December 1916, deep in the Sahara, an unknown French hermit was shot through the head and dumped in a ditch. He was 58. An accomplished geographer, linguist and explorer, in youth he had been a disillusioned soldier, athirst and aristocratic playboy. Why at 30 did he abandon family, career, everything, to search for ‘the last place’, close to the poor and suffering? This booklet describes his epic pilgrimage from misery to love and of silent witness to Christ among the Tuareg of the Sahara, including his writings and prayers, and the work being done today by Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus.”

And the chapters are:

Early Life
     The Soldier
     The Explorer
     Failed Love
     The Trappist
     In the Holy Land
Algeria: Beni Abbes
     Deeper in the Desert
     Brother Michael
     The Tuareg Dictionary
     Charles’ Idea for an Order
     Return to Tamanrasset
     World War: the Fort at Tamanrasset
Some Writings of Brother Charles
     For the Sake of Jesus and the Gospel
     The Young Agnostic
     Vocation: ‘as Jesus of Nazareth’
     Your Rule
     Poor Like Jesus
     Your Way of Praying
     Your Relationship with Others
     ‘All Things to All People’
     Preparing for Death
The Legacy of Brother Charles
     The Little Brothers
     The Little Sisters
To Contact for Further Information

Many years ago I read a different biography called Charles de Foucauld: Journey of the Spirit by Cathy Wright. At the time I found it a fascinating read, but never really returned to the subject matter. Now with his canonization imminent I am certain we will see a flood of books about him and his work. This volume if you can track it down is an excellent introduction. The first two thirds of the book is biography and the final part is a series of quotes from his pen. With a short two pages on the work at the time of the writing of the book. I highlighted many passages while reading this volume. I will share many of them here separating the ones about his life from those by his own hand.

“Charles has shown himself to be an uncooperative student, more interested in the girls who worked in the shops he frequented than he was in his studies. Due to his reading of sceptical literature, he had already lost his faith. He was later to describe his frame of mind thus: “At seventeen I was all egoism, all impiety, all desire for evil, I was as one bewitched.”

“When he met the woman again a few years before his death she told him she had abandoned her practice of the faith because of his treatment of her. Charles, who was by then a priest and a mystic, must have been profoundly disturbed by the revelation.”

“Charles now became Brother Marie Alberic and began the Cistercian routine of early rising, Divine Office, Mass, private prayer and manual labour with a few sparse meals consisting mainly of bread, cheese, and vegetables. It was an excellent way of life for someone whose dearest wish was to keep Our Lord company in His sufferings. But Charles had arranged before his entry into Our Lady of the Snows that, after six months of probation, he would be transferred to a poorer monastery in Syria.”

“Mitigations to the Cistercian rule made at about that time did not please Charles. He began to dream of two new congregations of men and women who would follow Our Lord’s life more to the rule: stricter poverty; much prayer but not in choir; communal life in smaller groups, without a hierarchy – everyone was to be a brother and sister of Jesus.”

“However, he still longed for a life of poverty, prayer and service outside the monastic regime. Soon his superiors, recognising that he had a very special vocation, released him from his monastic vows.”

Below are quotes from his own writings:

“Your rule: to follow me. To do what I would do. Ask yourself in everything: ‘What would our Lord have done?’, and do it. This is the only rule you have, but it is an absolute rule. (from his meditations)”

“Let us be persons of desire and of prayer. Let us never believe anything to be impossible: God can do all. (from his meditations)”

“We should read the Gospel with love, as though we were sitting at the feet of Jesus, at the feet of the Beloved, listening to him speak to us. (from a letter)”

“Adoration, wordless admiration, that is the most eloquent form of prayer: that wordless admiration which contains the most passionate declaration of love. (from his meditations)”

“See Jesus in every human being, and act on that vision: with goodness, respect, love, humility, gentleness … Live for Jesus, more than for yourself. (from his meditations)”

“All Christians have to be apostles. That is not a counsel, it is a commandment of love. Lay people should all be apostles towards everybody they can reach: those that are their friends first, but not only them. Love has nothing narrow about it. It takes in all those whom the heart of Jesus embraces. (from a letter)”

And a final quote from the last section of the book The Future:

“What does the future of the groups funded by Br. Charles hold? Like all Christian groups they are faced by increasing secularisation, and by the decrease of the practice of faith in Western countries. Yet their emphasis on a Christian witness that speaks through its deeds, rather than by its preaching, is in tune with what many younger people are seeking today. By holding on to their vocations of being with and yet by also working for those who are excluded from society, the Charles de Foucauld family will continue to inspire Christians and non-Christians alike.”

The following prayer from this volume is also in The Prayerful Hour: A Scriptural Companion to Eucharistic Adoration by Florian Racine. I have been praying it daily since encountering it there, 

My Father, I abandon myself to you, 
do with me what you will. 
Whatever you do with me, I thank you. 
I am ready for everything, I accept everything. 
So long as your will is done in me, 
in all your creatures, 
I desire nothing else, my God. 
I give back my soul into your hands. 
I give it to you, my God, 
with all the love of my heart, 
because I love you, 
and because for me it is a necessity of love to give myself, 
to give myself back into your hands without measure, 
with an infinite confidence, 
for you are my Father.  

This book is an excellent read a great book in a wonderful series from the Catholic Truth Society. I highly recommend it. The CTS has mad an audio version of this booklet, it is available here.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For reviews of other books in the CTS Biographies series click here.

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