NewsWorldDebauched heir, officer, explorer, priest: the thousand lives of...

Debauched heir, officer, explorer, priest: the thousand lives of Charles de Foucauld, canonized by Pope Francis – Le Monde

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Undated photo of Father Charles de Foucauld, a French religious assassinated in Tamanrasset, Algeria, on December 1, 1916. AFP Marcel Jouhandeau (1888-1979) wrote that our way of entering into life designates us “as an elegant soul or a sagouin, like a chosen one or a damned one”. The beginnings of Viscount Charles-Eugène de Foucauld (1858-1916), who is to be canonized on Sunday May 15, would rather indicate it in the second category. When he embarked on his career as a young officer from Saint-Cyr, promoted to Saumur then to a garrison at Pont-à-Mousson, he stammered around without stopping. He squanders his newly inherited fortune on banquets and orgies. He guzzles so much that his uniform explodes. In the army, he is called “Gros Foucauld”. He also admits to “sleeping a long time, eating a lot and thinking little”. For a time, his family finds excuses for him: he lost his mother at 5, his father at 6, and his maternal grandfather, who raised him, at 20. It will be objected that he had consolations: “the atmosphere of love” and the indulgences with which this maternal grandfather, Colonel de Morlet, surrounded his childhood and his youth; the tenderness of his little sister Marie-Inès, that of his cousin Marie Moitessier; finally, the fortune he receives on the death of said grandfather. Moreover, it is not the spirit of revolt that makes Charles roll down the wrong slope. He is aware of his class, of his origins. Early on, she was taught the family motto, “Never back.” He was taught that an ancestor died during the crusade led by Saint-Louis. Another, Abbé de Solignac, was assassinated with the hundred and ninety martyrs of the Carmelites in 1792. Dissolute life and scandalous behavior Boredom led the young officer of the hussars to a dissolute life. It is his being at the time, “all selfishness, all vanity, all impiety, all desire for evil.” His mad liberalities for his friends, his few schoolboy whims do not dissipate his laziness to live. If he lost his faith in high school, the year of his first communion, convinced by the ferocious and anti-Christian outbursts of Lucian of Samosata (v. 120-v. 180) – “I remained without denying anything and without believing anything, despairing of the truth, and not even believing in God, no proof seeming sufficiently obvious to me” – he still had a sense of duty, if not towards himself, at least towards his country. He was 12 when France lost Alsace, forcing his family from Strasbourg to move to Nancy. Another way to be an orphan. Also, when he learns of the departure of his regiment to put down some rebellious tribes in Tunisia, Foucauld – who had been placed on “non-activity” for scandalous conduct – asks for his reinstatement. It is in Algeria that he is finally sent to fight against an insurrection. There, the officer saves the man. On the highlands, he does wonders, shows a gift of unfailing command, closeness to his men, courage and audacity. You have 68.49% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.

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