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.

Newsletter: May 2022

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

A few months ago, three of us were at a gas station on a rainy morning in late winter when a familiar face appeared. It was Gregory, looking cold and a little down. The Sister at the wheel rolled down the car window.
“Hi Gregory, how are you doing?”
“Hi Sister. You know, my brother is in bad shape. He was in an accident and he’s not doing good. They took them to that place in Baltimore, uh . . .”
“You mean Johns Hopkins?”
“Yeah. You know, I need a little money, ten dollars, for a bus ticket, so I can get to my father and then we can go see my brother.”
Sister started reaching into her pocket when Gregory continued: “I haven’t eaten anything today, maybe you could make that twenty.”
Sister held up a folded twenty dollar bill. “Here you go, Gregory. We will pray for you and for your brother. We hope everything goes well.”
Gregory thanked us, and then we watched him shuffle into the gas station to get whatever nourishment he could find.
“Well, that’s what the money is for,” Sister said, and we continued on our way.

Jesus taught that “whatever you do to the least of My brothers and sisters you do to Me” (Mt 25:40). This Gospel verse is fundamental to the mission of the Joseph House. Like you, we believe in what Jesus said, and God will check on how much we believe it in the daily unfolding of our lives. But of course, it’s not always easy to be ready. It can be just as hard to see the presence of Christ in a family member when our patience is worn thin as it can be to see Him in a poor man asking for money in the rain.

Throughout history, this verse from Matthew 25 has tested believers on what their faith really means in their day-to-day living. It brings heaven down to earth and reminds us that our beliefs need to be expressed in how we live. Near the end of his life, Charles de Foucauld, the spiritual father of the Joseph House and the Little Sisters, wrote to a friend that nothing in the Gospel made a deeper impression on him or changed his life more than this verse. It changed his life at the root. Does it change ours?

As Little Sisters, our meeting with Gregory is typical in our lives. We turn around and there is someone next to us, or at the door or on the phone. Our founder Sr. Mary Elizabeth said, “Whoever God sends that day is of His doing. We must lovingly and willingly meet the poor and their needs. We cannot grow cold, even though we become tired and overwhelmed with so many people.” All of us, no matter who we are, will encounter people, often unexpectedly, who cry out in so many ways for a little love, patience, and understanding. These are sacred moments. Let’s be ready with a smile.

We are grateful for your support of the Joseph House. Your generosity makes a huge difference to people at the end of their rope. Thank you for being a good friend. Your fidelity allows our mission to go on.

Lisa, 47, is another familiar face that showed up recently, this time at our Crisis Center. She lives in a very poor section of town and has a rare blood disease. She must go to Baltimore frequently for treatment, although there have been times when she couldn’t afford to do so. Lisa is always on the edge of destitution; she never has enough money for any of her basic needs, like housing, utilities, or food.

A few years ago, Lisa received an education grant to become a licensed practical nurse. Despite feeling weak and out of commission, she was determined to provide for herself. It didn’t work out, however, not just because of her health, but she was born with a slight learning disability. The cards seem stacked against her.

Lisa is unfailingly polite and unassuming, displaying the remarkable fortitude of someone tried by adversity. Her latest need was a cut-off notice from the electric company. We paid the whole bill ($343) since there was no chance her meager Social Security income would cover any of it. Lisa is yet another reminder that we must look out for each other as one Body in Christ.

Christy, age 50 and a widow, was a newcomer and had many problems. She and her daughter were forced out of their rental because their landlord was being foreclosed. Suddenly homeless, Christy was trying to cope with the turmoil. She is being treated for cancer and her weakened health makes everything more difficult. She lost some of her important papers and this was delaying her assistance from the state. We gave her three nights in motel ($234), groceries, a gasoline voucher, and cash for meals.

Maybe it’s our memories of the school year and the approach of summer vacation, but the month of May always brings a happy feeling of anticipation. We are extra excited this year because, as we have mentioned before, Charles de Foucauld is being canonized a saint on the 15th. And we are extra, extra excited because our own Sr. Virginia will be attending the ceremony in Rome!

Sr. Virginia will be part of a small group of pilgrims led by a long-time friend of our community, Fr. Lennie Tighe, who is an authority on Br. Charles. We are so happy that Sister will be there to represent us; she will be our eyes and ears and we can’t wait to hear her eyewitness account of this momentous occasion, which we will share with you.

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

Our joy is tempered by the war in Ukraine. Let us pray for peace and be ambassadors for peace to each person we meet. May the goodness of God be with you.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


We offer you the promise of prayer. Please send us your special intentions and we will pray for you: Contact Form.

Your gift, no matter the size, helps people in need of food, shelter, and other basic necessities. Learn how to make a donation: Donate.

Newsletter: February 2022

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Feed the hungry…Give drink to the thirsty…Clothe the naked…Shelter the homeless…Visit the sick…Visit the imprisoned…Bury the dead.

These are the Corporal Works of Mercy, the basic acts of charity and kindness found principally in the Parable of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and elsewhere in the Bible (Is 58:6-14 and Tb 1:17). They describe very accurately what we do day after day at the Joseph House. It’s a short list, but the permutations go far and wide. For example, sometimes people don’t need clothes but they have been stripped of their dignity. They may not be in a jail cell but they are imprisoned by addiction or mental illness. They may not be starving for food but they are hungry for justice. Our mission calls us to respond in whatever way we can, and thanks to your support, we have the freedom to do so.

Last month we gave a mission report on the Joseph House Workshop. Here is a look at the Joseph House Crisis Center with a few statistics from 2021:

  • 1,038 checks and payments were issued to help individuals and families pay for housing, utilities, health care, transportation, and other critical needs.
  • 2,863 bags of groceries were given out from our Food Pantry. An average of 196 households, representing 581 people, received food each month.
  • 4,899 requests for help were responded to at our Hospitality Room for the Homeless. We provided showers, laundry service, food, coats, blankets, and personal care products.
  • 5,209 bagged lunches were given to the homeless and other Crisis Center clients. Since our Soup Kitchen is closed because of the pandemic, our church partners prepared these lunches instead.
  • 287 new winter coats for children were distributed.
  • 440 gift bags for children were given out at Christmas. Each bag included a large toy, a smaller one, a book, a puzzle or activity book, assorted stocking stuffers, plus a hat, scarf, or mittens.

But not everything can be measured with a number. We always keep in mind what our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth, said: “When someone needs help, it’s not just the material aid, but the love that goes with it that gives healing and self-worth and a renewed hope for tomorrow.”

Love changes people, more than anything else. It’s very important to us that our mission sites be places of warmth and welcome for all people. Along with our volunteers, we listen to and treat everyone with compassion and respect. Love is what inspires you to support our work, and it is the precious gift we share with people in need.

Together with you, we can make a difference. Sally and Craig are mourning the loss of their baby. Craig works in the crabbing industry and his income goes up and down. The father of Sally’s other child is deceased, so that child receives $533 monthly in survivors benefits. Sally and Craig are depending on this right now, but it doesn’t cover the rent ($850). Sally came to our Crisis Center for help and we were able to send $300 to her landlord. Sally also met with our volunteer job counselor, who has an excellent record at assisting people find employment.

Ernestine, 66, is blind and homebound because of her frail health. Her monthly disability check is $714 and her rent alone is $650. There is practically nothing left over for her other expenses. The water in her home was cut off because of an unpaid bill. A concerned family member brought Ernestine to the Crisis Center. One of our volunteers acted quickly and called the Water Department. A promise to mail $349 was enough to get the water back on.

Jamie, 48, and her four children became homeless following an electrical fire in their rental house. They moved into a motel, but then Jamie contracted COVID-19 and was absent for three weeks from her job at a poultry plant. Unable to afford the motel, she was desperately worried. We paid the first month’s rent for an apartment ($350) to give Jamie and her children a place to stay.

John, 47, is starting over from rock bottom after serving a seven-year prison sentence. He has nothing but the clothes on his back. John is a qualified cook and secured a job at a restaurant. His starting date was delayed for a week because he had to wait for his swollen ankle to heal. He was able to find an apartment, and we paid $300 to the landlord so John could move in off the street.

The gas was turned off three months ago in the house Maureen, 54, shares with her husband. Maureen works retail at a discount store but her husband, who is over 60, is in poor health and not working. The rent takes half of Maureen’s paycheck, so it was only a matter of time before the gas bill was added to the list of things that could not be paid. The arrival of cold weather, however, made their unheated home unbearable. To help get the furnace back on, we paid $300 toward the gas bill.

Opal, 40, will need to use a rolling knee walker for two months after her leg surgery. The rental cost is $120, which she cannot afford since she cares for her disabled son and her only income is his monthly check for $820. So we paid the rental fee.

Hugh, 61, struggles with mental health and is on several strong medications. His wife is blind and also has mental health issues. They live on her monthly check for $800. The water was turned off in their home. We paid the overdue bill of $378.

Visiting the imprisoned is the work of mercy that gets forgotten the most. In years past, the Joseph House did sponsor a prison program at the former Maryland House of Corrections in Jessup. We don’t do anything like that now, but on a regular basis the Joseph House Workshop welcomes men who have been incarcerated, sometimes directly upon their release. With the help of our program, they set a new course and begin new lives.

What we do seems so little compared to the need, but our work is offered to God, whose grace does more than we perceive or imagine. Even so, we must never forget that our Lord is with all men and women behind bars, and as He told us, what we do to them we do to Him.

Thank you for your support of the Joseph House. Let’s keep on working together for the good of others—our troubled times need people who are generous with their love.

With our faithful prayers,

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


We can all do something to help others. Take a look at this blog post by Joe Paprocki for some ideas: Practical Suggestions for Practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

Please send us you prayer requests so we can pray for your needs: Contact Form.

The Joseph House depends on the support of people like you. You can donate online or through the mail: Donate.

Newsletter: January 2022

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

January is the sunrise of the year, the dawn of a new beginning. For us Little Sisters, there’s a prayer we say at the start of each day, and it seems to be fitting as we go forth into another year. It is the Abandonment Prayer of Charles de Foucauld:

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.

We never know what the day will bring, let alone the year. Placing ourselves in the hands of Divine Providence is the only security possible in this world. We do know, however, that there will be a very joyous occasion this spring: on May 15, Charles will be canonized a saint!

We are so happy to finally share this news with you. Many people have been waiting for this, but as Scripture reminds us we often have to wait until the time is right for things to happen (see Ecc 3:1 or Eph 1:9-10). Sr. Mary Elizabeth, our founder, knew nothing about Charles when she was growing up, but one day, decades ago, she saw his picture and had a sudden inspiration that he would be important to her as she searched for God’s will in her life. That’s how it is with the saints: many times they are the ones who choose us because they know they can help us acquire the graces we need. We are thrilled that Charles is finally getting the official stamp of approval. He will become St. Charles, but to us he will always be “Br. Charles.”

As Sr. Mary Elizabeth learned more about Charles she discovered a kindred spirit. He became a guide on how to imitate Christ by living the life of Nazareth, of being open to people of other faiths and cultures, of loving them as children of God. “Cry the Gospel with your life,” Charles said, and Sister adopted that for her own work. He’s been a good friend to our community, and since you are friends of the Joseph House, he’s also your friend. You can watch a video about his life and find out why he is special to us by clicking on this link: Brother Charles Video Presentation.

Joseph House Workshop News

The Workshop opened in 2005. It is next door to our Crisis Center, and it allows homeless men to stay up to two years as they follow a comprehensive program to help them begin new lives. Attention is given to their education, health care, and personal development needs. They learn a variety of skills that will benefit them in their jobs and in life in general.

We currently have three men living at the Workshop. All were homeless and dealing with addiction to drugs and alcohol. They came directly from a detox center to the Workshop, where they will live in an environment that supports their commitment to sobriety.

Two of the residents are in Phase One (classroom-based) and the other is in Phase Two (employment-based) and has started working at one of the local poultry companies. They’re all doing great.

Thanks to your support, we were able to do some much needed improvements to the Workshop’s facilities. A new floor was installed in the kitchen along with two new refrigerators. Nick, the Director of the Workshop, explains how kitchen duties are handled:

“Each resident takes turns with cooking chores. They each cook for a week, which gives them experience in shopping for the menu they choose and how to make and stick to a budget. The dishes they prepare vary from pork chops to pizza. If a resident doesn’t know how to cook when he comes in, he will be given help by other residents. The purpose is to make each resident self-sufficient.

“The residents make their own breakfasts and lunches, but for dinner we eat together each night at the table. As for groceries, we go shopping every two weeks. The two residents that are cooking for those weeks make their menus and write out a shopping list and we go shopping on Monday mornings.

“We have students from UMES (University of Maryland Eastern Shore) teaching a nutrition class to the residents. I heard of the program where students gain credits to teach on the subject they are studying. I contacted the nutrition department, and after a lengthy conversation they agreed to come and teach a 12-week class on nutrition to our Phase One residents. The topics are how to prepare healthy foods, what to look for on packages, how to read nutrition labels on packages, etc.”

Below is a photo of the kitchen at the Workshop:

We are so proud of the Workshop and of the men in the program. Not everyone is willing to make meaningful changes in life, but our men are, and that takes tremendous strength and courage. Your support makes it all possible! Thank you for everything you do for the Joseph House.

With our prayers for blessings in the New Year,

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


We would like to pray for you. Please send us your prayer requests: Contact Form.

Your support keeps the Joseph House Crisis Center and the Joseph House Workshop in operation. You can learn how to make a donation here: Donate.

Our featured community member this month is Sr. Mary Joseph, who joined the Little Sisters in 1989. You can read her profile here: Sr. Mary Joseph.

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.

Newsletter: August 2021

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Living under harsh circumstances does not mean we ourselves have to be harsh. Charles de Foucauld is proof of that.

For fifteen years, from 1901 until his death in 1916, Charles made his home in Algeria, surrounded by the moonscape of the Sahara Desert. Famine, loneliness, exhaustion . . . Charles was well acquainted with every aspect of desert living. Over time his body withered like a dry stick, but his heart remained supple and fresh. His love for God gave him inner vitality, and he dedicated his life to the best way of showing that love, which is loving other people. Charles called himself a “universal brother” to everyone.

Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth, considered Charles to be a spiritual role model. This passage from the first biography of Charles helps to illustrate why. It describes a time when he spent 25 days at an encampment of wounded French soldiers, ministering to their needs:

“All his time, except the few hours given to sleep—and those not every night—and the time for his Mass and rapid meals, [Charles] devoted to the wounded. He chatted with each of them, spoke to them of their country and families, and wrote their letters. When he entered one of the ambulance rooms, all the wounded called out to him with one voice: ‘Good-morning, Father,’ and each wished to be the first to receive the visit of the friend of all. They recognized one who loved the soldier and understood him. Certainly, most of these legionaries were not accustomed to speak to a priest; piety was not their dominant characteristic; but the sweetness, the affable and sprightly manner, the self-sacrifice of this priest who devoted every instant of his time to them, rapidly conquered them one after the other. The presence of this monk became indispensable to them.

“An officer of the post, whom I questioned, said to me: ‘It is beyond doubt that his influence on their morale had a great deal to do with this singular fact: of these forty-nine wounded, of whom several were seriously injured and with many wounds, only one succumbed. I remember a certain legionary, of German origin, whom we considered a not very commendable subject. At El-Mungar he had had a bullet through his chest. Father de Foucauld took him in hand as the most seriously wounded and the least sympathetic, indeed, quite the reverse. Received at first more than coolly, with his patience and sweetness he ended in conciliating this poor man to such a point that the latter called for him at every moment, and related to him the intimate history—not always edifying—of an old African soldier.’” (René Bazin, Charles de Foucauld, Hermit and Explorer)

Charles (center) with a group of French soldiers.

Charles had a simple philosophy regarding how to interact with other people: “Be loving, gentle, and humble with all human beings. This is what we have learned from Jesus, not to be aggressive towards anyone. Jesus taught us to go out like lambs among wolves.” Many eyewitnesses gave testimony that Charles practiced what he preached. They always remembered his smile and sincere friendliness.

The circumstances of our daily lives are not as extreme as those faced by Charles, so it should be easier to be Christ-like, right? Well, we know how it is. It takes practice, self-awareness, and plenty of prayer. We need God’s grace—and God is very happy to supply it.

People who come to the Joseph House Crisis Center have been beaten down by poverty and misfortune. In the spirit of Charles, we greet them with kindness, the first step in helping them find reasons to have hope.

Glenda, 52, needed the support of her walker with a built-in seat when she came to see us. She spoke with a stutter, but her words were easy to understand. Despite her many physical ailments, Glenda is helping to care for her two young grandchildren while their mother looks for work. One of the children is just a baby and is very sick; she needs to use a breathing machine and her mother is afraid to be away from her. Glenda only receives $400 monthly in SSI. She needed help paying her overdue electric bill. The Joseph House contributed $400.

Cathy, 54, has a husband who moved out, although he continues to send her $135 each week (her only income). Cathy suffers from a mental impairment and finding work is a challenge. She has her hopes on getting a job at a thrift shop. In the meantime, we sent $300 to the electric company so the power would not be cut off in her home.

Teresa, 56, has liver cancer. She is scheduled to have surgery soon. Coping with her illness has been an ordeal, but Teresa has managed to keep working. She is also raising her fourteen-year-old child. Teresa did miss some work and fell behind in the rent. She needed to pay $1,470. Refusing to give up, she was able to raise all but $320. We paid that amount to the landlord to stop the eviction.

After she lost her job, Leanne, 31, and her three children moved in with a friend. Then her friend got evicted and Leanne and her children were homeless. Fortunately, Leanne quickly found a job paying $16 per hour. With her first paycheck two weeks away, however, she needed help with housing. We agreed to pay for a motel room ($450) so Leanne and her children would not be on the street. Leanne will then use her paycheck to move into an apartment.

Kurt, 67, lives in a house infested with insects. He receives $740 in Social Security, of which $500 goes toward the rent. From what’s left he pays for utilities and food. An exterminator gave him an estimate of $500 to eradicate all the pests. There was no way Kurt could afford that, but the Joseph House pulled together and came up with the money.

In talking about our ministry, Sr. Mary Elizabeth always said “It’s not so much what we do as the way we do it.” That’s what counts for so many things in life. What helps to guide our conduct? Remembering a sense of reverence, of being aware that the sacred presence of God is all around us and within those we serve.

Thank you for your support. You allow us to reach out with love to many people. Your faithfulness touches us deeply. With our prayers,

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

Do you have a special need you would like us to pray for? Please let us know: Contact Form
Our ministry to the poor depends on the generosity of people like you. Learn how to help: Donate


The following describes the spirit of service we strive to bring in our interactions with others at the Joseph House and wherever else we may be:

Those who are paid to serve on a nine-to-five basis can assume the appropriate attitudes during work hours and hang them up with their uniform when they are off duty. Real servants are on call 24/7; they live over the shop, as it were. Their needs and preferences are considered unimportant. That is probably why we no longer have many such people—effectively, they are slaves.

It is very rare to find a person who has sincerely internalized the qualities of a servant: hardworking, nonassertive, self-effacing, obliging. This is the quality that is designated in the New Testament by the words meekness or gentleness.

The best way to define this quality is by thinking of its opposites: harshness, violence, bossiness, imperiousness, assertiveness, heavy-handedness, and so on. To eschew such ways of interacting with others demands great strength of character. It means living by the fruit of the Holy Spirit, in the way set forth in the Beatitudes. It is not so easy to offer the other cheek when struck, not so easy to go the second mile, not so easy not to take offense when insulted. To be gentle means being very strong.

I can compel you by power, but I can draw you by gentleness. I can drive you by force, but I can lead you by gentleness. I can crush you by arrogance, but I can nurture you by gentleness. I can destroy you by vengeance, but I can forgive and heal you by gentleness. This is the way of Christ. This is the litmus test we can apply to ourselves, whether we be leaders or followers.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, teach us the way of gentleness. Help us to use whatever authority we have with the utmost respect for others, as a sincere service of the community and not as a convenience for ourselves. Help us also to respond to hostility with meekness and humility, and let us make peace before the sun goes down. For you are our Lord both now and forever. Amen.

Michael Casey, OCSO
Balaam’s Donkey: Random Ruminations For Every Day of the Year

Newsletter: June 2021

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Picture a swiftly-moving river, tumbling over rocks, swirling with currents and eddies. Trying to swim in such a river would be a tiring, and probably frightening, experience. You would feel buffeted and pushed around by forces stronger than you. The world would seem to be rushing by. You wouldn’t know what to expect next.

Now picture yourself sitting on the bank, quietly breathing, observing the river. You now have perspective. You see the river in context: it has boundaries, it’s not all there is, and although in some places the water is swift and choppy, in others it is smooth and calm. Meanwhile the ground you are sitting on is solid. The river is moving, but you don’t have to go along for the ride.

The river can represent several different things: our thoughts, the stress of our daily activities, the endless stream of news and images on television and the Internet. It gets exhausting if we don’t take a break from it all. Thomas Merton wrote, “The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.” He was a Trappist monk, and he wrote these words more than 50 years ago. Prayerful solitude gave Merton clarity: he saw how the frenzy of modern life destroys our capacity for inner peace and hence the fruitfulness of our lives.

We increasingly live in a manufactured world, one designed to “push our buttons” and keep us distracted. To preserve the sanctity of the human soul, an excellent and time-honored safeguard is found in contemplative silence. You’ve probably felt the need yourself for some periodic down-time. For us Little Sisters, one of the benefits of our life is that we have scheduled time every day for prayer and quiet. These times are more than simply taking a break: we let go of our restless minds and present ourselves to the Lord, being receptive to His presence.

Our model is Jesus, who, as Scripture relates, “in the morning, a great while before dawn, rose and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). You may recall that the mission of the Joseph House, which you share in through your support, is “Cry the Gospel with your life!” This is part of that, being men and women of prayer. The hidden spring of our service to the poor is our silence before God.

Centered and grounded, we can respond to someone’s crisis with peace. We can mirror to that person the reality of hope. It’s also easier to give that person our full attention, a fundamental sign of respect and affirmation of human dignity.

Fred, 60, first came to see us last summer and we wrote about him in our September Newsletter. He is disabled after being hit by a car while riding his bike. Fred was able to find a part-time job he could do and worked for a few months. His pay was not much, $196/month, but it helped a lot. Now Social Security is deducting that much from his check for the length of time that he worked since he was not allowed to do it. Fred could not pay his electric bill, so we paid $300 toward the past-due amount to keep the power on in his home.

Ross, 55, is a pleasant man. You would never guess at all the health problems he has. He is currently waiting for a heart transplant. Ross depends on doing odd jobs to pay his bills, but his health is slowing him down. He used his stimulus check to pay a very large overdue water bill and a few other necessary expenses. He did not have enough for the electric bill, so we contributed $300.

Venita, 63, supports herself by being a home health aide. Many of her clients, however, are afraid to use her services because of the pandemic. Venita is barely getting by month to month. She is afraid of losing her home where she has lived for 11 years. Her most pressing need at the moment was the electric so we made a payment of $300.

Joellen, 59, is a cancer patient and receiving chemotherapy. After losing her job she had to purchase private health insurance. The monthly premium takes half of her temporary cash benefits. Joellen fell behind in paying her rent. We mailed $300 to her landlord to stop the eviction proceedings.

Eunice, 66, is also sinking under the weight of health care expenses. Poor health is a ticket to poverty—that’s what our nation seems to accept. Eunice needs to have surgery on her back. Her out-of-pocket medical expenses eat away at her very limited fixed income. She could not pay the full amount of her last two rent payments and was worried she was going to get evicted. We contributed $300 to help her catch up.

Artie, 60, lives alone and needs his car to get to work. Unexpected vehicle expenses set him back with his other bills. Artie needed help with his electric bill, but was denied assistance at another agency because his income was slightly above the poverty threshold (which is only $12,760 annually for a single person—it’s not in touch with reality). Fortunately, there is no red tape at the Joseph House and we could help Artie with $300.

Thank you for your continued support! The Joseph House depends on you.

News about our Annual Golf Tournament Fund-Raiser: Regretfully, as a precaution against COVID-19, our loyal Golf Committee has decided to again postpone our 15th Annual Joseph House Golf Tournament. Since its inception in 2006 the event has been a source of much-needed revenue, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and participating golfers, and the untiring effort of our committee and tournament volunteers. To all, we express our sincere thanks. Our hope is that, God willing, 2022 will see the return of our Golf Tournament at beautiful Green Hill Country Club!

In this “Year of St. Joseph,” patron of fathers, we wish all men blessed with the vocation to be a father a most Happy Father’s Day. And may the abundant graces of God be with you and your loved ones, keeping you healthy and safe and in good spirits. Part of our prayer time every day is spent praying for your intentions.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

Please send us your prayer requests: Contact Form.
To help us serve those in need, go here: Donate.


Our convent has a chapel, Thomas Merton had a hermitage, but every home can have a sacred space for prayer. Here are a few ideas from Fr. Edward Hays:

The typical home in the Western world has rooms for all the important activities in life. There are rooms for eating, sleeping, bathing, storage, relaxing and even a room for keeping your vehicle. While your entire home is a sacred place where you pray and journey to God in different ways, it can be invaluable to set aside a particular place for your inner exercises. . . . For a fortunate few this personal shrine could be an entire room such as an unused bedroom or a small den. But for the majority it will mean a corner of a room.

You might, for example, choose a corner of your bedroom and set it aside as your prayer place. A stone slab could serve as a small altar, or you could create one out of wood. You may also find it valuable to have a small prayer rug to sit upon only in meditation or prayer.

If you are a highly visual person, you may desire to use a variety of symbols, icons, or images to grace your personal shrine. If you are not especially visually oriented, you might want to create a space which is void of all images. The very simplicity of an empty wall can help clear your mind and heart of clutter and help open you into prayer.

Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir in our Salisbury chapel. Our founder loved this image of Mary, also known as Our Lady of Tenderness, and wanted it placed in all of our chapels.

You may also find it beneficial to vary the design of your personal shrine or change the images in it with each of the four seasons. Because our technological culture often separates us from a direct contact with the changes that occur in nature with each season, altering the environment of your shrine can help make your prayer more natural and in harmony with God’s creation.

And since we easily become blind to what is “always” there, the introduction of visual changes for various feasts, holidays and special occasions has the power to cleanse the eye and so open the heart. To make use of flowers or other images on holy days and special occasions will also assist in making your personal shrine a “living” place of prayer. An unchangeable prayer space can easily become a static one.

Understanding that personal tastes and needs will direct your choices in these suggestions, experiment with finding the kind of environment that can best open you to God in prayer.

from Prayers For A Planetary Pilgrim

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) outside his hermitage at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, Kentucky.

“The soul is made not for noise but for recollection, and life should be a preparation for heaven not only in meritorious works but also in peace and recollection in God. Man, however, is immersed in endless discussion; the lack of true joy he finds in noise should more than convince him that he has wandered far from his vocation.” – Charles de Foucauld

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.

Newsletter: January 2021

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Here we are in the year 2021 in the 21st century. Opening up a new calendar is symbolic of a new beginning, which is something we all need right now. The year 2020 is certainly one for the history books. How many times did we hear the word “unprecedented?” How many times did we dread hearing the latest news of the day? The year has been up and down, tense and eventful, showing the best and the worst of who we are as a society. Charles Dickens could have been describing our present age in A Tale of Two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

And now here we are in 2021, and even though all of our problems don’t magically disappear, we can hope there is a little more light peeking above the horizon. By working at a place like the Joseph House, we see the quiet goodness that goes on that never makes the news. We’re reminded of the Jewish belief that the hidden righteousness of 36 people, known to God alone, keeps the world from falling apart. Based on the love and support we receive for our ministry, we’re pretty sure that number is much higher.

A new year dawns, and as we go forth in our lives it is essential that we see things as they really are—not as we would like them to be. This is the essence of prudence, the mother of all virtues; everything else depends on it. Pontius Pilate, looking straight at Jesus, asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). We can miss what’s right in front of us, too. Living in a digital world puts layers between us and reality. We end up letting others chose what we see, resulting in the ingrained blindness of modern life. But healing blindness is one of Christ’s specialties.

Let us ask that our eyes be opened, the eyes of our mind and the eyes of our heart. There are vital questions to ask as members of society that depend on clear-sightedness. Does a course of action benefit the poor, weak, and marginalized? Does it foster joy, peace, gentleness, patience, kindness and the other fruits of the Holy Spirit? The answers will show us which road to take.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth once said there is no make-believe in our life as Little Sisters. Working in the trenches at the Joseph House helps to ensure that. We are so grateful for your prayers and support! You are part of our mission to assist those who seek food, shelter, heat, and other necessities. Your goodness shines brightly as a beacon of hope.

Our numbers at the Joseph House Crisis Center have been increasing, and we are still short of many volunteers. This is God’s work, however, and God is well aware of our difficulties. It’s in His hands.

Even without a pandemic, the life of a person who is poor is often tumultuous. Katie, 36, worked at a chicken farm for 14 years. She stopped working after her knee surgery, which required a long and painful recovery. Katie spent her Unemployment getting her car repaired, but then it broke down again and is no longer drivable. She and her two children had to move into a homeless shelter. When their time was up, they moved into a motel. In a few days, when the money ran out, the next stop was going to be the streets. Although Katie found a job, her first paycheck was going to be too late to help.

Feeling desperate, she got a ride to our Crisis Center. Katie was on the verge of tears because she had no idea what to do and she was afraid that her children were going to suffer. After talking with her, we agreed to a plan: we would pay for five nights in the motel ($280), and then Katie could use her paycheck to move into an apartment. A relatively simple intervention, but a lifesaver for this family.

Elsie, 26, was also homeless. She was living in her car to escape a bad marriage. Elsie has lupus and heart problems, but manages to work part-time as a gas station cashier. She earns about $400 per month. The cheapest apartments around cost that much in monthly rent. We contacted a landlord and paid that amount so Elsie could move in immediately. She believes that with a stable place to rest she will be able to work more hours at her job.

Loretta is an 83-year-old widow. She lives alone in a house that she says should be condemned. A tree fell on it recently and now snakes have come inside. She is trying to get repairs done and did not have any money for her other bills. We paid her gas bill of $330.

Garrett, 72, lives with his wife who is 77. She is in frail health and depends on bottled oxygen. She is completely homebound because of the pandemic. With no car, Garrett walked to our Crisis Center. We’re not that far, but Garrett walks with difficulty and it took him an hour. He needed help paying his electric bill. We paid the full amount ($368) and called a cab to take him home.

Kristin, 26, was laid off at a chicken plant when hours were cut because of COVID-19. She is one of the many essential workers who labor to provide us with food, but there is not much of a safety net for them. We gave her groceries, gas for her car, and $300 for her rent as she looks for a new job.

Thank you for your support! We’ll have figures for 2020 (including holiday activities) next month.


The Joseph House depends on the support of individuals like you. Learn how to help: Donate.

We offer you in return our best efforts to help the needy and a daily remembrance in our prayers. Please let us know your prayer requests: Contact Form.


Hopefully, we will enter a post-pandemic world this year. It won’t happen all at once, but it will represent a new beginning. What can we do to make this world less divided and more just and peaceful? Last October, Pope Francis released On Fraternity And Social Friendship, an encyclical that addresses these concerns. His vision is centered on the “acknowledgement of the worth of every human person, always and everywhere.” At the conclusion of the document he points to a particular role model for our troubled times: Charles de Foucauld. This made us very happy. Of our spiritual father, Pope Francis writes:

“Blessed Charles directed his ideal of total surrender to God towards an identification with the poor, abandoned in the depths of the African desert. In that setting, he expressed his desire to feel himself a brother to every human being, and asked a friend to ‘pray to God that I truly be the brother of all.’ He wanted to be, in the end, ‘the universal brother.’ Yet only by identifying with the least did he come at last to be the brother of all. May God inspire that dream in each one of us. Amen.”

May God inspire us indeed. A recurring message from the Pope is that “no one can face life in isolation.” Let us not be afraid to reach out as a sister or brother to other people, especially those who feel abandoned. Many people have been feeling lonely because of the pandemic. If sorrow has touched your heart, we pray that better days may come again. They always will.

Our prayer list is long. We pray for those who have died, for those who are suffering in any way, and for those working on a vaccine. This has been a time of sacrifice, but these sacrifices are helping to save lives. With God’s help, our united strength as one human family will prevail over any adversity. There is always cause to hope for a Happy New Year. We wish you one filled with many blessings.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


A PRAYER FOR ELECTED OFFICIALS

Dear God, we lift up our elected officials.

During this time of difficult and serious decision making, we pray that you put a spirit of civility and reconciliation into the hearts of those called to lead our country.

Give them discernment, humility, empathy, and a willingness to put the common good above politics.

Amen.

(Sojourners)

Newsletter: November 2020

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

This is the season for giving thanks, and the difficult times we live in only make us more grateful that the Joseph House is here to help people facing hardships. Our ministry is an expression of your compassion: thanks to your continued prayers and support, our doors remain open to welcome the poor, hungry, and homeless. And we can never forget our brave staff who keep the mission alive with their dedicated service. We give thanks for all of you every single day.

When people really need help, it’s a very good feeling to be ready for them. For example, Ryan and Michelle, a young married couple, recently came to our Food Pantry in need of groceries. Crisis Center staff members greeted them and asked how they were doing. As they got checked in Ryan told their story. Michelle was involved in a terrible accident: she fell off a balcony and sustained multiple injuries. She almost died. Extensive surgeries were needed to rebuild her arm, shoulder, and leg (she is full of metal). She also suffered a brain aneurysm and lost most of her memory and half of her eyesight.

Through it all, Ryan has been a devoted husband, being at Michelle’s side constantly. He has been her 24-hour-a-day nurse. Making frequent trips to Baltimore for medical care is part of their routine.

Ryan is used to driving; he’s worked as a delivery driver, but that income has vanished because of his care for Michelle. He’s trying to get compensation for his responsibilities as a caregiver. Until then, their household income is only Michelle’s monthly SSI check of $783. Although they needed more than food they didn’t know what to expect from us.

Your support allowed the Joseph House to act immediately and provide $300 toward Ryan and Michelle’s rent and a voucher for a tank of gas. This doesn’t solve all their problems, but it gives them the help they need right now. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Mt 6:34).

Our mission at the Joseph House is to reach out to and assist the vulnerable members of our community. The story of Ryan and Michelle is just one among many.

This year, however, has brought into focus how we are all vulnerable. Every time we put on a face mask we are reminded of this fact. Being vulnerable is part of being human. It’s unavoidable.

Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth, once spoke with us about vulnerability. She began by saying, “God loves by destroying.” The example she gave was of a grain of wheat, which becomes useful and successful at each stage by being changed drastically (or destroyed) from what it was formerly: from grain to wheat…to flour…to bread…to being consumed. If the grain was unbreakable, what would become of it?

As flesh and blood creatures, our vulnerability is not a sign that we are “weak” but that we have the capacity to be “more.” Our vulnerability shatters the illusion of self-sufficiency. It teaches the hard lesson that “no man is an island” and dismantles our monuments of pride. It opens the heart to compassion for the suffering of others. It leads the human spirit to the grace of letting go.

The Joseph House is built upon the belief that we belong to each other. We need each other. The wounds we suffer draw us together in bonds of empathy and care. “We know we are all broken people healing other broken people through God’s love,” to quote Sr. Mary Elizabeth again.

If all we can do is help each other make it through the day, our time has been well spent.

HOLIDAY GIVING
We will be giving out frozen turkeys and chickens for Thanksgiving on November 24 and 25. If you would like to donate one or the other (or both), please drop off your donation at our convent by November 22.

Christmas Toys will be given away over a two week period:
WEEK 1: December 8, 9, and 10
WEEK 2: December 15, 16, and 17

Christmas toys and gifts (new and unwrapped) for children up to the age of 14 are needed by December 6. We prefer gifts that do not require batteries. Also, we cannot accept toy guns.

Please see Contact Us for our address and phone numbers. Questions? Send us a message: Contact Form.

Thank you for helping us share the joy of the season!

Also, if you shop on Amazon, please consider starting on our Amazon Smile link. The Joseph House will then receive a small percentage of your purchase total.

http://smile.amazon.com/ch/52-0846802

Other ways to help: Donate.

Your generous support is deeply appreciated.


COMMUNITY NEWS
It is our great joy to announce that Sr. Virginia Peckham professed her perpetual vows as a Little Sister of Jesus and Mary on October 18! The ceremony took place in our chapel in Princess Anne, MD. Rev. John T. Solomon from St. Mary’s/Holy Savior Church in Ocean City, MD was the presider.

Sr. Virginia entered our community in 2012. Her hometown is Averill Park, NY, and before joining us she was living in Maine. Here is a short bio, in her words:

“I was married for 23 years, I am a widow. I worked as a freelance and grant writer. I work with the homeless in the Joseph House Hospitality Room, and also I manage our payee program. In addition, I work on grant applications and occasionally teach an art class. Art and music are my hobbies. This is the most fulfilling time of my life—our work and our prayer time, our training, our retreats have brought me a peaceful heart and ever-growing trust in God.”

Our religious consecration is a total gift of self to Christ. We give thanks to God for guiding Sr. Virginia on her journey, and we are so grateful that she responded with love and trust. May God in His tender mercy continue to bless her and give her strength.


You’re probably going to celebrate Thanksgiving differently this year. We hope you find ways of staying close to family and loved ones, despite the need for social distancing. May you feel in your heart many reasons to be thankful.

God is always at work behind the scenes, giving us firm grounds for having hope. We pray that God’s abundant goodness will touch your life and keep you healthy and safe. From our home to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

As we mentioned a few months ago, Charles de Foucauld (“Br. Charles”), the spiritual father of the Little Sisters and the Joseph House, will soon be canonized a saint. He was beatified in 2005 after an Italian woman was cured of bone cancer that was attributed to his intercession. In order to be canonized, 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 a church in Saumur, France. 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.

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.”

The date for the canonization has yet to be announced. It is comforting to know that we are not alone, that the love of the people who have gone before us, whether they are official saints or not, accompanies us through life.


Don’t forget–please send us your prayer requests and we will pray for you: Contact Form.