The Canonization of Charles de Foucauld

Here is Sr. Virginia’s story about her trip to Rome for the canonization of Charles de Foucauld. Our hearts couldn’t be happier that God in His great mercy allowed Sister to represent us.

Our pilgrimage to Rome was organized by Father Leonard Tighe. He has been involved for many years with the Lay Fraternities of Saint Charles, striving to spread information about Charles de Foucauld’s life and spirituality. Father Tighe has also led many tours in Italy and the Holy Land.

There were eleven in our group – nine men including four priests, and a retired nurse who roomed with me at the hotel. After splitting up into smaller groups to explore the wonders of Rome during the day, we dined together in the evening at a good, inexpensive restaurant with outdoor tables. The waiters didn’t seem to mind that we lingered long into the lovely evenings. There was a kindly spirit of friendship among the people in our group. And the breadth and depth of their knowledge of the Church and Brother Charles were impressive.

The canonization, which took place on Sunday, May 15, in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica, was a grand and festive event. Saint Peter’s square was filled with people from every continent, many of them wearing emblems connected with one of the candidates for sainthood. Huge images of these brand-new saints were hung on the façade of the basilica.

Pope Francis said of Brother Charles: “The new Saint lived his Christian existence as a brother to all, starting from the smallest. He did not have the aim of converting others, but of living God’s freely given love, putting into effect ‘the apostolate of goodness.’ Brother Charles, in the hardships and poverty of the desert, remarked: ‘My soul is always in joy.’ . . . Dear sisters and brothers, may Our Lady grant you to cherish and nourish the same joy, because joy is the clearest witness we can give to Jesus in every place and at every time.”

On Thursday three of us went early to explore Saint Peter’s Basilica. It is vast with enormous marble columns of many colors, and filled with gigantic figures and murals and paintings. Yet there is a tenderness within the grandeur, each work of art filled with love and longing. Small gatherings were celebrating Masses in side chapels with sweet voices singing in different languages. Shafts of cool morning light flowed down from Heaven, the marble floors were the colors of precious stones, giant angels gazed down from the tops of pillars, and everywhere we saw magnificent images of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Jesus Christ, coming in love and power – beautiful, active, dynamic, merciful.

Father Tighe told us that, after Charles’ life-changing reversion to the Catholic faith, he wrote out the four Gospels entirely, in longhand. “He wanted to know everything about Jesus so he could know everything about God,” Father said. “Foucauld is a window into Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”

PHOTOS:

Followers of the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld displayed orange scarves to identify themselves. Here is a group of nuns on their way to the canonization. I am not sure, but they might be Little Sisters of the Consolation of the Sacred Heart and the Holy Face.

On Sunday, May 15, 2022, ten people were canonized by Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s square, in front of the magnificent Saint Peter’s Basilica. Charles de Foucauld is pictured at the bottom of the third panel from the left.

A thanksgiving mass honoring Saint Charles was held the next day at the splendid basilica of Saint John Lateran. Founded in 324, it is the oldest public church in the city of Rome, and the oldest basilica of the Western world.

We did some sightseeing around Rome, including the Trevi Fountain. Here are my kind and resourceful roommate, Susan Trzcienski, Father Lenny Tighe who led the pilgrimage, and me carrying a bag we were all given bearing the image of Charles de Foucauld, which, along with Father’s t-shirt, attracted other Brother Charles followers as we walked around the city.

Sr. Virginia was able to visit Assisi and she hopes to write about that too. Check back soon for an update to this post. For more information on St. Charles, please see The Timeline of a Saint and Brother Charles on our website.

Charles de Foucauld: The Timeline of a Saint

Born to a noble family, a tragic childhood, worldly preoccupations, a loss of faith, and then . . .
Charles de Foucauld’s life changed in 1886 with a powerful conversion experience, but this was just another step in a journey with God that was already underway. Charles later realized that God had always been with him:

“O my God! How surely you had your hand on me, and how little I felt it! You are so good, you took such good care of me! How closely you were keeping me under your wings, while I didn’t even believe you existed!”

In the years that followed, Charles sought nothing but to live for God alone. He desired to imitate the hidden life of Jesus in Nazareth, and this ultimately led him to the Sahara and an apostolate of friendship as a “universal brother.”

Charles de Foucauld will be canonized a saint on May 15, 2022. Here is a look at important dates in his life, a life which traveled a circuit between his native France, the Holy Land, and North Africa.

September 15, 1858 – Born in Strasbourg, France
1864 – Orphaned, taken in by maternal grandparents
1876 – Enters Saint-Cyr military academy; acquires the nickname “Piggy” for his self-indulgent lifestyle
1878 – Enters cavalry school at Saumur
1881 – Serves in Algeria
1882 – Leaves the army
1883-84 – Explores Morocco in disguise (the country is closed to Christian Europeans)
1885 – Receives the Gold Medal from the Geographical Society of Paris
Late October 1886 – Seeks counsel from Fr. Henri Huvelin in Paris; has conversion experience
1888-89 – Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
1890 – Becomes a Trappist monk at Notre Dame des Neiges in France; a few months later, seeking greater asceticism, he transfers to a monastery in Syria, Notre Dame de Sacré Coeur
1897 – With permission from the abbot, leaves the Trappists
1897 – Wanting to live the “hidden life” of Jesus, becomes a handyman for a convent of Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth
1900 – Returns to France to study for the priesthood
June 9, 1901 – Ordained a priest for the Diocese of Viviers
1901 – Receives permission to return to Algeria, settles in Béni-Abbès; begins ministry of prayer, charity, and friendship to all
1905 – Travels hundreds of miles south to Tamanrasset, a rugged, desolate land; builds a place to live, becomes known as a marabout (holy man)
1915 – Due to the unrest following the outbreak of World War I, builds a small fort in Tamanrasset to protect the local people from pillagers
December 1, 1916 – Shot and killed by a raider at the gate of his fort
1921 – First biography is written
1927 – Cause for beatification begins
November 13, 2005 – Beatified by Pope Benedict XVI
May 15, 2022 – Canonized by Pope Francis

The canonization Mass is scheduled to be televised on EWTN on Sunday, May 15, 2022, at 4:00 AM (live) and again at 12 noon.

Below is a picture gallery depicting the life of Charles. Click on each picture for a larger image.

The Spirituality of Charles de Foucauld

We are anxiously waiting to hear when Charles de Foucauld will be canonized. The date should be announced soon. To help you know more about our spiritual father, here are the main points of his spirituality, as written by our founder Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling:

There are four basic elements of the spirituality of Br. Charles. The first is poverty. In order to be really free in this materialistic world it is necessary to divest oneself of that which is not necessary. For Br. Charles, that meant living a life of extreme poverty in imitation of the life of Christ and also as a sign that, for the Christian, life now is lived in expectation of what is to come, it is not an end in itself.

The second is contemplation. It is expressed specifically in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament as a direct way to seek the Lord and also in meditation on the gospels.

The third is the desert. It is in the desert that one is faced with the reality of who God is. He reveals Himself to those who wait for Him in the desert. And those who wait are made aware of their own weakness and inability to do anything without Him. So, time spent in solitude is a vital aspect of a follower of Br. Charles.

The final point of this spirituality is charity. This is expressed in being as far as possible a friend to all persons, in total availability and in hospitality.

For more information, please see the Br. Charles section of our website.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth in the Holy Land, a place Charles loved. He lived in Nazareth for several years and it filled his spirit. “Imitate Jesus in His hidden life. Be as small and poor as He is,” Charles wrote in his journal.

Miracles Happen

Charles de Foucauld (“Br. Charles”) is the spiritual father of the Little Sisters and the Joseph House. Although he is not well known to many people, Br. Charles had a deep influence on our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling. She considered him a saint, and now he is close to being one in fact.

On May 3, 2021, at a meeting at the Vatican called an Ordinary Public Consistory, the cardinals voted to proceed with the canonization of Br. Charles along with six other beatified men and women. The vote was confirmed by Pope Francis, who has mentioned Br. Charles several times in his encyclicals and public addresses.

This Consistory vote was the last formal step in the process of approving Br. Charles’ canonization. Ordinarily, a date for the actual canonization would have been set at this time, but the Pope is postponing that because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The process of canonization is typically long, and the one for Br. Charles is no exception (he died more than a century ago in 1916). Written documents need to compiled and the person’s life has to be examined in detail. The holiness of his or her life has to be determined (and it is important to note that this doesn’t mean being perfect and without flaws–saints are products of their time in history like everyone else). When someone is canonized, he or she is declared to be a model for living the Christian life. A saint’s life has “universal” teaching value: people from all walks of life can learn something and be inspired.

The final pieces of evidence need to be bona fide miracles, proof that the proposed saint is in heaven interceding for us on earth. This is also what it means to be a canonized saint: someone the faithful can turn to for prayers.

Br. Charles was beatified in 2005 (allowing him to be called “Blessed”) after an Italian woman was cured of bone cancer that was attributed to his intercession. In order to be canonized and be considered a saint, a second miracle was needed. This is the story of that miracle.

On November 30, 2016, the day before the 100th anniversary of the death of Br. Charles, a 21-year-old man (whose name is Charle, without the “s”), was working as a carpenter’s apprentice on the renovation of the Chapel of the Lycée Saint Louis, a church in Saumur, France. This chapel happens to be very close to the military school that Br. Charles attended in his youth.

Charle was working above the vault when he fell about 50 feet, landing on a wooden bench. It shattered, and he was impaled by a piece of wood that pierced his left side just below his heart and came out the back underneath his rib cage.

Amazingly, Charle stood up and began to walk. Help was called and a helicopter arrived to take Charle to the hospital, but the piece of wood passing through his body prevented him from safely entering the craft. So he had to wait for an ambulance.

Chapel of the Lycée Saint Louis, 32 Rue d’Alsace, Saumur, Pays de la Loire, France. From Google Maps.

Meanwhile, the manager of the company that Charle worked for was alerted. He contacted people at his parish to get them to start praying. His parish was newly established in 2012 and is named after Blessed Charles de Foucauld! In preparation for his feast day on December 1, parishioners had already been praying a novena for his canonization. With news of the accident, hundreds of people began to pray in earnest, asking Blessed Charles to intercede for the young man. The following morning, his mother called the manager: her son was alive, the operation to remove the piece of wood was successful, and no organs were damaged! The accident should have been fatal, but nothing is impossible for God.

Charle spent only a week in the hospital. He suffered no long-term effects and returned to work several weeks later. Despite not being a practicing Christian himself, he is very happy that his recovery was recognized to be due to Br. Charles’ intercession. The pastor of the church in Saumur remarked, “When you know the life of Charles de Foucauld, it’s astonishing to see that the miracle attributed to him concerns someone who has no Christian faith…This echoes his missionary desire to go and to evangelize those who are not in the Church.”

Pope Francis approved the authenticity of this miracle on May 27, 2020. Now a year later, the saint-making process is complete. When it is safe to celebrate publicly, our newest saint will make his entrance: St. Charles de Foucauld!

Stories like this miracle are not unique. It is comforting to know that we are not alone, that the love and prayers of the people who have gone before us, whether they are official saints or not, accompany us through life.

Banner from the Beatification in 2005.

Note: This post was originally included with our November 2020 Newsletter. It has been reposted with additional information. Learn more about Charles de Foucauld.

A Good Book about a New Saint

By definition, a desert is an empty, arid wasteland. Some would say there is nothing to see. But the desert also brings clarity of vision, and with this clarity Charles de Foucauld saw deep into the mystery of Jesus.

In her book, Hidden in God: Discovering the Desert Vision of Charles de Foucauld, Bonnie Thurston describes the contours of this vision in way that will be meaningful to the spiritual journey of a wide variety of readers.

This vision has a geography: the heart of the book is a discussion of the three locations Foucauld understood to be central in the life of Jesus, namely, Nazareth, the desert, and public ministry. Thurston shows how these locations can serve as metaphors for aspects of the spiritual life. Indicative of spiritual realities, each location has its own graces and dangers, which Thurston illustrates with examples from the Bible and the life of Foucauld.

Thurston then helps the reader see how these locations can be a source of personal insight since they are places everyone will experience in one form or another. The modern seeker may never travel through an actual desert, for example, but may be intimately familiar with the harsh terrain of an internal desert existence. Using the journey and writings of Foucauld, Thurston guides the reader in connecting the concrete realities of life to the imitation of Christ.

The final chapter of the book is a consideration of the cross. As Foucauld knew, that is where everyone who follows Jesus will be led. No matter where we are, everyone has a cross to take up.

Thurston has lived with the mystery of Foucauld’s life for a long time. It has been so long she admits she can’t remember her first introduction to him.

Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916) is considered to be an influential person in Church history, yet likely unknown to many people today. Thurston covers his life story to give context for his spiritual development. In some ways, it is a common story: Foucauld lost his faith as a young man, but after finding inspiration in an unexpected place he began a process of conversion that drew him to God. What is uncommon about his story is how his conversion was truly the beginning of a new way of life, both inside and out. Born into a life of privileged French nobility, Foucauld ended his earthly journey deep in the Sahara Desert, a poor hermit totally abandoned to the Will of God, his heart open to everyone as a “universal brother.”

As Thurston notes in the Introduction, her book can be used as a self-directed retreat, if one so chooses. Each chapter closes with questions to ponder and Scripture passages for further reflection. The book lends itself to meditative reading. The reader will probably want to pause and reflect even before reaching the end-of-chapter questions.

Foucauld remained a man of his time, and yet he also transcended his time in a way that was prophetic. He is “one of those seekers who periodically manage to reinvent the imitation of Christ” (Ellsberg). Hidden in God is a map for exploring how Foucauld speaks to us today. His life seems far removed from ours, but Thurston reveals how he is relevant and can teach us.

On May 27, 2020, the Vatican advanced the cause of Charles de Foucauld for canonization. He will be an official saint and hopefully become more widely known. For anyone looking for an introduction to Focauld, Thurston provides an excellent starting point. Even those who are familiar with Foucauld will find valuable insights into what moved the soul of this saintly man.

This book is also a helpful resource for the reader’s further study of Foucauld. Thurston includes ample endnotes and a list of additional books that may be of interest.

Foucauld never fulfilled his dream of starting a new religious community based on the life of Nazareth. His life planted a seed, however, and like the grain of wheat that must die to bear fruit (John 12:24), he has inspired the formation of communities and fraternities around the world in the years following his death. Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, was greatly influenced by Foucauld, and his spirituality runs deep through our life and the ministry of the Joseph House. We are happy to recommend Bonnie Thurston’s book about our beloved Brother Charles.

Endorsements:
“The is spiritual reading at its best.”Lawrence S. Cunningham, University of Notre Dame

“Thurston offers fresh and honest insights into the spirituality of Blessed Charles…even for a longtime member of the spiritual family of Charles de Foucauld.”Rev. Jerry Ragan, National Responsible of the Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests

“I felt as if I was on a retreat with Blessed Charles as I journeyed with him through Jesus’ hidden years, desert life, and public ministry.”Dana Greene, author of Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Life

Publishing Details:
Hidden in God: Discovering the Desert Vision of Charles de Foucauld
Ave Maria Press (2016), 141 pages

Bonnie Thurston is an ordained minister, New Testament scholar, author, poet, and teacher. She is a founding member and past president of the International Thomas Merton Society.

Works Cited:
Robert Ellsberg, “Who was Charles de Foucauld?” America: The Jesuit Review, 14 November 2005.

Available online, this article is a concise and informative overview of Foucauld’s life: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2005/11/14/who-was-charles-de-foucauld


For many years (1977-2011), we operated Joseph House by the Sea, a book and gift store in Ocean City, Maryland. Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, believed it was important “to have a place in the marketplace where people can come to get spiritual direction and guidance in their reading.” In that spirit, we continue offer recommendations for worthwhile items.

The Confession of Br. Charles

A canonized saint by definition is someone who practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace. Coming from all walks of life, they show us how any situation can be transformed by the light of the Gospel.

To honor the saints, we place them on a pedestal or enshrine them in stained glass, complete with a halo. We look up to them, and without realizing it, we often assume they must have been angels when they walked the earth. Did St. Francis of Assisi ever complain about dinner? Did Mother Teresa ever get irritated by having to wait for someone? It’s hard to think that they did.

In contrast, each one of us is aware of our daily struggles and faults. So often, it seems, we fall short of the mark so easily. The saints must have been different.

Or maybe not.

They were human beings like us, and if we look closely at their lives there is ample evidence to prove that.

Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916) hasn’t been canonized yet, but he was beatified in 2005 (a step along the way). His life and spirituality are important to us at the Joseph House (you can read more about him here on our website).

On January 16, 1898, he wrote a long letter to his spiritual director, Father Huvelin. At the time, Charles was in the Holy Land, living as a simple laborer for a convent of nuns. His life had the appearance of contented peace.

Charles begins his letter by describing how he occupies his time. Everything seems ideal:

“My life goes on with great calm; in the daytime I work as long as there is light; in the morning and in the evening and during part of the night, I read and pray.”

But then Charles starts to get honest. He takes a hard look at his life, and he tells Fr. Huvelin how the outside – what people see – is not the whole story. His list of failings is precise (emphasis his).

“The essence of my confessions is this:

  • tepidity (badly made prayers, badly said Office, miserably poor attendance at Mass, presence of God badly kept during the day, etc);
  • slackness (laziness in rising…sometimes I lie down again instead of getting up at the first awakening);
  • greediness, gluttony (eating too much);
  • lack of charity (not praying enough and with sufficient fervor for my neighbor…not having sufficiently the habit of seeing Our Lord, of seeing the Christ-Child in everyone…thoughts contrary to charity, memories accompanied by severe judgments on certain persons I used to know);
  • pride, not a sufficiently low opinion of myself, not enough mistrust of myself; thoughts, budding aspirations of betterment;
  • not enough repentance for my past and present sins.

Not enough gratitude to God nor to men, these are the main points, but above all tepidity and slackness.”

Hmmm…maybe his letter is more like a mirror for the reader today. Very relatable indeed. Br. Charles was just as human as all of us.

The lesson of his confession, and of all the saints, is to put our trust in God, the One who can do everything we cannot.

And another definition of a saint is someone who never gave up.

Statue of Br. Charles in Strasbourg, France, the city where he was born.

The source of the letter is Soldier of the Spirit by Michel Carrouges (published in English in 1956, it is out of print). The illustration in the header is by René Follet and is from The Wonderful Life of Charles de Foucauld (1963), also out of print. Bottom photo by Rabanus Flavus / public domain.

When You Don’t Believe, Believe Anyhow

Charles de Foucauld composed this prayer as he meditated on the death of Jesus on the Cross:

“This was the last prayer of our Master, our Beloved. May it also be ours. And may it be not only that of our last moment, but also of our every moment:

“Father,
I abandon myself into Your hands;
do with me what You will.
Whatever You may do, I thank You:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only Your will be done in me,
and in all Your creatures—
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into Your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to You with all the love of my heart,
for I love You Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into Your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for You are my Father.”

Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling made this prayer central to the spirituality of our community:

“The first prayer we say every day is the Abandonment Prayer of Brother Charles, which is a very beautiful prayer in which we give ourselves totally to God.”

“Abandonment simply means that you give yourself completely to God in such a way that you trust Him with everything that He has in mind for you, and that each morning you just give yourself to Him completely, and you’re at ease and at rest because you know that He is going to take care of you. Maybe He’s not going to do it your way, but He’s going to do it His way, which is a lot better.”

“Sometimes you’re a little afraid of what is He going to want to do. You don’t always feel like you’re ready for it, but that’s what takes faith. It just takes faith. We like to make our own plans…”

“I can assure you there were many times when I thought that I could not go on with some of the things that I had to bear. It’s just trust. And if you can trust, God will certainly take care of this matter, but give yourself to Him. That’s what we mean by abandonment. It’s when you don’t believe, believe anyhow.”

A Community in the Footsteps of Br. Charles

Our founder used to say, “A community is not so much a group of people living together to love Christ as it is a group of people loving Christ together.”

Being together physically to form a community is not always possible. Distance can keep people apart, not to mention their commitments and circumstances.

Now, thanks to the Internet, there is a new online community called the Companions of Jesus of Nazareth. It hopes to fill a need for those who desire a community in order to “love Christ together.”

This community is open to people from all walks of life – men and women, married, single, lay, ordained, and a variety of faith traditions. What unites them is a desire to become more like Jesus through an understanding of the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld, who is an inspiration for the ministry of the Joseph House.

The Companions of Jesus is under the leadership of Rev. Leonard Tighe, an authority on the life of Br. Charles and a long-time friend of the Little Sisters.

The website has more information. Check it out – this may be something you’ve been looking for:

https://www.companionsofjesusofnazareth.com

It is ironic that in our age of instant electronic communication many people feel isolated. The Companions of Jesus is using that technology to bring people together, all the while each person is living his or her own “Nazareth,” the particular place where God has planted them.

A sense of belonging is such a help to our spiritual growth. Jean Vanier, a pioneer in the healing power of communities, said it well:

We have been drawn together by God to be a sign of the Resurrection and a sign of unity in this world where there is so much division and inner and outer death. We feel small and weak, but we are gathered together to signify the power of God who transforms death into life. That is our hope, that God is doing the impossible: changing death to life inside of each of us, and that perhaps, through our community, each one of us can be agents in the world of this transformation of brokenness into wholeness, and of death into life.

What Am I Preaching With My Life?

Every religious community has its own charism, a particular way of life and a spirit that forms its identity. In setting the charism of the Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling looked to an obscure French priest who lived from 1858 to 1916. His name was Charles de Foucauld.

Charles spent his final years in the Sahara Desert, seeking to imitate the “hidden life” that Jesus lived in Nazareth. Emptied of pride and vanity, Charles embraced his littleness, eager to be non-threatening and approachable to others. He welcomed everyone as a “universal brother.”

Charles represented a new kind of missionary, one who practiced a ministry of presence. Although he wrote a rule for religious communities, it was considered too strict to be livable. Elements of his spirituality, however, can be applied to any number of circumstances, and in this way his life became the blueprint for the Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth was already in tune with what defined Charles: love for the poor, faithfulness to the Gospel, simplicity of lifestyle, and a preference for silent adoration of the Eucharist. These became the identifying marks of the community she founded in 1974, and Charles is considered its founder in spirit. For the remainder of her life Sr. Mary Elizabeth modeled for us how to live his spirituality.

We are half a world away from the Sahara, and more than a century has passed since Charles’ death, but Sr. Mary Elizabeth showed us how to embody a key component of his message, which is, as he wrote:

“Let us preach the Gospel in silence and with words….”

“It is the responsibility of all to preach in silence.

As for preaching with words, some should do it more than others,

but there are very few who should not do it at all.

This is according to each one’s vocation.”

Sr. Mary Elizabeth made preaching the Gospel her life’s work.

What made it natural for her was that she let the Gospel shape every aspect of her life. Anything she might possibly call her own she gave back to God. He had access to everything.

Sister exemplified the observation of St. Vincent de Paul: “If God is the center of your life, no words are necessary. Your mere presence will touch hearts.”

She had a few big moments in her life, but like everyone else her days were filled with little ones. She did the same things, with the same people, day in and day out. She “preached” a lot in those moments, giving witness to the love and mercy of God by being loving and merciful herself. Charles said his goal was to have people look at him and say, “If that is the servant, imagine what the Master must be like!” Sister took that approach, too.

For personal reflection: What am I preaching by the way I live my life? I might be the only sermon someone else hears today.

To Serve Others I Need Gentleness

Sr. Joan (as a novice) washing the clothes of homeless men and women in the Hospitality Room of the Joseph House Crisis Center.
Sr. Joan (as a novice) washing the clothes of homeless men and women in the Hospitality Room of the Joseph House Crisis Center.

During a retreat he made in 1902, Charles de Foucauld wrote down his resolutions for more closely imitating Jesus. He understood that we are what we do. The desires of the heart can become just fantasy if they are not grounded in the reality of our behavior.

Charles was driven to imitate the humility of Jesus with great zeal. His example inspires our ministry at the Joseph House, but it is just as important for our day-to-day living. Each day, each one of us will find opportunities to love others as Jesus loves them. Through gentle acts of service our love becomes manifest.

The “Fraternity” that Charles refers to in the excerpt below was his name for his hermitage in Beni Abbes, a village in the desert region of western Algeria. He welcomed everyone to his abode as a “universal brother.”

In the “Fraternity” I must always be humble, gentle and ready to serve as were Jesus, Mary and Joseph at the holy house at Nazareth. To serve others, I need gentleness, humility, abjection and charity.

I must wash the linen of the poor (especially on Maundy Thursday) and regularly clean their rooms, doing as much as possible myself. As far as possible, I myself and no one else must do the lowest work of the house, keeping the parts occupied by the native population clean, taking every service on myself, to be like Jesus who lived among his apostles as “one who serves.”

We must be very gentle towards the poor and everyone else, for this too is humility. When I can do so, I must cook for the poor, and carry food and drink to them, not leaving that service to others.

In every sick person I should see, not a human being, but Jesus, and so should show him respect, love, compassion, joy and gratitude at being able to serve him – zeal and gentleness. I should serve the sick as I do the poor, making myself do the lowliest services for them all, as Jesus washed the apostles’ feet.