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Books: ‘Brother of the last’, Charles de Foucauld in the volume of Father Sapienza

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“One of the greatest teachers of prayer and spirituality of all time. He was truly like the seed of the Gospel; a seed that, despite the aridity of the desert, helped to make a tired and habitual Christianity flourish”: thus Father Leonardo Sapienza, priest and regent of the Papal Household, speaks of Charles de Foucauld to whom he dedicates the book ‘Charles de Foucauld brother of the last’ (Edizioni Viverein) in which he edited a selection of texts and thoughts extracted from his numerous writings. “Charles de Foucauld de Pontbriand was born in Strasbourg on September 15, 1858 in a wealthy and aristocratic family – reads the introduction of the volume written by Father Sapienza – Very intelligent, he soon cultivated a passion for reading. He has a carefree and skeptical youth. he himself will say that for thirteen years he did not believe in God “. “He enters the military school of Saint-Cyr, and is sent to Algeria – he continues – The event will remain decisive and decisive in his life. He makes a great journey of exploration in Morocco, and is deeply shaken by the call to prayer of Muslims. Law. a lot: books on philosophy, books on Christian theology. His restlessness is already prayer. And God listens to him. The encounter with Abbé Huvelin, the kindness and discreet friendship of his cousin Marie de Bondy, makes him discover faith Catholic. He makes a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and retraces the places of the life of Christ. He is fascinated by Nazareth and falls in love with the hidden, humble and poor life of Jesus “. “In 1889 he entered the Trappe of Notre-Dame-des Neiges in Ardèche, France; he was sent to Syria, where he remained for seven years. On 9 June he received priestly ordination in Viviers; he moved to Morocco, where he built a hermitage. Béni Abbès, the Hoggar, Tamanrasset: these are some stages of his Saharan wandering. The time he spent in Africa will be divided between these places – recalls Father Sapienza – Poor among the poor, out of fidelity to his vocation to imitate the hidden life of Jesus in Nazareth. He wrote: “Prepare without fear for martyrdom and receive it without any shadow of defense, like the divine Lamb, in Jesus, like Jesus, for Jesus'”. “In Tamanrasset – recalls the regent of the Papal Household in introduction of the book – December 1, 1916 Brother Charles wrote in his small notebook: “Live as if you were to die martyr today …. At every minute, live today as if you were to die tonight”. He dies the same day, murdered by desert raiders. Don Giovanni Barra will write: ‘His death seemed like total failure. Father without children, teacher without disciples, guide without mountaineers to take to the summit. But it was only an apparent failure. Saints are like this: they lose battles, but close to wars’ “.” In fact, not a convert, not a companion, not a foundation, which he too had always wanted. For this he will write: ‘I sow, they will reap to them’. Nobody followed him – continues Father Sapienza – but today eleven religious families were born from his charisma. ‘This man is a great saint, it is a pity that until the end he wanted to remain a Christian’. It is the image left by one of those who had met Charles de Foucauld among the Tuareg: a declaration of love and respect; a testimony of how Brother Charles had taken the Gospel literally “. Father Wisdom remembers that Charles de Foucauld” left over ten thousand manuscript pages! They are personal meditation sheets, notes from retreats, and an abundant correspondence with one’s family and friends. Paraphrasing St. John Chrysostom, one could say – he observes – that ‘it is enough to take a word from there to have a viaticum for life’. What we present here are only a few thoughts extracted from his numerous writings “.” Reading these pages, we only have to let ourselves be infected by the experience of Brother Charles of Jesus – concludes Father Sapienza – in a sincere and tireless search for the absolute and in the ardent love for the living person of Jesus Christ “.

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