“We have heard with quiet joy the decision of Pope Francis to canonise Brother Charles,” said the priest responsible for the Jesus Caritas fraternity in Ireland.
Fr Niall Ahern said that “all over the world small groups of people of every faith have been inspired by this hermit priest, who during his own life had no followers but whose witness to the Gospel has been of profound import”.
Pope Francis announced on Wednesday that the French priest and hermit Blessed Charles de Foucauld would be canonised a saint of the church.
Fr Ahern believes that Bro. Charles’ example and teachings can be a great solace during the pandemic, calling him a “saint for the lockdown”.
“During the pandemic which at present covers the earth, this one man can inspire us to a communal response of fraternity and outreach to one another,” said Fr Ahern.
“He lived alone and welcomed the deep peace of solitude; his outreach in prayer and the simplest of kindly gestures extended to all of humanity from his tiny cell in the desert.
“He brought to a new level of awareness the common bond of all humanity and our shared and privileged responsibility to reach out to one another in love and communion.”
Born into an aristocratic family in 1858, Bro. Charles de Foucauld was a soldier, a playboy and an explorer who became a Trappist monk, living as a hermit in the Sahara desert.
Initially living a dissipated life, Bro. Charles returned to the Church having spent many hours praying: “My God, if you exist, let me know you.”
He joined the Trappists, before leaving and being ordained a priest.
He moved to North Africa and settled as the only European in the Southern Sahara, where he served the Tuareg people.
“What Bro. Charles experienced is a little in line with current events and he has often come to mind,” says Fr Ahern. “He so often celebrated Mass alone and relied on hours of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
“What Charles experienced among the Muslims became a message of understanding and fraternity that we need to hear in these times of global pandemic.”
Bro. Charles was killed in 1916 in World War 1 and was beatified in 2005.
Though he didn’t have any followers during his lifetime, his spirituality and ideas “have proved to be well ahead of his time”, says Fr Ahern.
“The legacy he has left the Church is one of simplicity and holiness in the ordinary circumstance of life and today there are followers of his way of life throughout the world.”
The Jesus Caritas fraternity was inspired by Bro. Charles, with the movement first coming to Ireland several decades ago. “The fraternity is like a magnet,” says Fr Ahern. “It draws us into communion with Jesus and with one another. It is for everyone.”
There are lay fraternities, fraternities for women religious and priests’ fraternities.
“The key words are Jesus – Caritas: Jesus – Love,” says Fr Ahern.
The fraternity continues to be active in Ireland and Fr Ahern is contactable at email@example.com and by mobile at 087 7973432.