Dear Friends of Joseph House:
Home is where we love and take care of our families. For Charles de Foucauld, family meant everyone.
Our freshly-sainted Br. Charles saw himself as a brother to all people, a “universal brother” as he called himself. Deep in the desert lands of Algeria where he lived, he was equally a brother to the nomadic people known as the Tuaregs, to the enslaved people he redeemed from bondage, and to the French soldiers garrisoned in the Sahara. His love went out to everyone, no matter who they were or what they believed or what they did. Always ready to share what he had—food, medicine, or his time—each stranger was welcomed at his door as a beloved family member.
Br. Charles wrote a rule of life for a religious congregation (that never formed until after his death), and included this directive for its members:
They will have no ‘preferences among people.’ May their universal and brotherly charity shine like a beacon for all around. Let none of those, near or far, sinner or infidel, be unaware that they are universal friends, universal brothers who spend their life praying for everyone without exception and doing them good. Their fraternity [home] is a port, a refuge where all people, especially the poor and destitute, are always fraternally invited, desired, and welcomed.
This is a beautiful description of hospitality and it’s what we try to emulate at the Joseph House since we look to Br. Charles for inspiration. People don’t exist as abstractions, however, and neither can our love for them. A member of Br. Charles’ aforementioned congregation, Antoine Chatelard, pointed this out:
Being a universal brother is first about being a brother, before thinking about being universal. . . . Universal love doesn’t exist outside of the particular. It means loving the person who is right in front of me, not loving the idea of someone I have never set eyes on.
Antoine, who died last year at the age of 90, was a great student of Br. Charles. He understood that Br. Charles’ life was a series of conversions, that having high ideals is one thing but living them out is another. Sainthood doesn’t happen without perseverance. If we want to be “universal” in our love for other people, there is only one way to start and one way to proceed . . . love the person right in front of us.
But what if that person has hurt us or caused harmed? One of our volunteers at the Joseph House Crisis Center, Gerry, met someone who revealed the depth and power of the human heart. Here is the story from Gerry (please note it describes a serious traffic accident):
Last September, Frank and Roberta were on their way home from dinner. While traveling 55 miles per hour on a two-lane highway, their motorcycle struck another motorcycle that pulled out from a stop sign and stopped right in the middle of the road.
The passenger on the second motorcycle was killed. Both Frank and Roberta were pronounced dead at the scene—but upon further inspection both still had life and were rushed to the hospital.
Their injuries were horrific. Roberta has had hip surgery and is scheduled for major back surgery. Frank’s arm was shattered so severely that his elbow ended up adjacent to his shoulder! His pelvis needed to be removed. I saw the pictures and was nauseous as I have never seen such devastation.
Neither Frank nor Roberta have been able to work since the accident and have another 9 to 12 months of recovery ahead of them. Frank has worked feverishly with his mortgage company to avoid foreclosure or eviction, and only due to help from family members was able to keep his electric on. He came to the Joseph House simply to get help with keeping his phone, cable, and Internet service from being shut off ($300).
The remarkable thing that struck me was Frank’s positive attitude about doing everything he could to get back to work. But the more AMAZING thing was the GRACE he exuded when he told me that despite the devastating injuries, he held no ill feelings toward the person that caused the accident, saying that it was “not my call” and that he believed something good could come out of this tragedy.
Having been raised in a Christian life for 60 years I’ve frequently heard that we must all show the love of Christ to others by forgiving those who cause us harm. But I have never had the privilege of seeing someone live that commitment.
Frank changed my life!
We want to thank Gerry for sharing this story with us. Love can be brought into any situation and our heart can be opened to any individual. If we feel like we can’t, we just have to do what we can and let God do the rest.
We are happy to be part of the “Br. Charles family” that extends across the globe. His example has guided our little community and helped us understand our vocation as Little Sisters. But now he belongs to everyone: his recent canonization is a declaration that his life has teaching value for all people.
Although Br. Charles lived more than 100 years ago, he can tell us something about living the Gospel in today’s world. That’s the mystery of God’s providence: when the time is right we are given what we need.
We will share more with you about the canonization next time—including an eyewitness account from our Sr. Virginia!
Thank you for your faithful support of our ministry to those in need. With gratitude,
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
Do you have a special need you hold close in your heart? Please send us your prayer requests and we will add our prayers to yours: Contact Form.
Your support of our ministry helps the hungry, the homeless, and struggling families. See how you can help: Donate.
Our featured community member this month is Sr. Connie Ladd. She has been with the Little Sisters the longest. Read her profile and see photos here: Sr. Connie.