Charles Eugène de Foucauld was a Catholic religious and priest living among the Tuareg in the Sahara in Algeria. He was shot in 1916 outside the door of the fort he built for protection of him and the Tuareg and is a martyr of the Roman Catholic Church. His inspiration and writings led to the founding of the Little Brothers of Jesus among other orders, lay and religious.

The Life of Charles de Foucauld

Born in Strasbourg on September 15, 1858, he grew up in an aristocratic family and entered the Saint-Cyr Military Academy in 1876. He later was a French army officer in Algeria but left the army in 1882 and went as an explorer to Morocco (1883-1884).

In 1890 he joined the Cistercians Trappist order first in France and then at Akbès in Syria but left in 1897 to follow an as yet undefined religious vocation in Nazereth. He began to lead a life of prayer, alone, near a convent of Poor Clares and it was suggested to him that he be ordained. In 1901 at the age of 43 he was ordained in Viviers, France and returned to the Sahara in Algeria and lived a virtually eremetical life. He first settled in Beni Abbes, near the Moroccan border, building a small hermitage for 'adoration and hospitality', which soon became the 'Fraternity'. For Charles wished to be, and was seen to be, a "brother" to each and every visitor, whatever their religion, ethnic origin or social status. Later he moved to be with the Tuareg people, in Tamanghasset in southern Algeria. This region is the central part of the Sahara with the Ahaggar Mountains (the Hoggar) immediately west of there. Charles used the highest point, the Assekrem, as a place of retreat. Living close to the Tuareg, and sharing their life and hardships, he made a ten-year study of their language and cultural traditions. He learned the language and worked on a dictionary and grammar. His dictionary manuscript was published posthumously in 4 volumes and has become known among Berberologues for its rich and apt descriptions. He formulated the idea of founding a new religious order, which only became a reality after his death, under the name of the Little Brothers of Jesus.

He was shot to death by passing marauders connected with Senussi Bedouin December 1, 1916 outside his Tamanrasset compound against the general background of uprising against the French colonial power, the first world war and famine in the Hoggar. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on November 13, 2005 and is considered a martyr of the Church.

Legacy of Charles de Foucauld as a Catholic religious

Though Charles died alone and without the immediate fellowship of others sharing his practice of the life of "Jesus at Nazareth" and hospitality in the desert of Algeria, he was successful at inspiring and help to organize a "confraternity" within France to support his idea. This organization called the Association of the Brothers and Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus consisted of lay and ordained members totaling 48 people at the time of his death. It was this group and specifically the efforts of Louis Massignon, the world famous scholar of Islam, and a best selling biography written by René Bazin in 1921 - "La vie de Charles de Foucauld explorateur en Maroc, eremite du Sahara" - who kept his intuitions alive and inspired the family of lay and religious "fraternities" that include: Jesus Caritas, the Little Brothers of Jesus, the Little Sisters of Jesus among a total of 18 different congregations. Though originally French in origin, these groups have expanded to include many cultures and languages on all continents.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spirituality of Charles de Foucauld

On the website of the Little Sisters of Jesus it is written that Charles was born into a wealthy French family and that he lost his faith and his bearings at an early age.  It took him many years and wanderings before he met the one whom he called "his beloved brother and Lord, Jesus".  The more his prayer became a mystical meeting with Jesus, the more he was drawn to seek Jesus in others.  His belief in this double presence was a unifying and healing factor in his life.  He came to understand his vocation as an imitation of the life of Jesus at Nazareth.  By this he meant a truly contemplative life rooted in the ordinary life of the poor.   

"It is love which should recollect you in me, not distance from my children.
See me in them, and like me at Nazareth, live near them, lost in God."

- Meditation of Charles de Foucauld 

Blessed Charles de Foucauld

Born in Strasbourg, France on 15 September 1858
Martyred at Tamanrasset, Algeria on 1 December 1916
Beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on 13 November 2005
Feast is 1 December