Blessed Charles de Fou­cauld

Malta Independent - - LIFESTYLE & CULTURE - John A. Sci­cluna John A. Sci­cluna is a mem­ber of the Lay Fra­ter­nity of Bl. Charles de Fou­cauld

To many Mal­tese church­go­ers the name is known be­cause his prayer ap­pears in most hymn books in our churches. It is a prayer of deep trust in the Eter­nal Fa­ther and aban­don­ment of the soul into His Di­vine Hands.

But who was Charles de Fou­cauld ac­tu­ally?

He was born on 15 Septem­ber, 1858 to an aris­to­cratic French fam­ily. His fa­ther was Vis­count de Fou­cauld who died when Charles was not yet six years old. His mother died a short time after­wards, and he and his sis­ter were brought up by their ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther.

In­flu­enced by scep­tic au­thors whose books he read when he was a teenager, he lost his faith.

Prob­a­bly in­flu­enced by his fam­ily back­ground, he at­tended a Mil­i­tary Academy. When he was 19 his grand­fa­ther died and this af­fected Charles ad­versely. He be­came sad and care­less and barely grad­u­ated from mil­i­tary col­lege. When his grand­fa­ther died, he in­her­ited sub­stan­tial riches and started liv­ing a life of deca­dence. He was fool­ish and im­ma­ture and al­though his rel­a­tives re­proved him, this did not stop his prof­li­gate life. He fell in love with a woman whom he took with him when posted to Al­ge­ria. She co­hab­ited with him and af­ter re­fus­ing to give her up, he was dis­charged from the army.

In 1881 he reen­listed when he dis­cov­ered that his old reg­i­ment was re­turn­ing to Africa, where they sub­dued a re­volt in Al­ge­ria. Fol­low­ing this he em­barked on ex­ploratory work in Morocco in 1883 with great en­thu­si­asm. He later pub­lished a book on his ex­ploratory work which was well re­ceived in sci­en­tific cir­cles. To hon­our his work, a postage stamp was is­sued by the French Postal Au­thor­i­ties in 1959.

It was at this time that an in­ter­est in the Catholic faith grew in him. He was en­gaged to a French no­ble­woman but did not feel called to mar­riage.

On his re­turn to Paris, the need to re­turn to his faith in­ten­si­fied and he be­gan to go to church reg­u­larly. His cousin Marie de Bondy en­cour­aged him and sug­gested that he speak to Abbe’ Hu­ve­lain, which was the fi­nal step in his con­ver­sion. At this stage he felt the call for the priest­hood but the Abbe’ ad­vised him to wait for three years to test the call.

He went to the Holy Land and be­came a Trap­pist monk, but af­ter some time their rigid­ity did not suit him and so he founded an or­der based on poverty. The Abbe’ ad­vised him that as he was so keen to fol­low in the foot­steps of Je­sus, the best thing for him was to go to Nazareth and there find some hum­ble job. Fol­low­ing his ad­vice, in 1897 he went to work in the gar­dens of the Poor Clares there. He re­turned to France and re­ceived Holy Or­ders.

Be­ing at­tracted to North Africa, he re­turned there in 1901 and es­tab­lished him­self in a poor her­mitage. Here, he found the way of life he de­sired. He worked hard, ob­ject­ing to the ram­pant slav­ery trade. In his ef­forts to free slaves he even paid for the ran­som of many.

To con­tinue with his mis­sion he went to the Hog­gar re­gion which was in­hab­ited by Tuaregs. There he lived a no­madic life and in one lo­cal­ity he built a small and sim­ple chapel. Af­ter some time he trav­elled to Ta­man­ras­set, a small vil­lage in the re­gion and set­tled there. The Tuaregs loved him as they ap­pre­ci­ated his in­valu­able help.

The out­break of WWI led to at­tacks on the French in Al­giers. Seized in a raid by an­other tribe, Charles was shot and killed on 1 De­cem­ber 1916. Thus ended his life on earth. He left a legacy of love for the poor in­spired by Je­sus.

He founded no re­li­gious or­der but af­ter his death a num­ber of fra­ter­ni­ties were born. In Malta there are a num­ber of fra­ter­ni­ties which meet reg­u­larly in prayer and con­tem­pla­tion. Among them is a fra­ter­nity com­posed of a num­ber of priests. They fall un­der the re­spon­si­bil­ity of Fr Joe Fsadni of Rabat. The lay fra­ter­ni­ties are co­or­di­nated by Mrs Mar­garet Borg (Tel.7901 4713). Meet­ings are held in var­i­ous parishes and are di­rected by a priest.

On 13 Novem­ber 2005, Pope Bene­dict XVI be­at­i­fied Charles de Fou­cauld. It is note­wor­thy that tribal lead­ers at­tended the cer­e­mony.

Blessed Charles has a spe­cial con­nec­tion with Malta. When the Poor Clares had to leave Nazareth be­cause of the Mus­lim in­va­sion of the Holy Land, they were on board a ship but did not have any par­tic­u­lar des­ti­na­tion. Fr Charles, who was on the same ship, sug­gested that they es­tab­lish them­selves in Malta. They took up the sug­ges­tion and are now found in St Ju­lian’s. Here they have a num­ber of me­men­toes, mainly let­ters from him, and from time to time put their Chapel at the dis­posal of the Fra­ter­ni­ties. One spe­cial oc­ca­sion is the 100th an­niver­sary of his death. On Thurs­day 1 De­cem­ber an Ado­ra­tion Ser­vice will be held there be­tween 6.30 and 7.30 pm.

On Fri­day 2 De­cem­ber, Arch­bishop Charles J. Sci­cluna will cel­e­brate Pon­tif­i­cal High Mass at St John’s Co-Cathe­dral at 6.30pm.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.