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Charles de Foucauld, the saint of the desert and the universal brother

16/11/2005: Vatican

Charles de Foucauld, lover of the Eucharist and in dialogue with Islam, is one of the most loved spiritual figures of the 20th century. The former soldier and explorer was beatified on the 13th November 2005; his spiritual life had been profoundly marked by meeting the Touaregs who made him see that the love of Jesus must be proclaimed in words, but also with the witness of friendship and prayer. It was in 1897, at Nazareth, as a domestic of the Clarisses that Brother Charles discovered the spirituality of the last place. In 1977, the archbishop of Munich at the time, Joseph Ratzinger, had said during a pilgrimage to Nazareth: “It is truly when the sentimentalism which envelops Nazareth was flourishing that the real mystery of Nazareth was discovered in a new way, in its deepest contents, without the contemporaries noticing.

This was Charles de Foucauld who, in searching for the last place, found Nazareth. During his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, this place was the one that impressed him the most; he did not feel himself called to follow Jesus in his public life; it’s at Nazareth that his heart was touched the most deeply. He wanted to imitate Jesus, silent, poor and a worker. ‘We work with people, he wrote, a work infinitely fruitful for the soul, during which we can pray and meditate… We know well what is a piece of bread when we know by experience all the fatigue that it costs for the maker.’ At Nazareth, in the living meditation on Jesus, a new way for the Church opens. In fact, working with Jesus who works and establishes himself at Nazareth constituted his starting point. The New Alliance did not start in the Temple, nor on the holy Mountain, but in the small house of the Virgin, in the house of a worker, in one of the forgotten places of the pagan Galilee, from where no one expected any good to come.”
In 1916, Charles de Foucauld died without having had disciples. He had written a rule but no one had followed it yet in the desert. Today, eleven religious congregations (about 2,200 religious) and eight associations are inspired by him.

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