The Catholic Counter-Reformation in the 21st Century
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BLESSED CHARLES DE FOUCAULD

8. The Priesthood
(1898-1901)

HIS love of God becomes love of neighbour. Penetrating the innermost soul of Charles de Foucauld, our Father explains how he blossomed in the year 1898. After spiritual marriage, we now have spiritual fatherhood  :

«  If you have experience of the religious life, of union with God in sacrifice of the perceptible presence of those you love, you will know that, in this void of the heart created by solitude, in this void of affections and tangible impressions, visits and letters, when God comes to occupy and recreate this heart, then with God all those whom we love return, but in an incomparable purity. This purely spiritual and intangible presence of our loves in the love of God is much more intense than when our loves were tangible, and perhaps even carnal or disordered. Charles de Foucauld experienced this intimacy, this inner love of Jesus and of neighbour from the time he joined the Trappists. He had written to Marie de Bondy  :

«  “ I am constantly with Him and with those I love. ”

  «  This presence of his nearest and dearest did not rival the presence of Jesus  ; on the contrary, it was though borne by the love of Jesus. One day, much later, he will write to one of his spiritual sons  :

«  “ More and more you will no longer love God alone, but God first and all His creatures for Him, because He loves them, because He commands us to love them, because they are a reflection of Himself. ”

«  That is Father de Foucauld totally  ! It is the Gospel, far removed from an inhuman asceticism and from a Jansenist pessimism. There is something true about the “ God alone ”, but there is also something dangerous about it if ill understood. According to the charity indwelling Brother Charles de Jesus, one cannot love God as a Father, one cannot love Jesus as a Spouse, without the love of souls germinating in our souls… That is what he experienced from the beginning at Nazareth. Only, in this period we have just reviewed, this love of souls was purely contemplative. It only blossomed in a dialogue with Our Lord, in a Eucharistic heart to Heart. In this second part of his time of solitude at Nazareth and at Jerusalem, this love of souls will grow, will take its independence and arouse in him the desire to go to the poorest, to the most deprived, to bring them Jesus Whom he loves and would like to have them love.  »

TO ESTABLISH THE REIGN OF JESUS.

Thus, early in the year 1898, just after the Christmas season, Brother Charles is already tormented by thoughts he at first attributes to pride. He is assailed with the temptation of returning to the Trappists, not because he has any doubt about his vocation as a hermit, but because he could do more good to souls there. He opens his heart to Father Huvelin on this question in a letter dated 3rd March 1898. After comparing this desire to do good with a hook stuck in his soul, he adds  :

«  This hook reawakens in the soul the desire to work for the Good God  : the soul sees that it is happy and jubilant, that it receives much, but that it gives nothing in return, that it remains useless to its Beloved and to His children who are so dear to Him. This thought has sprung up in the soul  : if I were to return to the Trappists, if I were to be ordained priest, if I went back to the Trappists of Akbès, I could do a great deal of good for souls there, I would do much more for my neighbour than here, I would work much more for the service of the good God […] .

«  At the same time, there is another light and another hole  : it is a very clear view of the good the Trappists can do in these infidel countries, where their mission is to make Christians through bringing civilisation, to do, in a word, what the monks once did in Europe… The more I see of these eastern countries and the little effect made by the missionaries, the more I am convinced that nothing can do more there for the salvation of souls, for the establishment of the reign of Jesus, than the foundation of Trappist monasteries  : I see an admirable destiny for this Order (increasingly more numerous and flourishing) – that of recreating in the East, among these barbarous Muslims, what our Fathers did, the first Benedictines, among the pagan barbarians of England, of Germany and even of France and Italy…

«  One cannot live among these unfortunate Muslims, schismatics and heretics without sighing for the day when the light will dawn over them. And in conscience, I see no better way of working for that end than to work for the establishment of Trappist monasteries in these countries  : Trappist houses like that of Akbès, like those of the early Benedictines, being not only places of solitude, but also containing an orphanage, a hostelry, an ambulance, bringing up children, doing every possible good in a great radius around them, centres not only of virtue but of light for the country…  ? So much for the lights, now for the holes […].

I am equally prepared to leave today, to stay for ever, to do something quite different… Discern what the good God wants of me […].

«  Since I left the Trappists, I can see that the good God has led me by the hand  ; I would be most ungrateful were I not to recognise that… I am sure, therefore, that I am where He wants me to be in this moment  : but where does He want me to be for the future  ?… Of that I know absolutely nothing, but you will tell me, my dearest Father…  » (Correspondance, p. 72-77)

The day before, on the 2nd March, he had written this during his meditation  :

«  Oh Lord, You have taught me two things this night  : not to be attached to my sweet and tranquil solitude, but to be ready to embrace every fatigue, every kind of work and every cross for You, and to place all my happiness in You alone at every moment of my life.  »

Father Huvelin replied as follows  : «  It is at Nazareth that the good God still wants you. You have too many good things, a stability to find, in this life of contemplation.  » This answer appeased him and he is delighted to stay, but he will be ready, when God wills, to leave for the salvation of souls. It is truly docility to divine inspirations that will push him towards another life.

In February 1898, he writes in his Méditations sur les Saints Évangiles  :

«  What glorifies God most, is that the Body and Blood of His Son should be offered to Him as often as possible by the priests whom He calls to that… If He calls you to that, take care, therefore, not to refuse. Accept the chalice of salvation, whereby you will give back all that you have received from Him. You have received Himself, you will give Him back Himself.  » (Castillon du Perron, p. 265)

From the 14th to the 21st March, he decided to go into closed retreat in order to spend his nights in contemplation and prayer. Following the Gospel of Saint Luke, which abounds in concrete and precise details, he seeks to re-live the last days of the life of Jesus in their historicity. In his imagination, he transports himself to Ephrem… He also lingers long over the passage where Saint Luke relates the Visitation  :

«  It is Christ’s charity urging you, it is Jesus who, no sooner has He entered into you, than He thirsts to make other saints and other happy souls.  »

Carried away by this ardent love which transforms him, he opens up to an immense desire for redemption  :

«  I must go into the whole world through my prayers which must embrace all men.  » (Méditations sur les Saints Évangiles, nos 15 and 60, quoted by Six, p. 231)

«  Our whole life, no matter how mute, the life of Nazareth, the life of the desert as well as the public life, must be a preaching of the Gospel through example  ; our whole existence, our whole being must proclaim the Gospel from the roof tops  ; our whole person must radiate Jesus, our every action, our whole life must proclaim that we belong to Jesus, must present the image of the evangelical life  ; our whole being must be a living preaching, a reflection of Jesus, a perfume of Jesus, something that cries out Jesus, that makes Jesus seen, that shines like an image of Jesus…  » (Méditations, n° 314, Anthologie, p. 395)

MOTHER ELISABETH DU CALVAIRE.

On the 7th July 1898, he left for Jerusalem, sent by Mother Saint-Michel to Mother Elisabeth, Prioress of the monastery of the Poor Clares. Mother Elisabeth longed to see this man whom the Nazareth convent spoke of with great admiration. From the very first meeting, she was charmed and proposed that he should settle near their convent in Jerusalem, which he was to do in mid September. In this Mother Elisabeth, Brother Charles found his master  ! She already had very precise views about the hermit’s future  : she persuaded him to find a companion and to found a congregation which, in multiplying “ little mystical dovecots ”, would be dedicated to the adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist and to the development of devotion to the Sacred Heart. Remembering an Armenian novice who had left the Trappists at Akbès, he went to Syria to find him. It was a disappointment  : “ Brother Peter ” refused to leave his mother to follow him.

Reluctantly, Father Huvelin gave Brother Charles permission to settle in Jerusalem. There he led the same life as at Nazareth, even more solitary since the convent was situated two kilometres outside the city.

THE CALL OF THE PRIESTHOOD

he day before yesterday, the good Abbess called me to the parlour  :

«  We would like to make you for the winter, and for always, a rather long tunic with a hood, as is worn by the people of the country, something more recollected and religious than your blue trousers and smock, and yet not the colour of any religious order.

– Me  : As I am French and not Syrian, it will always be for me either a disguise (which is worth nothing) or a religious garment, a hermit’s garment if you like, but still a religious garment, which I can only wear with the permission of the ordinary… Poverty would not lose by it, but abjection would  : I “ shall not cry proclaim from the roof tops so effectively ” Jesus the worker at Nazareth, nor shall I sing so well the beautiful poem of His divine abjection.

– She  : Ask your director what he thinks of my desire.

– Me  : All right, I shall ask him.

– She  : And then, why aren’t you a priest  ?

– Me  : Firstly because I wanted to leave my Order  ; then because I wanted to stay in the last place  ; finally, it is impossible because I have no means of support.

– She  : You would be imitating Jesus no less than you are now, for you would still be practising His poverty, you would be imitating Him in His public life rather than in His hidden life. Nor would abjection diminish, for instead of finding it as He found it at Nazareth, in obscurity and lowliness of life as a worker, you would find as He did when evangelising, amid contradictions, difficulties, failures, calumnies and persecution…As for the question of means of support, I am surprised that you should mention it  ; I offer you to be our chaplain, either at our convent here or at Nazareth, it is for you to choose, for as long as you live… the sooner the better… If it were possible within a year, we would be very happy… What I foresee for you, however, is not that you should simply be our chaplain  : I offer it to you as a means of support  ; ask to receive the priesthood in order to be our chaplain. Stay for as long as you like. Whilst being our chaplain, form disciples here with us, in the shade of our cloister, as you are, and when there are many of you, and when the time comes, you will go where the Holy Spirit impels you… At any rate, if you are to have disciples, it would be better for you to be a priest to be able to form them.

– Me  : For that, one needs to be called by God… One has to have a mission… I cannot give myself a mission… Jesus left the life of a workman for that of an evangelical worker, but only when “ his hour had come ”… There is no indication that mine will ever come, and that I must be anything other than what I am… on the contrary, I feel myself to be immeasurably powerless and unworthy… To offer the Holy Sacrifice seems a dream to me, so profoundly unworthy I feel myself to be  : to direct souls seems to me the one thing in the world of which I am most incapable… Besides, my kind of life suits me  : I sing with so much sweetness the beautiful song of the poverty and abjection of Jesus  !

– She  : You will not sing any the less, just as Jesus sang no less at Capharnaum than at Nazareth… and what is more, you will make others sing… You have to do something for your neighbour  : God has no need of men, but since He is pleased to make use of them, we have to serve Him in that… And it seems to me that the time has come, for you are now forty… You feel yourself to be incapable, that is just what is needed… Besides, if we had to wait to be capable before acting, we would never act… Talk about it to your director. We shall pray for you, that Jesus inspire you with this desire… I am convinced that the Patriarch, who is a man of heart, will help you in this.  »

There you are… You will decide everything, in all and for all. “ He who hears you hears Me. ” […] What is there in the depth of my soul  ? There is certainly, involuntarily, a secret desire, which I have told nobody about except you, to make a religious foundation  : I see the rule of Saint Benedict […], practised according to the spirit of Saint Benedict, and in many points according to the letter of his rule, but not in all. It is the life I would have offered Brother Peter had he been willing to follow me  ; it is the life I practise  : it is a little less austere than the former Trappist life, but notably more so than the present Trappist life. It is much simpler than both  ; it is free of all those vocal prayers which overload them  ; there is much more poverty, much more work. “ You will truly be monks when you live from the work of your hands, as our fathers and the Apostles did ”, says the Rule of Saint Benedict  ; I see a great clearing away of external ceremonies, as with the ancient monks, to give more time to prayer and the interior life, and at the same time to practise charity towards one’s neighbour on every occasion provided by the good God  :…“ To love God and neighbour ” at last  !

Letter of the 15th October 1898 to Father Huvelin, (Correspondance, p. 90-93).

«   Oh  ! this one thing necessary, how happy I am to be here to think about it, to see from my little window this Bethany where those words fell from the lips of Jesus […].

«   I work during the time prescribed by the rule, and I think it is sufficient to earn my bread… They give me work which I can do in my cell, and which, I think, is of service to the convent. I make holy pictures, and many are needed for the convent. The Abbess here is of a very different character from the Abbess of Nazareth, whose spiritual mother she is. She is like her through her goodness to me  : the first was like a sister to me  ; this one is a mother  : the first is a very beautiful soul  ; this one is a saint. To a supreme degree she has what you admired in Saint Teresa, nine years ago today  : a cool head and a heart of fire, with this indomitable force of character, which alone makes it possible to undertake anything and to accomplish anything for God and with God… it is also what we admire and love in my dear cousin, no doubt not far from you in Paris now, to whom I am led back by everything, as I am to you, my dearest Father  !   » (Letter of the 15th October 1898 to Father Huvelin, Correspondance, p. 88-89, extracts)

Brother Charles relates in this letter the delightful parlour where, two days ago in the course of which, Mother Elisabeth tried to persuade him to imitate Jesus more perfectly by receiving priestly orders (cf. our inset, supra, page 16). But he is hesitant, so is Father Huvelin, as shown in his replies of the 30th December 1898 and of the 8th February 1899.

These comings and goings between Nazareth and Jerusalem disturb Brother Charles. He is afraid of being unfaithful to his vocation as a hermit. He would like to return to Nazareth for good and take a vow of enclosure.

From the 19th March until Pentecost, he goes into retreat  : he delights in being a “ worker ”, a “ son of Mary ”, but he is still struggling against this desire for the apostolate which begins to pervade him. So, he pronounces his vow of enclosure and recovers his peace  : “ Facta est tranquillitas magna ”… These words sum up my entire state of soul.  »

For sure, he is in his vocation at Nazareth, and for the first time he signs himself «  Frère Charles de Jésus  », with Father Huvelin’s permission.

On the feast of the Sacred Heart, 9th June 1899, he completes the Rule of the hermits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (more than two hundred pages). In 1901, he will replace the word Hermits with Little Brothers.

But grace is always at work. In March 1900, in order to give himself totally to Jesus, the thought occurs to him of “ selling ” himself to the sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul by becoming their infirmarian. In that way, he could give financial aid to a poor widow in need  ! (cf. the letter to Father Huvelin of the 26th March 1900, p. 125)

At about this same period, he hears a sermon on the exalted dignity of the priest and on the infinite price of a Mass. He speaks again of the priesthood with Mother Elisabeth. That sermon is a light to him  : he will be a priest. But he asks himself  : how can it be done  ?

He wishes to serve and to save souls…

THE MOUNT OF THE BEATITUDES.

He learned that the Mount of the Beatitudes, Turkish government property, was for sale. He saw in this an answer from Providence. On the feast of Saint Mark (25th April 1900), he understood clearly that he ought «  to receive Holy Orders and establish himself as hermit-priest on the desert peak of this Mountain  » to erect a tabernacle and an altar there (Letter to Father Huvelin, 26th April 1900. Correspondance, p. 134-135). He immediately wrote to his family to ask for the 12,000 gold francs he needed  !

«  So, it is going to be possible to take from the Turks this place sanctified by Jesus and restore it to worship and prayer after seven centuries.  » (Letter to Catherine de Flavigny, 7th May 1900)

«  If I do not buy it, not only will they [the Franciscans] suffer an irreparable loss, but it may even fall into the hands of the Jews…  »

Father Huvelin’s answer came too late  : «  It is no  !  » (4th May 1900, Correspondance, p. 141) «  I am alarmed at your project. However, if you feel an irresistible impulse, take your Rule, go to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, cast yourself at his feet and ask him for light. I, my child, have no light for this. I can see nothing but objections and I fear your own will beneath your devotion and piety.  » (20th May 1900. ibid., p. 179)

But Brother Charles is already heavily committed. Encouraged by Mother Saint-Michel, he multiplies requests for alms. His cousins send him large sums, but Raymond de Blic, who is hardly wealthy, will make the most important payment.

Unfortunately, this fine project will fail  ; the money will disappear and the Mount, which, in reality, was not for sale, will remain in the hands of the Turks  ! Some will take advantage of this adventure to accuse Charles de Foucauld of instability and imprudence. Our Father, once and for all, washes his memory clean of these grave reproaches, by showing that those who were truly responsible for this fraud were carefully hidden  : he was deceived, not by Arabs, but by Europeans, Christians, and so highly placed that they were trustworthy  ! Our Father cannot reveal all that he knows on this subject  !

Before learning of the disastrous outcome of this affair, Brother Charles followed Father Huvelin’s advice and made a third journey to Jerusalem. He introduced himself, dressed in his pitiful garb, to the Patriarch, Bishop Piavi, requesting to be the chaplain of the Mount of the Beatitudes and explaining that he wanted to found a very small Order, very, very humble… The Patriarch hardly listened, thinking that he was dealing with a crank, and «  briskly  » dismissed him, telling him to wait.

On the 10th July 1900, he will write to his sister  : «  My desire for Holy Orders remains firm, but all the rest is in doubt.  » Brother Charles de Jesus will make no further approach to Bishop Piavi, seeing in his refusal an indication of the Will of God. It is then that he adopts the motto

«   JESUS CARITAS   »

and that he chooses the Heart and the Cross for his emblem, desiring to wear it on his chest.

«  During those months, our Father explains, he was very much pushed about  : he was being led by God through failures. His whole life was marked by failure  ! But a failure always accepted with a love of God and a submission to His admirable Will. “ Thy Will be done  !… ” is his constant prayer. They were, moreover, the last words of his dying mother, which he remembered. At this period, the requests of the Our Father insistently recur in his writing. Charles de Foucauld is the man of the Our Father. It is his habitual and tender prayer  : his love for Jesus is that of a spouse, but for God, his Father, the Father of every creature, his love is that of a son. It is in this filial love that he finds fraternal love.  »

PARIS – ROME.

With his nephew, Charles de Blic.

With his nephew, Charles de Blic.

Without news from Father Huvelin for more than a month and a half, Brother Charles left Nazareth on the 1st August and embarked for France with the intention of receiving holy orders and returning to the Holy Land. What precipitated his departure was the fact that Mother Elisabeth needed a right-hand man who could deal in Rome with the foundation of a convent of Poor Clares.

On the 18th August, he knocked at the door of Father Huvelin. They had not seen each other for more than ten years. Father Huvelin did not consider the arrival of Brother Charles as an act of disobedience, as is proved by what he wrote about him  : «  He is a very holy soul  ; he wishes to be a priest. I showed him the means. He had very little, too little money  ; I gave him some. He was well aware of my thinking  ; I had sent him a telegram to say what I thought  ; but he is impelled by something stronger, and I cannot but admire and love him.  » (Castillon, p. 284)

Without visiting anyone, not even Marie de Bondy whom he had promised never to see again, he went to Rome and then returned to France. In France he stayed for eight days with his sister at Barbirey, to thank her for her financial assistance over the affair of the Mount of the Beatitudes, and also to let the children see their religious uncle.

On the 29th September, he went back to Notre-Dame des Neiges, where he wore the white robe of the Cistercian oblates, in order to prepare for the priesthood. He spent the best part of his time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. On the 7th October 1900, he received the minor orders and, on the 23rd December, the sub-diaconate. In his meditation, he wrote  :

«  Quid  ? A marriage. A conjugal bond chaining me for ever to the Beloved Jesus. Handing over of the body  : vow of chastity. Daily bouquet, symbol of an eternally youthful love  : the canonical office… the nuptial veil, robe and sash  : amice, alb and cord… Duties of a bride  : to love the spouse  ; to obey Him  ; to imitate Him  ; to keep Him faithful company  ; to sacrifice oneself entirely for Him  ; to look after the children and the home  ; the edification of souls and the services of the Holy Altar.  » (Seul avec Dieu, Nouvelle Cité, Paris 1975, p. 21)

His cousin Marie de Bondy prepared a chasuble for him, embroidered with the Heart and the Cross, according to his instructions.

He wrote to her  :

«  The bonds of the sub-diaconate are particularly sweet and strong  : they comprise the solemn vow of chastity and the perpetual obligation of the breviary  ; it is exactly a marriage  : and when I think that Jesus wished your unworthy child to contract a marriage with Him, I am confused, I am lost in gratitude, in admiration and in blessing…  » (Lettres à Madame de Bondy, p. 82)

Then came the preparation for the diaconate. He studies theology, but he lives in a sort of permanent distraction, absorbed in God. The Fioretti abound on this subject. The monk who was in charge of teaching him how to say Mass, relates how, at every word of the ritual, his pupil would become lost, dumb and motionless in contemplation  ; he had to pull him by the sleeve to bring him back to himself  :

«  It was sufficient to see him for only a few moments to have the clear impression of being in the presence of a saint.  »

On the 23rd March, 1901, he was ordained deacon at Nîmes by Bishop Béguignot and, from the 9th May to the 9th June, he made his retreat for priestly ordination, meditating especially on the Epistles, the Song of Songs and the Gospels. He asked himself where he should take his «  spouse’s rights  », when he is a priest  :

«  The soul has all the rights of a spouse, permanent rights over the body of the divine Spouse, rights over His soul (for He answers the call of the spouse, comes when she calls Him, He forgives when she forgives in His name, ratifies the deeds that she accomplishes in His place), rights over His riches, over all His treasures (she distributes the treasures of grace with an open hand in the Sacraments), rights over His children (she has power, authority to govern them, to pardon and to punish them), finally she has all the rights of the Bride whose Husband has fully and irrevocably given her all that He has and all that He is.  » (Seul avec Dieu, p. 44)

Where to take these divine powers, to which souls  ?

«  Ubi  ? Wherever it is most perfect. Not where there would be greater human chances of having novices, canonical authorisations, money, land and support  : no, but there where it is most perfect in itself, the most perfect according to the words of Jesus, the most in keeping with evangelical perfection, the most in keeping with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit  ; there where Jesus would go  : “ to the sheep who have strayed most ”, to “ the most ill ”of Jesus’ “ brothers ”, to the most abandoned, to those with the fewest pastors, to those who “ are seated in the thickest darkness ”, in the “ deepest ” shadow of death, to those most in “ thrall ” to the demon, to those most “ blind ” and most “ lost ”. First of all, to the infidels (Muslims and pagans) of Morocco and the outlying regions of North Africa…  » (Ibid., p. 79-80)

After a whole night of prayer at the foot of the Blessed Sacrament, he was ordained priest on the 9th June 1901, at the major seminary of Viviers, by Bishop Montéty, in the presence of Bishop Bonnet, his bishop, who was too unwell to officiate himself.

His sister, Marie de Blic, came and attended his first Mass which he celebrated the following day at Notre-Dame des Neiges. All those present were overwhelmed by the new priest’s fervour.

«   To make Jesus and charity to reign. That is the mission of the Little Brothers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, according to their name. They must make Jesus and charity reign in their hearts and around them. Their fraternities, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, must, like Him, radiate over the earth and bring fire to it. “ I have come to bring fire on the earth, and what do I want other than that it should burn  ? ”

«   Far around us, the meaning of our name and of the hearts visible on our clothing and our doors must be understood  ; and all must regard our fraternities as havens of love.  » (Règle, Anthologie, p. 457)

The chapel where he was ordained.

The chapel where he was ordained.

On the 12th June, he had already made plans  : if he is a priest, it is for souls. It is then that the thought of Morocco returns to him. There are many priests in the Holy Land  ; in Morocco there is no one. He desires to go back there to open a little “ zaouia ”, a little “ fraternity ” of prayer where the Blessed Sacrament will be adored, where Mass will be celebrated in countries where it has never been  ! So, he must first of all establish himself in Southern Oranais, and write to Henry de Castries to ask his advice.

The final stage of his life is beginning  : he is forty three. Fifteen years ago, he was converted. He has another fifteen years to live. «  I have known M. Charles de Foucauld intimately for eleven years, and I have never seen in books such extraordinary penance, humility, poverty and love of God…  » the Abbot, Dom Martin, will say.

On the 1st September 1901, he leaves Notre-Dame des Neiges for Africa.

THE PRIEST «  IS ALREADY OF HEAVEN  »

There is no vocation in the world as great as that of being a priest  : and in fact, it is not of the world  ; it is already of Heaven. The priest is what we said a little while ago about obedience, something transcendent, surpassing all  : he holds in his hands the divine body of Jesus. Through his voice, he makes Him to be on the altar. He causes Jesus to be born daily, like the eternal Father, like the most Blessed Virgin. He causes souls to be born through baptism, purifies them through the sacrament of penance  ; he distributes to them the Body of Jesus, as Jesus Himself did at the Last Supper  ; he helps them in their last moments to appear before the Beloved, giving them their last raiment, their last perfume, and also their final forgiveness and supreme strength. He converts souls by proclaiming the Gospel and by directing them. Every day of his life, whether hidden in a convent or outside, he does what Jesus did during the three years of his ministry. He teaches men to know, to love and to serve their good Master. What a vocation  ! He helps the divine Pastor to guard his flocks, he carries with Him the sick sheep on his shoulders, and with Him he seeks those who have gone astray  : he guards the children of the Father’s family  ; he defends them against brigands. He procures salvation for these souls redeemed at such a great price  : these men for whom Jesus lived, for whom He suffered so much, and for whom He died – these men whom His Sacred Heart loves with such an ardent love, on fire for the salvation of each one of them. Though He would wish to suffer and to be pierced again, it is the priest who saves them. Teaching the Gospel, saving the children of Jesus, distributing them the Body of Christ with his own hands  ! What a vocation, my dear brother, and how I bless God for having given it me. I once regretted not having received it, regretted not being invested with this character  : it was at the height of the Armenian persecution. I would have loved to be a priest, to know the language of these poor persecuted Christians, and to be able to go from village to village, encouraging them to die for their God. But I was not worthy of it.

But you, who knows what God has in store for us  ? The future is so unknown. God leads us by such unexpected paths  ! How I have been led, tossed about, these last six months  : Staouéli, Rome and now the unknown. We are the dry leaf, the speck of dust, the fleck of foam. Let us simply be faithful and allow ourselves to be carried with great love and great obedience wherever the Will of God impels us, and thus we shall give the greatest possible consolation to His Heart until one last puff of this blessed wind carries us to Heaven. If ever obedience carries you to those distant shores where so many souls are lost for want of priests, where the harvest abounds but perishes for lack of workers, bless God beyond measure. Wherever one can do more good for others, is the best place to be  : complete self-forgetfulness, wholehearted dedication to our Heavenly Father’s children, that is the life of Our Lord  ; it is the life of every Christian, especially the life of the priest. And so, if ever you are called to those countries where peoples are sitting in the shadow of death, bless God without measure, and give yourself body and soul to make the light of Christ shine amongst these souls sprinkled with his Blood  : one can work with great profit as a Trappist  : obedience will provide you with the means.  » Letter to Father Jerome, 24 January 1897.

He is risen  ! n° 294, March 1997

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