Saturday 15 July 2023

Charles De Foucauld Adventurer of the Desert - Emmeline Garnett and Leo Summers - Vision Books #56

Charles De Foucauld Adventurer of the Desert
Emmeline Garnett
Leo Summers (Illustrator)
Vision Books #56

Charles De Foucauld Adventurer of the Desert - Emmeline Garnett and Leo Summers - Vision Books #56

This is one of the original 72 Vision Books for Young Readers. The originals were published between 1955 and 1969 by Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, Inc. Reprints of about half are available from Ignatius Press. This is not one of them. I wrote a piece about the series as a whole, Vision Books for Young Readers, after reading a few and wanting to know more about the series. This one took me a long time to find a copy of that was available at my price point. And it became even harder to track down after he was canonized in 2022. It was an excellent read. The copy I tracked down had a well preserved dustjacket. The description of the book states:

“The Viscount de Foucauld, French aristocrat and Army officer, was sent to Algeria during France's struggle to colonize North Africa. His deep attraction to Africa and the desert led him to undertake, in disguise, an adventure into Morocco to sketch and map that unknown country then forbidden to Europeans. Impressed by the strong seriousness of the Moslems for their religion, Char les was fervently re-convened to his own Catholic faith, became a Trappist brother, then a priest, and finally returned to the desert to live in charity and poverty among the Arabs until he was murdered by marauding tribesmen in 1916.”

About the author we are informed:

“Emmeline Garnett, a Londoner, holds an Oxford University degree in English. She has been a teacher and is now a lecturer in a British training school. She is the author of the Vision Book, Florence Nightingale's Nuns.”

About the series form the back dustjacket:

“Each new Vision Book adds another exciting life story co chis rich collection of biographies for Catholic youngsters. Written by well-known authors in sparkling, lively language, Vision Books are based upon careful research and historical face. Imprimatur.”

The volume does have the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur. The back of the volume has a note I have never seen before:

“His Holiness Pope John XXIII has graciously imparted to the authors and publishers of Vision Books His Apostolic Blessing.

"In view of His ardent zeal for the spiritual welfare of all His children, the Sovereign Pontiff ... cherishes the prayerful hope that these volumes may stimulate their readers to a greater desire for virtue and for that exemplary holiness of life which should characterize Catholic youth.

"As a mark of His paternal interest in this undertaking, the Holy Father cordially imparts ... to the authors and publishers of the Vision Books His paternal Apostolic

Secretary of State to His Holiness
July 4, 1959”

But back to this volume, the chapters in this book are:

Author's Note 
A Long Line of Soldiers 
Military Academy 
Soldier in Peacetime 
Active Service 
Moroccan Journey 
An Explorer Returns Home 
Brother of Silence 
Desert Calling 
Breaking-in the Desert 
Death in the Desert 

Even having read two other volumes about Charles De Foucauld I was absolutely fascinated and enthralled reading this biography. It is an excellent volume and one I wish Ignatius would bring back into print. I could hardly put it down. I highlighted numerous passages while reading this volume, some of them are:

“THE CHURCH HAS not yet made a saint of Charles de Foucauld. Perhaps she never will. But he certainly was what we call in ordinary speech "a saint." He was also, by any standards, one of the most extraordinary and romantic figures of his time. This is why I have not, except where I had authority from his own writings, pretended to know at any moment what he was thinking. The story is told almost entirely from the point of view of people who knew him.”

“There had been a de Foucauld at the Crusades with St. Louis the King. Another had stood beside the Dauphin in Rheims Cathedral when Joan of Arc crowned him under the echoing arches. During all the most exciting scenes of French history, it seemed, a de Foucauld had stood beside the King of France. Most had been soldiers; but one, a priest, had been killed during the Revolution for standing by the Church, which had been outlawed by the revolutionaries. Their family motto was "Never turn back."”

“General Henrion, after having seen so many round young puppyish faces that morning, could not but be struck by his twenty-fourth recruit. This boy was tall, thin, handsome, dignified in his way. His young face was grave, as though he looked into a tough future, determined to make something of it.”

“The General looked at him hard and liked what he saw. He had been a St. Cyrien himself forty years before, and liked a touch of spirit in a boy or a horse. After a brief conversation he dismissed Vallombrosa, and scribbled a note to the effect that this recruit had impressed him as "a mixture of youth, gracious strength, pride and sympathy."”

“Far into the night they talked, filling in the background of each other's life. Antoine fell more and more under the spell of his odd companion. Charles, whatever his faults, and they were many, had the fortunate trick of picking good friends. Before they finally slept, each felt that he had made a friend for life.”

“At the end of the nineteenth century exploration quickened. It was plain that unless the great powers agreed more definitely with one another, the day would soon come when their territories would clash. Thus, at various conferences, they more or less sat around a table and divided the continent among them.”

“Neither of these two young officers was in the least religious because the religion in which they had been brought up seemed to them a soft, feminine thing. At home m France there was hardly anyone to be seen in the churches except pious women. Charles respected his sister Mimi's religion, which was also that of his dear cousins and his dead mother. The little altar which his mother had made him when he was a child was still in his room at home, and he did not like to disturb it, for sentimental reasons. But to be really religious did not seem to him to be worth a man's trouble.”

“He discovered the joy of emptiness, loneliness, silence, when one travelled with a handful of dates in one's pocket, cut free from the nagging details of life in a civilized country.”

“In the desert, alone, man is cut down to his proper insignificant size, and then he finds that he needs something beyond himself to fill the gap.”

“It did not happen at once. It took three years, under Abbe Huvelin's careful teaching, first to sort out Charles's half-Moslem beliefs and then to find out exactly what he wanted to do with his life. He visited various monasteries and made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Then, in the cold January of 1890, he walked alone up from the railway station to the monastery of Our Lady of the Snows in Langucdoc.”

“The next morning, as a compliment to his guest, de Susbielle went to his Mass. After all, it was only polite. 

He was startled. Never in his life, in all the memories of his pious boyhood, had he heard a Mass like this. Sincerity and something-yes, there was only one word for it, goodness – seemed to flow in waves from the unremarkable, rather untidy figure at the altar to the men kneeling on the sand. Here was a man who really believed, so deeply and so much with his whole self that there was no need for the outward trappings of piety. He did not need to preach Christianity because he lived it.”

I hope those quotes give you a feel for this volume. It is an excellent read. And if you can lay your hands on it I can easily recommend it. I would love to see Ignatius republish this volume. Saint Charles is a great example and one we need in this time and age. This is another excellent read in a great series. I have loved all the volumes I have read in the Vision Books Series, both the original volumes and those in reprint from Ignatius.

This is a great read if you can lay your hands on a copy. I encourage you to try and track it down, or reach out to Ignatius to inquire about it.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan

Books in the Vision Books Saints Biographies:
Bernadette, Our Lady's Little Servant 
The Cure of Ars 
Edmund Campion 
Florence Nightingale's Nuns 
Fr. Marquette and the Great Rivers 
Francis and Clare, Saints of Assisi 
Kateri Tekakwitha 
Mother Cabrini, Missionary to the World 
Mother Seton and the Sisters of Charity 
Saint Anthony and the Christ Child 
Saint Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal 
Saint Dominic and the Rosary 
Saint Elizabeth's Three Crowns 
Saint Francis of the Seven Seas 
Saint Helena and the True Cross 
Saint Ignatius and the Company of Jesus 
Saint Isaac and the Indians 
Saint John Bosco 
Saint Katherine Drexel 
Saint Louis and the Last Crusade 
Saint Philip of the Joyous Heart 
Saint Therese and the Roses 
Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Preaching Beggars 
Saint Thomas More of London 
Vincent De Paul: Saint of Charity 

Out of Print books in the Series:
Catholic Campuses, Stories of American Catholic Colleges 
Champions in Sports and Spirit 
Children Welcome: Villages for Boys and Girls 
Christmas and the Saints 
Columbus and the New World 
Dear Philippine: Mission of Mother Duchesne 
Edel Quinn: Beneath the Southern Cross 
Frances Warde and the First Sisters of Mercy 
Good Pope John b
Governor Al Smith 
In American Vineyards, Religious Orders in the United States 
Irish Saints 
John Carroll Bishop and Patriot
John Neumann, The Children's Bishop 
Kit Carson of the Old West 
Lydia Longley, the First American Nun 
Marguerite Bourgeoys, Pioneer Teacher 
Martin de Porres, Saint of the New World 
Modern Crusaders 
More Champions in Sports and Spirit 
Mother Barat's Vineyard 
My Eskimos: A Priest in the Artic 
Peter and Paul: The Rock and the Sword 
Peter Claver, Saint Among Slaves
Pope Pius XII, the World's Shepherd 
Rose Hawthorne: The Pilgramage of Nathaniel's Daughter 
Saints of the Byzantine World 
Sarah Peter: The Dream and the Harvest 
St. Augustine and His Search for Faith 
St. Francis de Sales 
St. Gregory the Great, Consul of God 
St. Jerome and the Bible 
St. Margaret Mary, Apostle of the Sacred Heart 
The Bible Story, The Promised Lord and His Coming 
The Cross in the West 
The Ursulines, Nuns of Adventure 
When Saints Were Young 

Charles De Foucauld Adventurer of the Desert - Emmeline Garnett and Leo Summers - Vision Books #56

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