The Catholic Counter-Reformation in the 21st Century
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12. The Catholic Colonial Union


Father de Foucauld«  May Jesus reign in these places where His past reign is so uncertain  ! As to the possibility of his reign to come, my faith is unshakable  : He shed His Blood for all men. His grace is powerful enough to enlighten all men. “ What is impossible with men is possible for God ”; He commanded His disciples to go out to all men  : “ Go throughout the whole world preaching the Gospel to every creature ”; and Saint Paul added, “ charity hopes for all things ”… I hope, therefore, with my whole heart for these Muslims, for these Arabs, for these infidels of every race…  » (Letters to Henry de Castries, 16 June 1902. p. 130-131)

In this month of June 1908, when he reached the depth of desolation, he finds himself being pushed by the Holy Spirit along new paths  :

«  Something has to be done for the salvation of souls.  » (1907 Retreat)

He realised that the world was indifferent towards these peoples whom he yearned to see evangelized and brought back to Christ. He wants to move the Christians of France for this sacred cause, but no one is bothered. The White Fathers themselves are convinced that the Muslims are impossible to convert, and they prefer to send their missionaries to other parts of Africa where there are already flourishing Christian communities.

«  For the extension of the Holy Gospel, I am ready to go to the ends of the world and to live until Judgement Day.  »

At Easter 1908, he draws up the statutes of an association, which he intends to be very pious and supernatural, and which he plans to propagate throughout the Christian world, with the permission of his superiors, in order to attract vocations. It will be a sort of third order, for the conversion of those infidels, for whose colonisation and civilisation we have been made responsible. Since the government had banished priests and religious, he would look for lay people, emulators of the Priscillas and Aquilas of the early Church (Ac 18. 2-3)

In 1914, this confraternity received the title of Catholic Colonial Union. It would be «  dedicated to the Sacred Heart  »  !

«  God has increased France’s colonial empire in the 20th century to such degree that the French colonies, which numbered three million infidels in 1880, now number fifteen million in 1914. The mother-country has a duty to do everything possible for the evangelisation of these children given her by God. The origin of this confraternity is the need for French Catholics to unite for the fulfilment of this duty.  » (cf. our inset, on the membership text, infra, p. 21)

The aim is the evangelization of the infidels of the French colonies. The means is the silent but effective influence of example and prayer, in imitation of Brother Charles de Jésus. For that, it is necessary «  to be converted oneself  », to lead an evangelical life, to think like Jesus, «  to convert those around us  »  : in that way one will be a missionary in France and everywhere. To radiate the love of the Heart of Jesus among one’s family and neighbours, whether Christian or not, «  less by advice than by example, fraternal affection and goodness […]. To become all things to all men in order to win all for Jesus.  »

These orders contain an entire summary of his spirituality and of his own initiative  : the imitation of Our Lord  ; the fraternal love of all men  :

«  To see Jesus in every human being  ; to see a soul to be saved in every soul  ; to see a child of the Heavenly Father in every man  ; to be charitable, peaceful, humble and courageous…  » (ibid.).

The aim of the Association will be make known the colonies and their needs, to help the apostolic labourers working there, to obtain a good civil administration for these territories without which nothing can be done, to send lay missionaries who will agree to live as expatriates, solidly establishing themselves, like Priscillas and Aquilas.

On three occasions, in 1909, 1911 and 1913, Brother Charles de Jésus will leave his solitude in order to come to France to found this work and to be its ardent propagator.


Ouksem whom Father de Foucauld brought to France in 1913.

Ouksem whom Father de Foucauld brought to France in 1913.

The first journey, in 1909, was quite brief. Marie de Bondy obtained permission from Father Huvelin to see him again. They were very moving moments  ! He will also meet Louis Massignon, a young university student, who converted in 1907 in an almost miraculous, and somewhat romantic, manner. He was passionately interested in Islam and the Arab world, very charming and intelligent, sensitive and enamoured with sublime mysticism. They spent a night of adoration together at Montmartre. From that day, Brother Charles de Jésus thought he had found in him his son of predilection, his spiritual heir and perhaps his successor at Tamanrasset. His disappointment was as great as his illusion, but admirably accepted.

He continues his journey and meets Bishop Bonnet, his bishop, and Bishop Livinhac, the superior of the White Fathers, who show him the most affectionate confidence and approve the Union’s statutes. He sets off again for Tamanrasset with the satisfaction of duty accomplished  : the text of the statutes has already been printed with every necessary authorisation  ; he can, therefore, reasonably hope to have a successor and to see his little work develop.

Unfortunately, Father Caron, superior of the seminary of Versailles, whom he had in mind for president of the association in France, refused because of too much work…

In 1910, Father Huvelin surrendered his soul to God. It was an immense sorrow for his son of predilection. Then, there was the death of Bishop Guérin, aged only thirty seven  ! A very fine mind and an intimate friend of Father de Foucauld, he was preparing Rome’s acceptance of the Pious Union. It was the year when Commandant Lacroix also died. It was a sorrowful year, full of trials, obstacles and disappointments. And then Laperrine was called away from the Sahara to other duties in France. My God, how You love Your friends  !

In 1911, Brother Charles undertook a second journey to France to implant his association. He hoped to find a companion, a priest if possible, at Notre-Dame des Neiges, where a monk might be prepared to follow him… A warm visit to Bishop Bonnet. After a short stay at Nîmes, he reached Paris where he again saw Marie de Bondy and Massignon. The Father planned a stay at Tamanrasset for Massignon so that he might study the Touaregs in their surroundings, under the pretext of a university thesis. It would have had the advantage of not upsetting his career, to which he remained very much attached. All these plans were to end as dead letters.

He continued his tour  : from Lorraine to Gironde, then to Bridoire, to see the Foucauld-Lardimalies, with whom he renews contact, and to La Renaudie to see Louis. At Lyons, he makes the acquaintance of Father Crozier, a very holy priest from the Prado. It is through him that he will get to know mystic souls like Suzanne Perret, who thus enters the life of Father de Foucauld in 1904 and will die in 1911, having offered her life for the missionary’s work. Father Crozier will be the only one to spread the call of Brother Charles de Jésus and to bring him associates.

Back in Algeria, he takes Father Voillard, a White Father, for his director of conscience, and he returns to Tamanrasset. And without taking any rest, he goes up to Asekrem to install a new hermitage, in an even greater solitude, to be near the tents of the Touaregs.

Since Father Voillard had advised him to return to France every two years in order to develop his association, he set off again in 1913.

On the 8th June he was at Maison-Carrée, where a very touching episode occurred during his stay there. Our Father can never read it without being overcome by emotion  :

Brother Charles only stayed two days in this house and this part of the country, where he had so many friends. He saw some of them, however, and even pushed on to Birmandréis where the White Sisters have their principal establishment. Those acquainted with their monasteries will know that a traveller, if he is Christian, especially if he is a missionary, can hardly ever pass through those houses without being invited to relate how things stand with Jesus Christ and His servants in the lands he has visited. Thus it was for Brother Charles, in the house where the old nuns, having returned from the the missions in the great lakes or in the Kabylie, were forming the novices, who will gladly go to live in the bush, to catechise the Negroes, to bring up abandoned children, to care for the sick, to console miseries of every kind, and to live a pure life among those who are not pure. Asked to talk about what he had done and what he wanted to do at Beni-Abbès and in the Hoggar, Brother Charles spoke in the large white room, which I have seen, to his audience all dressed in white, attentive to the least noble or pleasing word and always bowing when the name of the chosen Master was pronounced. He was not eloquent, but the life he spoke about was. At the end of his talk, the idea came to him of asking them  :

“ Which of you, sisters, would like to devote yourselves to the Touaregs  ?  »

Silently, they all stood up with one movement.

(René Bazin, Charles de Foucauld, pub. 1959, p. 351-352)

But none of them will be authorised to leave…

At Marseilles, he meets the Duke de Fitz-James, his old army friend, a royalist of liberal tendency, won over to Leo XIII’s “ ralliement ”, but a man of influence. The Father hopes that will be capable of helping him with his Union project, and to this end, he engages in a precious correspondence with him.

He had brought with him a young Touareg by name of Ouksem. He took him, together with his nephew Charles, to see the armoured Condorcet at Toulon. This visit was followed by a pilgrimage to the Sainte-Baume (Saint Mary Magdalene). Despite all his occupations, he did not neglect the main object of his journey, which he discussed with Bishop Bonnet and Father Crozier. The latter introduced him to Joseph Hours, an ardent republican who will find Foucauld to be too humble and self-effacing. Disappointment. But from their relations, we have a series of letters from the Father to Joseph Hours involving doctrine for the future.

Bridoire, La Renaudie, Paris. He saw Massignon several times  ; he visited Nieger, Laperrine, his family and friends, but especially men whom he thought might become pillars of his work.

On the 2nd September 1913, he celebrated Mass at the Carmelites, in memory of his great-uncle and his companions, all martyrs. There, he implored the grace of martyrdom which he had desired for twenty years. Maybe, he thought, that only the sacrifice of his life could now fructify his work since all his efforts had proved disappointing… The most tangible proof of his disappointment was in the very destiny of this Massignon whom he was hoping to make his disciple. For the moment, Massignon was immersed in his troubles and scruples, despite the Father’s kindly advice, exhorting him not to dwell on his past faults. He will renounce the priesthood in order to «  bury himself in marriage as an expiation  »  ! It is not surprising, therefore, that on this 2nd September, at the Carmelites, Massignon ascribes to a «  strange sign from God  » separating him from the Father «  like a sword of fire  », which was doubtless no more than confusion of mind and flight faced with the decision of a change of heart.

Final stages  : Lyons, Viviers, Nîmes and Marseilles. On the 22nd November, Charles de Jésus was back at Tamanrasset. He was never to return to France again.

Father de Foucauld with the young Touareg Ouksem, on their visit to France in 1913. (Photo Roger-Viollet).

Father de Foucauld’s correspondence is full of prophetic warnings. They were not heard at the time, and the prophecy has been fulfilled  : we see the consequences still today. But it may not be too late to hear them. Let us re-read this letter, for example, among a hundred others, addressed to René Bazin, dated 29th July 1916  :

«  My thinking is that if the Muslims of our North African colonial empire are not gradually and gently converted, there will arise a movement similar to that in Turkey… The national or barbarian sentiment will be exalted among the educated elite  ; when the occasion comes, for example, at a time of difficulties for France from within or without, it will make use of Islam as a lever to arouse the ignorant masses and will try to create an independent African empire.

«  France’s North-West African Empire, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, French West Africa, etc. has thirty million inhabitants  ; there will be double that in fifty years’ time, thanks to the peace. It will also be in a state of full material progress, rich, criss-crossed with railways, peopled with inhabitants skilled in the use of our firearms, in which the elite will have received instruction in our schools. If we have not succeeded in making Frenchmen of these people, they will chase us out. It is not a question of converting these people in a single day by force, but tenderly, discreetly, by persuasion, good example, good education and instruction, through close and affectionate contact, which is more especially the work of French lay people, who can be far more numerous than the priests and can gain a more intimate contact.

«  Can Muslims really be French  ? Exceptionally, yes. As a general rule, no. Several fundamental Muslim dogmas are against it.  » (quoted by Le Gaulois of the 21st Feb. 1917)

«  There is a whole tender and discreet propaganda to be made among infidel natives, a propaganda that must be all goodness, love and prudence, just as when we wish to bring back to God a member of the family who has lost the faith… Let us hope that after the victory our colonies will experience a new expansion. What a beautiful mission for France’s younger sons, to go and colonise the African territories of the mother country, not to enrich themselves, but to make France loved…  » (letter of the 16th July to the same René Bazin, quoted by Entre nous, n° 15, September 1956).


During a trip to France in 1913.

During a trip to France in 1913.

With its forty-nine members, Father de Foucauld’s association looks like a failure… In our day, France is still in the same pitiful state, worse even, and over there, the Touaregs are still waiting for someone willing to evangelise them… So, pushed by God to leave his silence and his solitude, the Father is now in the full force of his human, spiritual, political and missionary genius. Through his efforts to set up a pious association, he bequeathed us a doctrine, which we have only to find in his writings and to implement with God’s help.

It will take time to expound the whole of our Father’s lecture on this doctrine of truth. We must quote these texts from Brother Charles de Jésus, which are surprisingly topical and of such great importance at a time when we are being bidden by an unbridled ecumenism to believe in «  one sole God for three religions  », in view of the third millennium celebrations, and when France has to face up to Islamic violence in the very heart of the country  !

Father de Foucauld is almost the only one to have had an exact understanding of the guile of the Muslim world, of its hardening and, at the same time, to have kept an absolute faith in Christ’s redeeming Blood. He is the only one to have believed that the conversion of these souls was possible, and, with great intelligence, to have determined the means of their conversion. The following letters are evidence of his realism and of his genius, relayed by a very lively faith in Jesus, the “ Master of the Impossible ”.

First of all, here is a letter of the 4th October 1905, addressed to Raymond and Marie de Blic  :

«  You ask me whether it is possible to make converts among them. Yes, with time. In the immediate future, we are not to try to make any, but rather to prepare the ground. They are not wild enough to accept our religion and to leave theirs without proof. And they are not sufficiently educated, nor intelligent enough, to understand the proofs on which it is so solidly based. Except for a few chosen souls, very few indeed, Christianity will only penetrate among the Muslims when our education and our studies have made headway, and when they are capable of distinguishing the inanity of their faith and the solidity of ours. The work we have to do is to prepare this future from afar, to win esteem for ourselves, to be loved by the natives, to gain their confidence, to become their friends, to make our morality known to them, to familiarise them with us and with Christianity.  »

Elsewhere he will say  :

«  They cannot understand our proofs. They will have to believe, therefore, on authority.  »

But the word “ authority ” has a strong and religious sense here, that of an authority which inspires confidence, confidence in someone plainly superior. Let us read the rest of this premonitory letter  :

«  It is this preparatory work that I have to do. It may be that a few souls of good will come forward before the others  : all souls are made for the truth, the true religion, and for Heaven. All must, and therefore can, work out their salvation and be sanctified. But outside the Catholic religion, outside the Christian religion especially, there are very few souls of good will. Among the Muslims in particular, how many souls are not in an habitual state of mortal sin  ! The three concupiscences  : the senses, pride, greed, reign as queens in most souls. The outward appearances of this Muslim world are attractive. Charming like people from a distance when made up and covered in tawdry rags. Look more closely, and you will see that they are horrors. We must not hope for important results, like numerous conversions, for a long time yet. But what is certain is that the zeal, the holiness of the missionaries and of all Catholics through the Communion of saints, the prayers made by the Church for the infidels, the fervour of these prayers, the sacrifices offered for their conversion, can do much to hasten the happy moment and to extend the happy results. We must all work, work especially at our own sanctification, for one does much more good through what one is than through what one does. And then, as Bishop Freppel put it so well  : “ God orders us to fight, not to win ”.  »

  To Raymond de Blic, he wrote on the 9th December 1907  :

«  If in Christian countries, in countries where, like France, there is so much good, there is so much evil, think of what those countries are like where there is, so to speak, only evil, where the good is almost totally absent. All is lies, cunning, duplicity, lust of every kind, violence, with such ignorance and barbarity  ! God’s grace can do all things, but in the presence of so much moral wretchedness, of the abyss which separates souls from what they should be, of what they are called to be by their eternal vocation, it is plain that human means are powerless, and that God alone can work such a transformation. Prayer and penance. The more I advance, the more I see prayer and penance as the principal means of action over these poor souls […].

«  Finally, my presence in the midst of infidels familiarises them with Christians and particularly with priests  ; it overcomes prejudice, it tames them and gives them confidence. If Mimi [his sister], if you, who are so surrounded, would be happy to see me again, how happy would I not be who am alone among savages  !  »

To some soldiers, he will also say  : «  One would think we were in an Apache camp  !  » (letters to Colonel Sigonney, of the 3rd June 1910, and to Captain Charlet, of the 1st March 1912, in Père Gorrée, “ Amitiés sahariennes ”, Paris, 1946, t. II, p. 204 and 329).

«  You rightly feel that the people among whom I am living are not likely to make me forget you. The more time passes, the more one gets to know them, the worse they appear  ! And at the same time, the memory of those one loves, and who are so good, comes back strong and gentle, and the more the separation costs.  » (to Raymond de Blic, 9th December 1907)

On the 24th June, he wrote to his sister  :

«  Please pray for the poor Touaregs, we who are so happy, since we have the Truth, the way to Heaven, the knowledge of Jesus and of His love. We who are so rich  : riches of Jesus, of the holy Eucharist, of the holy Gospel, of the holy Church, of the sacraments, let us have great pity for these brothers who are so unfortunate and so poor, whom Jesus commands us to love as we love ourselves. These Touaregs, these Algerians are children of France, since they are her subjects. The Christians of France must christianise them. Not mechanically, but in the best way, by the means recognised to be the best, as parents must bring up their children to live a Christian life.  »

On the 25th July, he wrote to Suzanne Perret  :

«  I am in the presence of populations that are totally Muslim  ; they all have a profound faith, together with great ignorance, and a life that is very material, vicious and sinful, and with great contempt and hostility towards the Christians whom they regard as pagans, as deadly enemies for the Muslims and as beings of unspeakable morals… Given their faith, which makes them violently break away from us as soon as we begin to talk of our holy Religion, given their ignorance which makes them incapable of examining, reasoning, judging and studying  ; and given their habitual state of mortal sin, which enslaves them to error and lies, so that they find it very difficult to believe what is true and very easy to believe what is false, their prejudices are such that they avoid contact with us and only enter into relations with us when forced to. Above all, they regard us as incapable of bringing any spiritual benefit for their souls, since we are a mixture of ignorance, folly, superstition and vileness, of idolatry and odious morals…

«  Faced with the tight mesh in which the Demon keeps these poor souls held – souls which nearly all fall into mortal sin from the age of reason as a result of universal bad example – it seems to me that, apart from a miracle, there is only one path to follow  : firstly, tame them, cause their prejudices to fall away, make Christian morality known, let Christian charity, the foundation of the divine religion, be seen in us religious, gradually approach these very distant souls, build up confidence and, if possible, friendship; then bring them back to the natural law, get them to distance themselves from what they know to be sin, get them to serve God according to the natural law  ; then instruct them, develop their faculties of knowledge and of understanding, make them capable of reasoning, examining and comparing  ; finally, offer them the truth of our faith, for which they will have been prepared by esteem for us, a purer life, a more open intelligence… This is the work not of years, but of centuries… Everywhere, I am at the first stage, that of taming.

«  For souls of good will, who have remained pure amidst universal corruption, there will be exceptions  ; they will be able to scale the various degrees and arrive at the truth in a short time. Children who from an early age have been brought up as Christians away from their milieu, far from their country and from Muslim contact, will be able to be Catholics even now. But they will be rare exceptions… for the masses, without a miracle, it will take very long years, centuries… But will Jesus not work this miracle  ? He loves  ; He can do all things. “ Ask and you shall be given ”, He said.  » (quoted in Gorrée “ Au cœur du Hoggar ”, p. 179 sq.)

To Madame de Bondy, on the 4th June 1908  :

«  The country would need to be filled with men and women religious, with good Christians remaining in the world in order to come into contact with all these poor Muslims, to approach them gently, to instruct them, to civilise them, and finally, when they are men, to make Christians of them. With the Muslims it is not possible to make Christians of them first and then civilise them  ; the only possible way is the other and much slower  : instruct and civilise first, then conversion…

«  But it would take a great effort  ; it is not without effort that the four million Muslims of Algeria can slowly be brought to Jesus. In this part of the Sahara where I am, between here and Beni-Abbès, there are a hundred thousand souls. Pray for this cause […]. For one can be patient for centuries and even to the end of the world, when it is only a matter of building churches of stone, but slowness is forbidden when it is a question of saving souls on their way to perdition…

«  Please pray for all these natives among whom I live  : they all have a right to have us working for the salvation of their souls  : the Touaregs even more than the others, if that is possible. Souls all have the same price, that of the Blood of Jesus, but not yet being able to have concern for all, it seems to me that we should work firstly for those who allow us to hope for the earliest and best results. The Touaregs are among these  ; they are a new race, strong, intelligent and lively, and not a race grown old and in a state of decadence  ; they are hardly Muslims, that is to say, they practise their religion very little and hardly know it at all. Whilst having a very vague faith, they are less closed to us than are the Arabs.  »

Father de Foucauld developed what he meant by this work of conversion, its concrete possibilities and its means, especially in his correspondence with the Duke de Fitz-James and with Joseph Hours. These documents are of an absolutely remarkable clarity  : the flowering of all his human qualities are placed at the service of a Faith, Hope and Charity, equally developed. He writes to Fitz-James  :

«  I am extremely happy here in the Ahaggar, living very little with humans and very much with the good God. I am far from the troubles and cares of this world. But I see the souls around me, Arabs and Touaregs, and I try to do them good and, little by little, bring them to the love of God, which makes for happiness in this life and in the next…  » (“ Cahiers Charles de Foucauld ”, vol. 27, 1952, p. 14)

Then he adds a diagnostic on the state of France. As can be seen, it is still very up-to-date  !

«  Like you, I am an admirer of M. de Mun. Let us hope that he can awaken the sleeping consciences of so many French people, who are so deeply asleep that they seem to be dead or perverted. Saint Augustine’s words would need to be written everywhere in big letters  : “ Know that you will have progressed in perfection in so far as you have put the general interest before your private interest. ” It is sickening to see so many people occupied only with what they believe to be their private interest, without the least care in the world for the general well-being. Still less do they have before their eyes the great principles of justice, charity and duty which must come before all else.  » (ibid., p. 15-16)

He then explains who the Touaregs are amongst whom he lives. They are doubtless people of barbaric customs, of an innate immorality, which Islam has merely developed, but they are only very superficially islamised. This is the case with the Berbers and the Touaregs who might not be far from conversion if they were to be inspired with confidence. Cruel, cunning, bad towards their enemies, they distrust everyone and everything. But if we go out to them, if we do them good, if we show ourselves to be friendly and dedicated, then suddenly their distrust will fall and they will show themselves to be very open and loyal. It is by this means, therefore, that we can convert them. But how can they be evangelised, if nobody bothers  ? They would need to be sent good priests  !

In the same letter, the Father concludes  :

«  It is not a question of going to preach to them  : they would receive preachers in the same way that Breton villages would receive Turks come to preach Mohammed, and even worse, with the aid of barbarism. But lay people of both sexes need to come and make contact with them, to give them the experience of Christian virtues, to show them the Christian life, the Christian family and the Christian spirit.  » (ibid., p. 17-18)

That, of course, presupposes a little civilisation and the presence of the Army to protect and to manifest the strength of France. That is obvious  !

The letters to Joseph Hours are much more developed, because he is addressing a Christian concerned with the apostolate. He answers his very many questions. For this, it is sufficient to consult the “ Cahiers Charles de Foucauld ”. In 1911, in answer to a question as to whether he is in line with Lavigerie and his work of the “ Pères et Frères du désert ”, the Father replies  :

«  I have no memory of this work in my life. At present, the whole of the Sahara and the greater part of the Sudan are under the control of Europeans, so there would be no reason for this work and it could not, therefore, subsist  : so, there is no point thinking about it any more.  » (“ Cahiers Charles de Foucauld ”, 4th series, vol. 13, 1949, p. 62)

The answer is clear and settles everything  ! For him, colonisation is already under way  : we are, therefore, no longer dealing with pagan countries. Under Christian rule, everything changes  ! That is to say, he considers colonisation to be a preliminary, and the mission seems to him as a duty for Christians on two levels  : the duty of political and military authority to protect it, and the duty of Christians themselves to bring it about.

How is this mission, this «  evangelization of the Mohammedans  » to be realised  ? First of all, it is indispensable to prepare the ground, in order to bring down prejudice, to gain a little confidence, to acquire a solid and respected authority  :

«  The Muslims are incapable of discussion. The faith will be born among them, with the aid of grace, only by the authority one has over them, and by virtue of the Christian virtues practised in their presence.  »

In the present state of things is it possible to envisage, in a more or less distant future, the conversion of Islam to Christianity  ? Yes and no. Yes, if we work well and hard at it. No, if we work little or badly at it. Brother Charles de Jésus paints a picture of the Muslim world  :

«  I spent ten years in Asian Turkey, and nearly twenty years in Algeria. In Asian Turkey, there are many missionaries, but they confine themselves pretty well to maintaining the faith among the Catholics… In Algeria, the situation is much sadder  : ten or so White Fathers in the Sahara […]. In Tunisia, it is the same  : all that exists is a drop of water. In Morocco, the situation is even sadder  ! Christian France would need to make an effort, would need to feel her responsibilities as mother of a family, would need to understand that these Muslims whom she has conquered are her children and that she has a duty to bring them up in a Christian way. She should send religious missionaries and Christian colonists. The very encouraging results obtained in Kabylie are abundant proof that one only has to be concerned for the good of these Muslims and they will convert. How will they be converted if very little concern is shown towards them, and that badly  ?  » (ibid., p. 63)


A lamp and a writing case made by Father de Foucauld.

A lamp and a writing case made by Father de Foucauld.

Here we see Father de Foucauld overturning the excuse invented by our inertia, whereby  : we do nothing because it is impossible to convert them. In May 1905, he will explain himself very clearly and firmly to the warrant-officer Guy Dervil who asked him  :

«  Do you really think that it is possible to convert the Muslims  ? The results gained are so feeble compared with the effort put in.

Is this effort supported by the Government  ? No, alas  ; quite the contrary  ! So we, the Catholics, are the butt of a systematic opposition on the part of the public authorities who actually encourage the Muslim religion. By acting thus, they are committing suicide in a way, for, I have to say it, Islam is our enemy  : we shall always be the despised “ roumis ”.  » (Guy Dervil, “ Trois grands Africains ”, 1945, p. 56)

On another occasion, the warrant-officer put this question to him again  :

«  Father, do you believe that the Muslims can be converted  ?

There are a few examples although, I admit,… it will take a long time, a very long time  !… and yet, it has to be said, as long as there is a single Muslim in North Africa, we shall count an enemy  !…  » (ibid., p. 18)

Guy Dervil again reports this conversation  :

«  In the course of a posting in the Adrar, I asked the Father a question which seemed logical to me and yet it appeared to offend him. The tone of his reply made me understand that  :

«  Father, do you accept that in Islam, as in other religions, there are good and perfectly just people, good, honest people who help the poor and who live exemplary and virtuous lives  ?

Yes, of course  !

And at their death, will these beings not go to Paradise  ?

No  !

To me that sounds perfectly unjust. In the Sahara, some of these good people have never seen a priest  : aren’t you the only one in these regions  ? Why would you hold that against them  ?

That’s how it is, my dear friend  !

You know, Father, that my men admire you and respect you deeply  ; now, an old Chaambi said to me recently  : “ Your marabout is just, charitable and good  ; he lives in prayer and dignity  ! He is a holy man. But, despite that, on Judgement Day he will go to Hell, for he has not pronounced the Chahada  ! It’s a pity  !… ”

I could not accommodate myself to their materialist and crude Paradise, any more than they can conceive of ours, and I am surprised that you, a Christian, could have had any hesitation on the subject  !

«  And he sank into an unyielding silence.  » (ibid., p. 100)

Father de Foucauld glimpses all the good that could be done by religious, if only the Government did not put obstacles in the way of their coming  :

Tuaregs«  Catholic religious are called to play the greatest role in the evangelisation of Mohammedanism. Nobody better than they capable of making themselves loved, inspiring confidence and attracting gratitude. Nobody like them can reach the Muslim woman, who is half the population, who brings up the children in confidence towards the Catholics, or in prejudice against them. For the woman is the guardian of prejudice against us, if we are not concerned for her, and she is our best helper if we show her the truth.  » (Letter to Joseph Hours, in “ Cahiers Charles de Foucauld ”, vol. 13, p. 64)

And what should one think of the Touaregs’ natural propensity to give a favourable welcome to Christianity one day  ? He notes  :

«  The Touaregs are Muslim by faith, but hardly practising and quite indifferent. Timid and defiant towards us, before knowing us, they become the most trusting and friendly people in the world, once they have made contact with us.  » (ibid.)

How encouraging that is  ! He does not despise them  : he sees them in their wretched state, but he also sees their natural virtues and how grace could find the path to their hearts, at least if the missionary were there  : if he is good towards them and makes their prejudices fall away. The judgements of Brother Charles de Jésus are marked with the greatest kindness  :

Tuaregs«  Of the most cheerful character in the world, the Touaregs never cease to laugh and joke among themselves. They are very distrustful towards us, both fearing and despising us as wicked, powerful and dangerous people. Regarding us with scorn as idolaters and savages, they hold themselves to be the most civilised people in the world and ourselves as savages. Before making contact with us, they believe us to be idolaters, and, among themselves, they always speak of us as “ the pagans ”. They will only make our acquaintance when forced to. Once the acquaintance has been made, their prejudices suddenly fall away and they become as familiar and trusting as they were once timid and distrustful.  » (ibid., p. 69) And these are the people who have been handed over to the Algerian revolutionaries  !

What is our conclusion  ? From 1908, Father de Foucauld developed, in his countless letters, a doctrine so true that still, to this day, it remains the only beacon to give us light. Of the conquests of Lyautey, nothing remains  : he made a modern country of Morocco, it is true, but one that is stagnating in its Islamism. Whereas Brother Charles de Jésus, with his humility and abasement, had an understanding of the depth of things  : he had the Wisdom of God and the love of souls.

He will resolutely commit himself to colonisation, so that France may reign and, through France, the Sacred Heart, leading the “ poor ” of Morocco and of the Sahara towards conversion. For that, he made himself the “ brother ” of the natives, of the Harratins, of all those poor people lingering there. As for the officers, they called him “ le Père ”  ! The Father of the French Army was the father of the colonised  : a wonderful patriarchal vision  !

He has left us a doctrine and an example. As soon as we are free to preach this doctrine in all our churches, the young generations will rise to follow and imitate him. The day when Father de Foucauld is canonised, his intercession will give such force to his doctrine that missionaries will leave with the desire and the certitude in their hearts that they can convert the Muslims. And they will  !

CCR n° 296, May 1997


Confraternity dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

This membership text, updated in 1914, is proof in itself, in contradiction to modern authors, that Father de Foucauld was working for the conversion of the Muslims, even though a first stage consisted in «  establishing affectionate relations  ».

I. Origin. – God has increased France’s colonial empire in the 20th century to such an extent that the French colonies, which numbered three million infidels in 1880, numbers fifty million in 1914. The mother country has the duty to do all in her power for the evangelisation of these children given to her by God. The origin of this confraternity is the need for Catholics in France to unite in order to accomplish this duty.

II. Aim. – The aim of the Catholic Colonial Union is the evangelisation of the infidels of the French colonies.

III. Means. – 1° To be converted oneself, and to lead a life in conformity with the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

2° To convert those around us, members of our family, friends, neighbours, acquaintances, Christians and non-Christians, less by council than by example, fraternal affection and goodness.

3° To help those who work for the conversion of infidels in the French colonies, ecclesiastics, religious and lay people, by every means within our power  : prayer, sacrifice, financial aid, efforts to increase their number and to facilitate their task.

IV. Practices. – 1° Devotion to the Holy Eucharist  : Mass, Communion, Confession, Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament as often as the spiritual director advises.

2° Filial devotion to Our Holy Father the Pope  : Communions and prayers for his intention, annual offering of Peter’s Pence.

3o Docility to one’s spiritual director  : choose a director who is pious, wise, learned, experienced  ; open yourself f 4o Imitation of Our Lord JESUS  : daily reading and meditation on the Holy Gospel  ; in everything to ask ourselves what Jesus would do in our place, and to do it  ; to compare the teachings of JÉSUS and our own life, to see if there is any conformity needed, and to make the necessary reforms in consultation with our director.

5° Fraternal charity for all people  : to see JÉSUS in every human being  ; in every soul, to see a soul to be saved  ; in every man, to see a child of our Heavenly Father  ; to be charitable, peaceful, humble and courageous with all  ; to pray for all humans  ; to offer one’s sacrifices for all  ; to give a good example, to be a model of the evangelical life  ; to show what the Gospel is through one’s life  ; to be good, so as to be loved, to make JÉSUS and the Christian religion loved  ; to establish affectionate relations with those around us, with the constant care of doing good to souls  ; to go out to those whom one wishes to convert, to mix with them, to make friends with them  ; to become all things to all men to win all for JESUS.

6° Evangelisation of the infidels of the French colonies  : to pray and to offer all one’s suffering for their conversion  ; to know the state of our colonies, their needs, their spiritual resources, the apostolic works that are done there  ; to maintain relations with priests, religious and pious lay people who are evangelising the infidels there  ; to help the apostolic labourers there by making their works and their needs known, by procuring financial help for them, by obtaining a good civil administration for our colonies, by directing towards them a sufficient number of priests, of men and women religious, of fervent Christians destined to be lay missionaries like Priscilla and Aquila, by settling there oneself if God so wills. ully to him and follow his advice.

4o Imitation of Our Lord JESUS  : daily reading and meditation on the Holy Gospel  ; in everything to ask ourselves what Jesus would do in our place, and to do it  ; to compare the teachings of JÉSUS and our own life, to see if there is any conformity needed, and to make the necessary reforms in consultation with our director.

5° Fraternal charity for all people  : to see JÉSUS in every human being  ; in every soul, to see a soul to be saved  ; in every man, to see a child of our Heavenly Father  ; to be charitable, peaceful, humble and courageous with all  ; to pray for all humans  ; to offer one’s sacrifices for all  ; to give a good example, to be a model of the evangelical life  ; to show what the Gospel is through one’s life  ; to be good, so as to be loved, to make JÉSUS and the Christian religion loved  ; to establish affectionate relations with those around us, with the constant care of doing good to souls  ; to go out to those whom one wishes to convert, to mix with them, to make friends with them  ; to become all things to all men to win all for JESUS.

6° Evangelisation of the infidels of the French colonies  : to pray and to offer all one’s suffering for their conversion  ; to know the state of our colonies, their needs, their spiritual resources, the apostolic works that are done there  ; to maintain relations with priests, religious and pious lay people who are evangelising the infidels there  ; to help the apostolic labourers there by making their works and their needs known, by procuring financial help for them, by obtaining a good civil administration for our colonies, by directing towards them a sufficient number of priests, of men and women religious, of fervent Christians destined to be lay missionaries like Priscilla and Aquila, by settling there oneself if God so wills.

7° Pious reading  : daily to devote time to this as advised by one’s spiritual director.

8° Annual retreat  : every year to spend one or two days, according to the director’s advice, on a short retreat, to review one’s duties, to examine the way they are being fulfilled and to make resolutions.

9° Special prayers  :

Morning, midday and evening, the Angelus as recited by the Church, followed by the Veni Creator with versicle and prayer, and by COR JESU Sacratissimum, adveniat regnum Tuum repeated three times  ;

Evening, consecration of the human race to the Sacred Heart according to the formula given by Leo XIII on the 25th May 1899; in the Veni Creator we pray for all human beings, asking the Heavenly Father to establish the reign of the Holy Spirit among all.

 No obligation under pain of sin. 

V. Conditions for membership.

The faithful of all ages can enter the Catholic Colonial Union on the following conditions  :

1° to put down one’s surname and Christian name.

2° for each person, to pay one franc once and for all. – For communities, a collective inscription, with no payment, suffices for the enrolment of all their members present and future.

VI. Spiritual advantages. – Plenary indulgence on the day of enrolment and at the point of death.

Seen, approved, and with permission to be printed

Viviers, the……………………..

(Charles de Foucauld, Règlements et directoire, Paris, Nouvelle Cité, 1995, p. 701-704)

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