The Eucharist challenging the time we live. Claude RAULT

If there is one dimension that the Covid pandemic has disturbed, and in depth, in our Christian life, it is indeed our “Eucharistic practice”, and we are all equal in this great disturbance.

All equal ? Yes, because even as a priest, celebrating on my own is for me, as for many others, a challenge that I also sometimes experienced on returning from my Saharan tours: I celebrated alone in the small oratory of my bishopric. But, I have to say it … without ever having the feeling of being completely alone!

It is true that the “deal” has changed since the de-containments, but this measure is not general around the world.

There have been many reflections in the Church on the meaning of the Eucharistic celebration revived on this occasion. Rather than seeing this situation first as a kind of lack, or even amputation, shouldn’t we take it better as a happy challenge to our faith?

Isn’t this an opportunity to take a fresh look at a “practice” that always risks the wear and tear of habit? But I know that I am also addressing people who are often already deprived of a regular Eucharist, I cannot exclude them from a new look at the reality that is theirs. They too would have a lot to tell us.

I would also like to warn us against a practice that risks becoming habitual (unless there is no other possibility): that of Masses followed through the screen, which can individualize the Eucharist and to turn it into a “spiritual show” of which we would quickly risk becoming mere spectators. That being said, if you don’t have only this means, why not take it? The important thing is to keep our belonging to the Body of Christ and to the small cell of this Body to which we belong alive.

Charles de Foucauld in the desert: an illuminating situation

To stay in the mind of Charles de Foucauld, I refer first to him who had wanted to become a priest in order to share this treasure which he had discovered and from which he had drawn for many years.

“This divine banquet of which I became the minister, it was necessary to present it not to the brothers, to the parents, to the rich neighbors, but to the most lame, to the most blind, to the poorest, to the most abandoned lacking the most priests” (To Maxime Caron, Beni Abbès, April 8, 1905). What was to become of this priestly vocation centered on the celebration of the Eucharist in often precarious and uncertain conditions?

In Beni Abbes, he could quite easily and regularly celebrate given the presence of French Christian soldiers. During his accompanied journeys too, since he could carry what he needed with him.

To settle in Tamanrasset things would get complicated as he was going to be practically alone, in the absence of a local military garrison. He would have to wait for the passage of a possible servant to celebrate. He told his bishop of this tension when he was given the opportunity to go to the Hoggar:

“The question you ask – is it better to stay at the Hoggar without being able to celebrate Holy Mass, or to celebrate it and not go – I have often asked myself… I believe that it is better to go to Hoggar in spite of everything. , leaving it to the good Lord to give me the means to celebrate, if he wishes (which he has always done until now by the most diverse means) … (Letter to Father Guérin on July 2, 1907 ). And he continues in the same letter: “Residing alone in the land is good; there is action; even without doing much, because we become “of the country” we are so affordable and so “very small”

Finally, he opts for confidence and prefers to stay in Hoggar, even with the risk of not being able to celebrate Mass or adore the Blessed Sacrament. To live like Jesus in Nazareth is for him first, and to be embodied in this people seems to him the most important in imitation of Jesus. He was unable to celebrate Mass on Christmas 1907, for example, sorry that he could not offer the Altar Sacrifice for lack of passages. The permission arriving from Rome at the end of January 1908, it was joy! But he will not be able thereafter and for a long enough time to keep the Blessed Sacrament in his chapel, permission will come only later.

The situation we are living in is therefore not unusual and to a certain extent Brother Charles lived it, and in deep loneliness; the choice to enter into his Spiritual Family marks us very deeply even in this aspect. His experience therefore speaks to us in the heart of the destitution that we can experience, and can even become inspiring to better live this “absence”. But for this, we must return to the meaning of the presence of the “Body of Christ”, which cannot be restricted or even “confined” to the sole “real presence” of the Eucharist in the tabernacle or in the celebration. The Body of Christ has two arms, each equally “sacramental”.

His Presence is not limited to that which we adore or celebrate in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, it is also real in what is called “the Sacrament of the Brother”. One is inspired by the Last Supper, the other by the washing of the feet. And here we are faced with the same mystery which cannot be reduced to one or the other. Christ is really present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. He is also really present in this gesture which He makes when washing the feet of His disciples, and which signifies the Sacrament of the Brother. They complement each other, called each other, if the Sacrament is double the reality of the Presence of Jesus is one: It cannot be divided.

Eucharist and Sacrament of the Altar.

Let us return to the institution of the Eucharist on the evening of Holy Thursday: we are at a crucial moment when Jesus is going to visibly leave this Earth to join his Father, giving his life, shedding his blood “to bring together in unity the children of God dispersed ”(Jn 11,52). He will do this with a gesture that is part of the paschal meal and that he will pass on to his Apostles, who will pass it on to future generations. I refer you to the first account of the Institution that the apostle Paul relates to us in 1 Cor 11,23-26.

Almost from the time of Jesus’ departure from the apostolic community, the latter therefore gathered regularly, “faithful to the breaking of bread” (Acts 2,42). This was to respond to his invitation: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19). But it is much more about the simple repetition of a liturgical ritual. It is good to go all the way, to follow Christ by giving our life in turn for the salvation of the world, as He did. We understand here the very engaging character of the Eucharist, the celebration of which is essential in the life of the Church, and this since its birth. It has surely taken on many aspects. First celebrated in hiding, in the form of a domestic liturgy, then more openly when the Church has been able to live in visibility. And these two forms remain very current according to the possibilities and the situations, the number of the ecclesial community. The Eucharistic celebration remains one of the essential pillars of the Church.

Even more when in her men and women engage in consecrated life. This is not a question of individual piety, but of the very meaning we give to our life: “It is not possible that we live our consecrated life in the world surrounded as we are by everything that can help us forget the Lord, if we do not courageously take the absolutely essential means to remain faithful. And the first of these means is the sacrifice of the Mass where the Lord visibly gives himself to us to strengthen us, to deprive us, to transform us little by little into Him ”. (From Margot Poncet. June 1958. Diaries P. 93.) We cannot relativize attendance at Mass, as if it was only required occasionally. It is at the heart of our lives. And Eucharistic adoration prolongs it and makes us deepen our belonging to the dead and risen Christ and to the community to which we belong. But it is also for our humanity that we participate in it, as “as an embassy”. The whole Eucharist is celebrated “For the glory of God and the salvation of the world”. We put on the paten the bread of our lives and poured into the cup the wine of our sorrows and our joys, that is to say all the hope and all the suffering of our world. And we receive there the living Christ, given as food. Linked to the Communion of Saints, this celebration is uninterrupted throughout the world, whether or not we can participate in it bodily.

Eucharist and Sacrament of the Brother

The other arm of Christ is as essential as the one we have just mentioned, it is the one that was revealed to us during the washing of the feet, before His Glorification (Jn 13). It should be noted that the Institution of the Eucharist is not related in John’s account. It is evoked in the “sharing of bread” of chapter 5. No doubt that the “Breaking of Bread” was frequent in the Church at this late period of the 4th Gospel and that a new light had to be shed on this other Real Presence. of Jesus, manifested through our neighbor. What does Jesus say after washing the feet of his disciples? “This is an example that I have given you so that you too may do as I have done for you” (Jn 13,15). This word echoes that pronounced during the Institution: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19).

During the pandemic, the charitable work of the Church remained active, and even churches opened to welcome the poor and give them this daily bread essential to their life and that of their families. They were aided in this by a good number of volunteers from backgrounds quite indifferent to the Church. We cannot say that it has nothing to do with the Eucharist! In a meditation on the “multiplication of the loaves” (Mt 14,13-21), during the Angelus of August 2, Pope Francis comments: “In this Gospel account, the reference to the Eucharist is obvious, especially when it describes the blessing, the breaking of the bread, the giving to the disciples, the distribution to the people (v. 19). It should be noted how close the link between the Eucharistic bread, food for eternal life, and the daily bread, necessary for earthly life, is. Before offering himself as the Bread of salvation, Jesus takes care of the food of those who follow him and who, in order to be with him, have forgotten to make provisions. Sometimes spirit and matter are contrasted, but in reality spiritualism, like materialism, is alien to the Bible. “

If Charles de Foucauld was strongly marked by the Eucharist, he was also marked by the presence of Jesus in the poor, the little, the abandoned. He wrote to Louis Massignon shortly before his death:

“There is no word of the Gospel that has made a deeper impression on me and transformed my life more than this: ‘Everything that you do to one of these little ones, it is to me that you do it’. If one thinks that these words are those of the uncreated Truth, those of the mouth which said ‘This is my body, this is my blood’ with what force one is brought to seek and love JESUS ​​in these little ones, these sinners, these poor people, bringing all their material resources to the relief of temporal miseries … ”(Tamanrasset, August 1, 1916)

This is what unites the Sacrament of the Altar and the Sacrament of the Brother! We cannot say that opening a church to feed the poor has nothing to do with the Eucharist! We cannot say that a Christian commitment to one’s neighbor is not in the line of celebration and participation in Mass. The two arms of Christ are linked to each other, inseparable, and in celebration and in the good done to others.

The Unity of the Body of Christ.

So it is not about making a choice and separating the two for the benefit of each other. Both are in a way indispensable for the life of the Christian community, for our own and for the life of our world.

Father René Voillaume said on this subject in a conference in 1970:

“One cannot separate the sacrifice of the Cross from fraternal charity as one cannot separate a root from the plant that springs from it; we cannot separate the adoration of Christ and the communion of his mystery which is Love incarnate, from the realization of an effective and fraternal love between men. … Charity cut from its trunk which is Christ withers and dies … “

To say that separating the sacrament of the altar and the sacrament of the brother cannot be conceivable, I finally offer for your meditation the passage of a sermon by St John Chrysostom (in the 4th century) “Do you want to honor the body of Christ? Don’t despise him when he’s naked. Do not honor him here in the church with silk fabrics while you leave him outside to suffer from the cold and the lack of clothing. For he who said: “This is my body, and who realized it by saying it, it is he who said: you saw me hungry, and you gave me no food, and also: Whenever you haven’t done it to these little ones, you haven’t done it to me. Here, the body of Christ does not need clothes, but pure souls; there, he needs a lot of solicitude ”(Homily on the Gospel of St. Mt)

It is therefore up to us, where we are, to keep this link between the Sacrament of the Altar and the Sacrament of the Brother, in the conditions in which we live. God does not ask us for the impossible, He gives it to us! Let us awaken our hearts and our creativity to live from the Presence of Jesus, and to manifest Him in these times that we are living.

+ Claude RAULT
February 2021

PDF: The Eucharist challenging the time we live. Claude RAULT. eng

Text 5. Dialogue in the spiritual journey of brother Charles. Jean-François BERJONNEAU

Jean-François Berjonneau, France

Brother Charles lived sixty years before the Second Vatican Council.

The notion of interreligious dialogue as we understand it today in the Church was totally foreign to him. While having been, I believe, a forerunner of the Council’s openness to the universal dimension of the mission of the Church, the process of dialogue between Christian believers and Muslims as such did not fall into its categories. He lived with the theology of his time in the fear of joining Muslims in order to save “these ignorant souls” by bringing them to know Christ.

In addition, he carried out his ministry in a specific socio-political context. France, in those days, extended its colonial empire over a part of Africa. At that time many believed that she was doing civilizing work and that she could provide the education necessary to free the colonized peoples from poverty and ignorance. Brother Charles adhered to this aim. He therefore did not see in the Islam of his time a religion with its own consistency, its history, its diverse streams with some of which Christians could enter into dialogue.

Although Islam had exerted on him, at a certain moment of his life, a certain fascination and though the meeting with the Moslems constituted for him a significant stage on the road of his conversion, he would have been far from subscribing to this conciliar vision of Islam according to which “The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the One God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men…” (Nostra Aetate No. 3). He was therefore not situated in the theological problematic of the Second Vatican Council, which recognizes in non-Christian religions the presence of “seeds of the Word” which can constitute a basis for entering into dialogue with believers of another religion.

However, it seems to me that we can nevertheless consider Brother Charles as a precursor of dialogue. Because he instituted with the Muslim populations that he met, in particular with the Tuaregs, a “dialogue of life” which was later presented by the encyclical “Ecclesiam Suam” of Pope Paul VI in 1964 as the fundamental basis of any dialogue: “We cannot save the world from outside; like the Word of God who became man, we must assimilate, to a certain extent, the forms of life of those to whom we want to bring the message of Christ …. We must share common customs, provided they are human and honest, especially those of the little ones, if we want to be heard and understood. Before even speaking, it is necessary to listen to the voice and even more so to the heart of man … We must make ourselves the brothers of men … The climate for dialogue is friendship “N ° 87.

Thus, Brother Charles, by devoting all his energy and a large part of his time to learning the language of the Tuaregs whose life he shared, by developing very simple conversations on the realities of their daily life, by opening up himself to their poetry and thus by trying to understand the genius of this people, was able to open, by the dialogue with its hosts, a climate of confidence to the point where he became for many “a friend”. He thus showed that the mission of the Church is also to make up brothers, while respecting differences of culture or religion, as the Church subsequently did in many countries of the planet, based on the openings of the Second Vatican Council.
We can therefore recognize, for the priests of the Jesus Caritas priestly fraternity that we are, that Brother Charles opened to us a spirituality of dialogue which can still inspire us in the encounters we live not only with Muslims but also with all those who do not share our faith. Thus the path of dialogue he opened with the Tuaregs unfolded in several fundamental figures:
He was able to accept being disorientated in order to immerse himself in the other’s country. He carried out this movement that Pope Francis calls “a Church going out”. He wanted to be welcomed by these people and become as much as possible “one of them”. And he made the learning of their language a mystical work because it was for him in the line of the incarnation of Christ in this humanity whom he came to save.

  • Although his greatest desire was the conversion of Muslims to the Christian faith, he never exerted any pressure to achieve his ends. He always respected their freedom. In 1908 he recognized that he would not make any conversions and concluded that it was probably not God’s will. But he remained in the midst of this Tuareg people in the name of the alliance he had made with them, simply to advance on the path of brotherhood with them.
  • His goal: to become the friend of the other In a letter he addressed to a correspondent, he thus characterized the mode of relationship he wanted to adopt with the Muslims around him: “First, to prepare the ground in silence through kindness, intimate contact, good example; to love them from the bottom of my heart, to be esteemed and loved by them; In this way, to break down prejudices, to gain confidence, to acquire authority – this takes time – then to speak in particular to the best disposed, very cautiously, little by little, variously, giving to each one according to what he is capable of receiving. “. In the absence of being able to explicitly proclaim the Gospel, he personally wanted to become the presence of the Gospel. This is what he meant when he said he wanted to “cry out the Gospel not with words but with all his life”. He was able to adjust to the way God looks at the Muslims whom he met. He did not first see them as “infidels” or “disbelievers”, but, in his desire to become a universal brother, he considered them “beloved brothers, children of God, souls redeemed by the blood of Jesus, beloved souls of Jesus”.
  • He manifested the face of a diaconal Church. He not only lived with them, but also contributed, as far as he could, to the improvement of their living conditions and to the development of their country. He fought against slavery, fought disease, introduced medicine, new agricultural techniques and means of communication into this very poor country.
  • Whenever he could, he opened a spiritual dialogue with Muslims. Of course he did not adhere to the doctrine of Islam at all. But he recognized in it a point in common with the Christian faith: the double commandment to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbour as yourself. On this basis he developed numerous dialogues with his Muslim friends, showing them in various circumstances how this double command could be deployed in their daily relations.
  • Finally, and this is not one of the least elements of dialogue, he made the paschal mystery the royal road to dialogue. As he was constantly contemplating the life of Christ in Nazareth, like him he took the path of humility, of poverty, of listening and of dying to oneself in meeting the other. Throughout his life he has manifested that “there is no greater love than to give your life for those you love.“

By presenting himself as “a pioneer”, he showed us that the dialogue of life is an integral part of the mission of the Church.

PDF: Text 5. Dialogue in the spiritual journey of brother Charles. Jean-François BERJONNEAU – en

Text 4. Our way of evangelizing

Fernando Tapia, Chile

As diocesan priests, we share with the whole Church the only mission that she has: to evangelize. Pope Francis has given us very clear guidelines to do so in his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”. We make all their proposals our own and we try to be inspired by them for our evangelizing action in our parishes, communities, centers of Christian formation, centers for the poorest, etc.

However, the question is valid if we, as priests of the IESUS CARITAS Fraternity, put some particular key points that are born from the charism of Brother Charles and from our spirituality. We think so and here are some of those key points.


Our way of evangelizing is marked in the first place by the mystery of the Incarnation, a mystery that fascinated Brother Charles and is at the root of his spirituality:

“The incarnation is rooted in the goodness of God. But one thing appears, first, so wonderful, brilliant and amazing that it shines like a dazzling sign: it is the infinite humility that contains such a mystery. God, the Being, the Infinite, the Perfection, the Creator, the immense Omnipotent, sovereign Lord of all, becoming man, joining a soul and a human body and appearing on earth as a man, and the last of men “.

The incarnation always occurs in a certain time and place and culture. Brother Charles did a great job to learn about the culture of the Tuaregs, their language, their customs, their poetry, etc. We would always like to take into account the historical context, the characteristics of the time and the culture in which we evangelize, because we are convinced that God prolongs his incarnation in each age and the Risen Christ continues to speak to us from the signs of the times to invite us to build his Kingdom of life.

Considering that Christ enters the world through “the door of the poor”, as Bishop Enrique Alvear said, we too would like to enter through this door in our evangelizing action and from there proclaim the Gospel to all.


In a spirit of availability to our Bishops, we would like to prioritize the most abandoned and farthest places to the Church. The geographical or existential peripheries, as Pope Francis says. They are the frontier places: marginal populations, distant fields, refugee camps, migrants, addicts, deprived of liberty, the excluded in general. Using poor means is basically our own friendly and merciful presence.

Brother Charles tells us:

“For me, always look for the last of the last positions, to be also small as my Master, to be with him, to march after him, step by step, as faithful servant, faithful disciple and – since in his infinite goodness, incomprehensible He deigns to speak like that – as a faithful brother and faithful husband “.

“This divine banquet, of which I am a minister, is necessary to present it not to the brothers and relatives, to the rich neighbors, but to the lame, the blind, the most abandoned and lack of priests souls … I have requested and obtained permission to settle in the Algerian Sahara.”

If we are sent to more affluent places, we would like to be agents of social awareness and bridge the rich to the realities of the poor.

We come as brothers and friends of the poor. We discover God already present in their cries and aspirations. We in turn allow the poor to evangelize us and enrich our ministries.


In every place, but particularly in marginalized areas, we want to give priority to evangelization through testimony rather than through words. Testimony marked by closeness, simplicity, welcome, kindness, interest in what happens to the other, concrete service, inner joy. Brother Charles wrote to a friend:

“You want to know what I can do for the natives. It is not possible to speak directly about our Lord. This would be to make them flee. You have to inspire them confidence, make friends with each other, give them small services, give them good advice, make friends with them, discreetly encourage them to follow natural religion, show them that Christians love them4 ” (ESE p.84).

Already in a retreat in November 1897, he had formulated his way of evangelizing with this phrase, placed in the mouth of Jesus: “Access your vocation: to proclaim the Gospel from the rooftops, not with your word, but with your life“.

This does not mean that we neglect the ministry of the Word. We know that it is an essential part of our mission to arouse and nourish faith: “faith comes through preaching, and preaching through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). The Second Vatican Council says it clearly in the decree on “Ministry and life of priests”: “With the word of salvation faith is raised in the heart of non-believers and strengthened in that of believers, and with faith the congregation of the faithful begins and develops


From our option for fraternity, we privilege teamwork with other priests, be or not of our Fraternity, religious, deacons and lay people. We want to be more brothers than religious tyrants/masters or lords, as the Council says: “presbyters dwell with other men as brothers”6 .

Br. Charles went ahead in this sense to the Council when he seeks and values the work with laity:

“Next to the priests, Priscilas and Aquilas are needed, to see those who the priest does not see, to penetrate where he cannot penetrate, to go to those who run away, to evangelize with a benevolent contact, with an overflowing kindness above all, an affection always willing to give, a good example that attracts those who turn their back on the priest and are hostile to them on principle “(from Assekrem, May 3rd, 1912).

For this reason, we want to give time to the formation of the laity, for their spiritual accompaniment and to support the formation of fraternal communities, respecting the rhythm of each person.

Likewise, our option for fraternity makes us to value brotherhood as a way of life. We believe in universal brotherhood even with the unchurched, characterized by friendship, reciprocity, dialogue of life.

Fraternity leads us, also, to favor the participation of the laity in the pastoral management of our parishes, avoiding all authoritarianism and clericalism on our part and all passivity on the part of the laity. The existence of Pastoral Councils, Economic Affairs Committees, Teams to animate the different pastoral areas, Parish Assemblies, Joint pastoral planning, etc. they should be a distinctive mark of the parishes or other pastoral structures entrusted to our care.


This way of evangelizing supposes a very deep spiritual life in each of us that leads us to contemplate Jesus in the Gospels in order to configure ourselves more and more with Him, which is the work of the Spirit in us. He will enable us to enter into the dynamics of the descent, of the abasement, of the dispossession, characteristic of the mystery of the Incarnation, leaving many things for Him and for fidelity to the Gospel: prejudices, material goods, prestige, search for power, securities, etc. The Holy Spirit will give us inner freedom to find new paths and fields in the evangelizing task of the Church, always seeking the will of the Father, with infinite confidence.

Our missionary impulse above all urges/empowers us to reach and stay in the most difficult places, is sustained by the celebration of the Eucharist, daily Adoration and by the other means of spiritual growing of our fraternity. They enable us to become aware of the infinite Love of God for us, of His fidelity and mercy.

Eucharist should become a lifestyle of breaking bread/stories/word with people of other faith traditions.

We must promote a similar spiritual experience among the laity if we want to transform our parishes in the missionary sense that Pope Francis wishes: a Church on the way out that, without fear of accidents or getting stained with the mud of the road, goes in search of the far away and the discarded by society7 .

The Eucharist, on the other hand, opens us to belonging to an ever-broader ecclesial body. We want to be very aware that Evangelization is a mission shared with the whole diocesan and universal Church. As diocesan priests we want to be the first to feel part of a presbytery, with its Bishop at the head, supporting the gestation and implementation of diocesan projects to which we contribute with our pastoral charism and accents.


  1. Would you add any item to this outline?
  2. Is my pastoral structure (parish, center of formation, etc.) walking in this direction?
  3. What should mark my style of life to be coherent with our way of evangelizing?

PDF: Text 4 – Our way of evangelizing – EN


Ab. Nabons-Wendé Honoré SAVADOGO, Burkina

Charles de Foucauld “made a journey of transformation until he felt himself the brother of all men and women. [..] He oriented the desire for the total gift of his person to God towards identification with the last, the abandoned, deep in the African desert. » Fratelli tutti, 286-287.

The diversity of Charles de Foucauld’s spiritual family is impressive. We can find in it all the different states of a Christian life: lay faithful, religious men and women of active or contemplative life, consecrated lay people, priests and bishops. All succeed in drawing a rich and relevant inspiration from Brother Charles’s spiritual experience. We often forget the non-Christians and even those who do not have much religious practice but feel inspired by Charles’s experience.

The secret to such a spiritual depth and boundlessness is, first of all, faithfulness to the Gospel. The more closely a person’s life has been led according to the gospel, the more attractive and relevant it is to all Christians. In addition to this fidelity to the Gospel, Brother Charles went through all the states of Christian life: a lay faithful who lost and rediscovered his faith, a contemplative monk and hermit, a “free” priest, at the same time diocesan and “religious” in his own way, an extraordinary missionary. This depth and diversity of Charles de Foucauld’s spiritual experience implies the existence of some basic elements common to all who claim to be part of his spiritual family. Such elements should not be lacking in the spiritual life of anyone who would like to follow Jesus, drawing inspiration from the Foucauldian model.

1. A spirituality of the heart: turning religion into love

First and foremost there is love and mercy. The heart, seat and symbol of love, is the emblem of Brother Charles, the central, distinctive and specific element of his spirituality. Since his conversion, he wanted his heart to become like that of Christ. Throughout his eventful life, he did everything in his power to transform his heart and expand it according to the infinite limits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This insatiable love for God and men is the main reason for all the unexpected changes and transformations in his life. In his prayer, he never ceases to call on Jesus to bring his reign of love into the world. We are familiar with Brother Charles’s abandonment prayer, but an invocation that came to his lips very often was: “COR JESU sacratissimum, adveniat Regnum tuum! (Sacred Heart of Jesus, your kingdom come!). He himself liked to say that the foundation of religion and spiritual life is the heart and love. What he wrote in the rule of the congregation he wanted to found is still valid for all those who wish to follow him: “Let us be burning with love like the Heart of Jesus! … Let us love all men” made to the image of God”, like this Heart which so loved men! “… Let us love God, in view of whom we must love men, and whom only we must love for Himself … Let us love God as the Heart of Jesus loves him, as much as possible! “1. On the subject of love he was convinced that one should love without limit and no restriction. He said, “Love is perfection; we can exaggerate in everything, except in love: in love we can never go far enough… ”2.

2. The Eucharist celebrated, adored and lived

We can borrow the consecrated expression of the Second Vatican Council to say that the Eucharist is the source and the summit of all the spiritual experience of Charles de Foucauld. In this spiritual experience, the presence of the Eucharist is fundamental, transversal and inescapable to such an extent that one can say that his life unfolded as a single contemplation and an ever deeper experience of the Eucharist. The Eucharist marked from start to finish everything he lived spiritually: his conversion, his prayer, his relationship with Jesus, the eventful trajectory of his vocation, his pastoral care of goodness, his universal brotherhood, his missionary vision, his presence in the Sahara, every moment of his life, his death…

One could not be a disciple of Brother Charles without an increasingly growing love for Jesus present in the Eucharist celebrated and adored. Despite his great Eucharistic devotion, he never ceased to make resolutions to love the Eucharist more. Like him, we also need to constantly renew our love for the Eucharist. We need to make our own this resolution that he formulated during one of his many spiritual retreats: “To stand at the foot of the holy sacrament whenever the will of God, that is to say a very certain duty, does not force me to move away from it… […] – Never fail to receive Holy Communion, under any pretext”3.

3. Universal brotherhood

Blessed Charles de Foucauld found in the Eucharist the source of universal brotherhood. Having clearly perceived that every human being is in one way or another, a part, a member of the Eucharistic body of Christ, he deduced from this the need to love all men without distinction: “we must love all men, venerate them, respect them, incomparably since all are members of Jesus, are part of Jesus… ”4. Considering also that the Eucharist is the sacrament in which the love of God is manifested in a supreme way, he thinks that its reception must make us tender, good and full of love for all men. Pope Francis has just given us Brother Charles as a model of universal brotherhood and friendship in these terms: Charles de Foucauld “made a journey of transformation until he felt himself the brother of all men and women. [..] He oriented the desire for the total gift of his person to God towards identification with the last, the abandoned, deep in the African desert. » Fratelli tutti, 286-287. An unavoidable and necessary challenge for any disciple of Brother Charles is this transformation into a universal brother, striving ceaselessly to become a universal brother for all men and women.

4. Love of the poorest

For Charles the adoration and tenderness that we have for the Body of Christ during the celebration as well as the adoration of the Eucharist must be the same veneration and the same tenderness for the poor. Brother Charles intuits that every time we say “this is my body, this is my blood”, it is the same Lord who says in the parable of the last judgment, whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do it unto me. When he made his long expositions of the Blessed Sacrament at Beni Abbes and there was a knock on the door, he left the Tabernacle to go and meet the person who came to visit him. It is the same Christ whom he encountered in the Blessed Sacrament as in the poor who came to visit him. To stay with the poorest, to reach out to the farthest away souls, he accepted huge sacrifices: loneliness, poverty, insecurity, impossibility of celebrating the Eucharist…

5. Sobriety of life: penance, abjection, poverty, sharing

In order to imitate Jesus in his descent to the last place through his incarnation and the sacrifice of the cross, Charles de Foucauld led a life of abjection and intense mortification. Although at times in his life he had to tone down his mortifications, Brother Charles remained a great ascetic throughout his life. Penance and mortification are no longer in order in our spiritual practices and in our consumerist world, but the figure of Brother Charles constantly reminds us of Jesus’ invitation to follow him in his descent into our humanity and his sacrifice on the cross. How to claim one’s belonging to his spiritual school without a certain dose of penance, or at least of sobriety? We need so much sobriety to row against the tide of consumerism which disfigures so much the beauty of our world and threatens to destroy our mother earth. A spirituality of penance and sobriety constitutes a real antidote against any excessive and abusive use of the goods that divine Providence places at our disposal.

6. Contemplation of the beauty of God in nature

We said above that Charles’s life unfolded as a continual contemplation of the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and in Sacred Scripture. Daily, Charles spent long hours contemplating God, looking at him with love and tenderness in prayer. He was a person always enamored of the splendor and the beauty of the infinite love of God. Despite this intense life of contemplation Charles was not indifferent to nature; he also knew how to find there the splendor of divine beauty. He kept this sense of beauty in creation throughout his life. He said: “Let us admire the beauties of nature, all so beautiful and so good, for they are the work of God. They immediately lead us to admire and praise their author. If nature, man, virtue, if the soul is so beautiful, then how beautiful must be the beauty of one of whom these borrowed beauties are but a pale reflection!. (Meditation sur les psaumes, p. 66 ou: Ch. d. Foucauld, Rencontres á themes, Nouvelle Cité 2016. Chapitre: beauté)

7. Unalterable missionary zeal

Brother Charles’ spiritual life was marked by an unfailing missionary zeal. As soon as he discovered his vocation to be a missionary of the Eucharistic banquet for the poorest, the most distant and the most hungry – today we would say the most “peripheral” – he did not stop praying and working for the mission. For the Gospel to be known and proclaimed, he said he was ready to sacrifice everything to “go to the end of the world and live to the last day …”5 Whatever form our state of life takes, can we authentically follow Brother Charles without wanting the Gospel and the Eucharist to be known and loved throughout the world?

To end as we started, let us say once again that with Charles de Foucauld we are in front of an almost inexhaustible spirituality because of its direct connection to the Gospel. We have only outlined some of the basic elements of his spiritual experience. It is up to each one to question the place and extent of these central and fundamental elements in his or her personal spiritual life. Their presence and their deepening can be an indication of the authenticity of our fidelity to the spiritual experience of Brother Charles.

Ouahigouya (Burkina Faso), december 2020.
Fr. Savadogo Nabons-Wendé Honoré

PDF: Text 3, engl. Fundamentals of a spirituality inspired by Charles de Foucauld