Venerable Charles de Foucauld Little Brother Charles of Jesus Charles Eugene, (Vicomte de) Foucauld 1858 - 1916 Died Age 58 Charles was left an orphan by the age of six, and he and his sister were brought up by their grandfather. By the time he was fifteen, less than a year after his First Communion, Charles had ceased to be a Christian and was an agnostic. In 1878, his grandfather died. Love for the old man had prevented Charles from indulging in the worst excesses, but at his death, Charles began to "live." On receiving his inheritance, he set about spending it in riotous living. For a time he lived in Paris, where he took an apartment near a cousin, Marie de Bondy. Marie, who had first entered his life when he was about eleven, was a deeply spiritual young woman. Gradually, through her example, the gay and reckless young man began to change. His religion, when he rediscovered God, was a highly personal discipleship and love of the Person of Jesus Christ. Regarding his conversion, Charles said, "The moment I realized that God existed, I knew I could not do otherwise than to live for him alone." For a time after his return to the sacraments, Charles lived as a Trappist monk. Although he is remembered as an exemplary religious, the conviction grew that this was not his vocation. After being released from his temporary vows, Charles went to the Holy Land where he became a servant for the Poor Clare nuns. Mother Elizabeth, the Superior of these Clarist sisters, was a woman of uncommon wisdom. She helped Charles to the realization that he should become a priest in order to serve God better. Charles finished his studies for the priesthood and was ordained in 1901. Later that year, he left for Algeria to take up the life of a hermit in the desert. Little Brother Charles of Jesus, as he called himself, thought up and wrote down a plan for two religious orders. The members of these orders would live a life patterned on the life of Jesus at Nazareth. At the time of Brother Charles' death, neither his missionary contacts nor his designs for new religious orders had borne visible fruit. In 1916, living among the fierce Tuaregs of Tamanrasset, Charles de Foucauld was murdered in an attempt to warn two Arab soldiers of danger from a group of Senussi rebels. The life of Charles de Foucauld was like the biblical seed which had to die before it sprouted into a healthy plant. Within twenty years after his death, there appeared three congregations which derived their inspiration, purpose, and Rules from Charles de Foucauld. These Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, and Little Sisters of Jesus live in small groups all over the world, preaching by the lives they lead. Two other Orders, founded later, trace their heritage to Little Brother Charles of Jesus. Each of these groups bases its apostolate on the ideas of the Orders which the martyr of the desert had planned, but did not live to see. Knowledge of the life of Charles de Foucauld has spread throughout the Church. After preliminary investigations, all proved positive, and he was declared Venerable on April 13, 1978.
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By Justin Soutar
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