Nazareth (Agenzia Fides) - What is striking about the Christian adventure of St. Charles de Foucauld is that, during his life, "he seems to have done nothing". He converted no one, founded nothing, and did not "bring home results".
Charles de Foucauld only loved Jesus, imitating him in everything, until his death. Precisely for this reason his story suggests all the baptized that in order to be a Church "it is not necessary to build great enterprises. The life of the Church is life-giving when it springs from encountering and loving Christ. This is the first witness to which we are called. Without love to Christ, all that remains of us are expensive structures, whether they be physical or human". With these words, and with other suggestive images, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, wanted to remind the brothers and sisters of the Churches of the Holy Land the most intimate traits of the spiritual story of the monk recently canonized by Pope Francis, and what those traits suggest with regard to the dynamics proper to the apostolic mission in the present time.
This is what he did during the thanksgiving mass for the canonization of Charles de Foucauld, celebrated in Nazareth, in the Basilica of the Annunciation, on Sunday, May 29. Bishops and priests from other Catholic Churches of the Holy Land also took part in the liturgical celebration, presided over by Patriarch Pizzaballa, together with the Little Brothers and Little Sisters of Charles de Foucauld, together with members of other religious communities inspired by the spirituality of de Foucauld and present today in the land of Jesus.
Precisely in Nazareth - the Patriarch recalled - Charles de Foucauld spent decisive moments for his spiritual journey, "to the point that a part of the spirituality attributed to him is precisely called the “spirituality of Nazareth” or simply “Nazareth”." A spirituality modeled on family coexistence lived with Jesus by Joseph and Mary, understood as the desire to live with Christ and in Christ every moment and every breath of one's daily life, after having met him. "The beloved one", the Patriarch underlined in his homily, "is never known once and for all". And following Christ means continuing every day to seek him, to desire to see his face, to be able to recognize him in the lives of the little ones, to experience him. It is a journey made of consolations, but also of many dark moments, of questions that go unheard, of inner emptiness, of long waits, of purification, of silences". Precisely by following his expectation and his request to see Christ's work every day, Charles de Foucauld enters the heart of the mystery of the Church, and of his mission. "For those times" Archbishop Pizzaballa noted "his was a new way of evangelization: at a time when Western missionaries were going all over the world to bring the Gospel in their own way, Charles de Foucauld wanted to go among the people, to be evangelized by them, getting close to them, trying to learn their values, their ways of doing things, their culture, language, traditions. He felt that he was a brother to everyone, anticipating what today is a central theme in the life of the Church. But his idea of fraternity did not rest on vague or generic sentiments. It was grounded in and flowed from a direct relationship with Jesus". What is striking about this saint - continued the Patriarch - is that he seems to have done nothing. He converted no one, founded nothing, and, reading the archives of our convents in the Holy Land and the Patriarchate, he failed in any of his projects, did not shock anyone with his witness. Indeed, perhaps, knowing our ecclesiastical contexts a bit, he must have been perhaps seen as one of the somewhat strange characters who often frequent our Holy Land churches. In short, he is a saint who brings home no results. None. And he dies murdered, trivially, as many do today. The only criterion by which we can somewhat measure his experience is love. Love for Christ led him to imitate him in everything, even to death". And true love - the Patriarch remarked - "is always generative, always opening to life and new horizons. And so it was for Charles de Foucauld as well. After his death, precisely around him who concluded nothing in his life, several congregations, movements, spiritual paths were born, inspired by his experience. Some of them are present here among us, in our Jerusalem Church. Thanks to his unique path of holiness - continued the Patriarch - Charles de Foucauld also invites the Church of Jerusalem "to free ourselves from the search for outcome at any cost, for success in our endeavors. He reminds us that to be Church it is not necessary to build great enterprises. The life of the Church is life-giving when it springs from encountering and loving Christ. This is the first witness to which we are called. Without love to Christ, all that remains of us are expensive structures, whether they be physical or human". In addition, the experience of Chiarles de Foucauld shows everyone that "to love Christ means to love man, where he is, as he is, without expecting anything, but by being close to him: in his work, in his family, in his questions, in his suffering, in his pain. Without expecting to bring solutions, which are often not there, but bringing in those situations the love of Christ. And here in the Holy Land it means standing beside each person in his desire for life, in his thirst for justice, in his demand for dignity. It means asking for the strength of forgiveness, building relationships of friendship with everyone, rejecting from hour hearts the idea of an enemy, but desiring to become brothers with each one. For the new French saint, the men and women to whom to confess Christ in daily proximity as "universal brother" were the Muslims of the Maghreb countries. Charles de Foucauld - Patriarch Pizzaballa recalled - also bequeaths "the search for a peaceful relationship with those who do not know Christ, and in particular with Islam, which so deeply marked his life, and which is such a timely and necessary issue in this period. Not to convert, of course, but to bear witness to the love of Christ, which makes us all brothers and sisters". The former French officer, who during his adolescence had lost the vital relationship with Christianity - the Patriarch recalled among other things - begins his path of rethinking his spiritual life thanks to contact "with those Islamic populations, poor and religious". A path that "will then gradually lead him to an encounter with Christ, whom he will fall in love with and will never leave. People who did not know Christ led him to encounter Christ". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 30/5/2022)
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