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with its short beard is partly in shadow, and the character of the eyes not to be discerned, but you can see the strong forehead and the mouth ready to break into a smile at any moment. Most suggestive are the attenuated hands hanging down by his sides. They speak of passivity, but it is a passivity of body which sets free the energies of the soul. "Be still, and know that I am God.'
A letter written by Père de Foucauld to the Prefect Apostolic of the Sahara describes his way of life. His day began at 4 A.M. and ended at 8.30 P.M. About half of it was spent in devotion, the rest divided between manual work, necessary business, interviews, and study. The seven and a half hours of his night were broken by an hour of prayer. He rose at midnight, sang the Veni Creator, and said Mattins and Lauds. ‘Alone with the Bridegroom,' he writes, 'in the profound silence, in this Sahara, under this vast sky, this hour of tête-à-tête is a supreme delight.' 1 As to food, he had some dates or figs at 6 A.M., dined at 11.30 and had a 'collation’ at 6 P.M. But he would dine off a piece of barley bread dipped in a concoction of a Saharan plant euphemistically called 'tea of the desert,' so that two harratins (Arab and negro half-breeds) who at first helped him in turning a piece of the sandy waste into a garden and shared his meals, struck after a few days, declaring that the food was good enough to die on, but that they could not live on it.
At Beni-Abbès de Foucauld was still more or less in touch with civilization. The French soldiers would come and talk to him in the evenings : one or another would serve at mass. He was made welcome by the officers and now and then dined with them, refusing a place of honour and sitting by the youngest. He would join with interest in conversation on military matters, but always from fear of pride declined to be drawn when questioned about Morocco. The invitations to dinner were often given, but only occasionally accepted as an act of courtesy, when some General or savant was passing through. In 1903 an old comrade and friend arrived, General Laperrine, a devout Catholic and a distinguished soldier, to whom France owes a great debt in the development of her colonial possessions.1 Between the two men there was a close intimacy: each was equally devoted to his own aims and they had much in common in the pursuit of them. Laperrine set the highest store by de Foucauld's growing influence over the native races, and in turn helped him and his work in every possible way. He encouraged him to join in pacificatory missions (tournées d'apprivoisement) among the desert
1 P. 213.
( tribes of the south. Out of these expeditions there arose a desire in Père de Foucauld's mind to go still further into the wilds and live alone among the natives, returning to Beni-Abbès from time to time. In 1905 he took up his abode at Tamanrasset, a poor village in the mountainous region of Hoggar or Ahaggar, which occupies the centre of the Sahara. As at Beni-Abbès he built himself a hermitage, where, with some temporary absences, he
, remained to the end of his life, the only representative of Christianity and civilization among the Touaregs, who were little more than savages. They were a confederation of nomadic tribes, who owed allegiance to an amenhokal or elected chief, Moussa ag Amastane, an intelligent man and a good ruler. The 'marabout,' as Père de Foucauld was familiarly called, gained the confidence of Moussa and his subjects and always remained on excellent terms with them. He learnt their language : with immense labour he compiled a Touareg grammar and dictionary, which characteristically he wished to appear without his name attached. The dictionary was published by the Algerian government after his death. The Touaregs were, nominally at any rate, Mohammedans, and he attempted no direct measures of conversion, holding, as always, that his mission
General Laperrine lost his life in travelling to Timbuctoo by aeroplane in 1920, and the two friends lie together at Tamanrasset.
• This district, the very name of which is unknown to most people in England, has recently come into prominence through the Citroën motor-car expedition across the Sahara to Timbuctoo, and Tamanrasset has appeared in the newspapers (December 1922 and January 1923).
was not to preach, but by living among the natives to bring them into contact with Christianity. It was his method of apprivoisement. He believed in progressive evangelization. He taught them some prayers that they might use without offence to their religion and even devised a simplified rosary for them, the words ‘My God, I love Thee' to be repeated in telling the small beads, and My God, I love Thee with all my heart' with the big ones. M. Bazin preserves 1 some notes which were found after his death entitled ' Things to say to Moussa and letters written to Moussa.' They are full of wise counsels for the chief's own life and for the management of his people. It is not surprising that the ‘marabout' came to love and be loved by his simple neighbours. One summer, in order that he might share their life when they were pasturing their flocks in the mountains, he lodged for a time in a hut at a place called Asekrem, 9000 feet up, assuredly the highest point in the globe, says his biographer, where a hermit has ever lived.
The sweetness of solitude,' he wrote from this retreat, ' I have experienced each time that I have enjoyed it since I was twenty. Even when I was no Christian, I loved
I solitude in the face of nature, with books : with much more reason now that the sweet invisible world prevents one in the solitude from ever being alone. The soul is not made for noise, but for recollection (recueillement), and life should be a preparation for heaven, not only by meritorious works, but by peace and recollection in God. Man, however, throws himself into endless discussions. The little happiness that he finds in noise would be enough to prove how far he has strayed from his vocation.'3 Here you have the unmistakable voice of the recluse. But, although this was the dominant note throughout de Foucauld's life, it is interesting to observe how altruistic aims come more and more to the front at each stage in his career. Not that he ever simply wanted to save his own soul, except in so far as he felt the necessity of making reparation for his early days. Once in a retreat at Nazareth he made a meditation which M. Bazin gives in full 1 and compares not unfairly to certain chapters in St. Augustine's Confessions. This self-revealing document is headed, ‘Moi, ma vie passée—Miséricorde de Dieu.' It is a sketch of his life from early childhood, but its real subject is the divine compassion extended to him at each stage. With Charles de Foucauld as with every true saint, God was the centre, not self. Love towards God, however, includes love towards the beings made in His image who are dear to Him, and at any rate from the Trappist period at Akbès onwards, humanitarian sympathies were at work in de Foucauld's soul. The Armenian massacres of 1895 roused his indignation. ' It is a disgrace to Europe, he cries : 'with one word she could have stopped these horrors and she has not done so.'2 At that time he longed to be a priest that he might help the persecuted Christians of Asia Minor and Syria. Later on it was Africa that called to him with its masses of Mohammedans and heathen. When he first turned his attention to the Sahara, his main idea was simply to sanctify its inhabitants by carrying the Blessed Sacrament among them, 'as Mary sanctified the house of John the Baptist by carrying Jesus there.'3 Then more apostolic missionary ideals presented themselves. He sketches out the different kinds of work, spiritual, educational, and medical which were waiting to be done. Again and again he writes from Beni-Abbès and from Tamanrasset now for priests, now for sisters, to come and undertake this or that. But no one came. The authorities knew that his way of life was too severe, his austerities too tremendous, to be imposed on or recommended to others, and would spell disaster. Perhaps also they felt that he was not fitted to be the head of a community or to build up an institution. A young Breton who joined him at one time broke down in three months and had to be sent home. So to the end he remained alone. It was the great disappointment of his life. He did not want companionship for himself, but he felt with an ever-increasing keenness the spiritual and material needs of those among whom he dwelt, and the
· P. 394.
3 P. 395.
responsibilities of his beloved France for the peoples over whom she was establishing her dominion.
At Tamanrasset for lack of a companion he was unable to say mass. It was a sore deprivation, and notes like this occur in his diary. Dec. 25, 1907. Noël, pas de messe, car je suis seul. Jan. 1, 1908. “Unissez-moi à tous les sacrifices offerts en ce jour. Pas de messe, car je suis seul. A few weeks after the last entry, he heard that the Pope had given him permission to say mass alone, and he breaks out in rejoicing. Jan. 31, 1908 : Deo Gratias ! Deo Gratias ! Deo Gratias ! Mon Dieu, que vous êtes bon ! Demain, je pourrai donc célébrer la messe! Noël ! Noël ! Merci, mon Dieu !! Besides the daily support of his communions, his greatest joy was to spend hours together in adoration ‘alone with the Bridegroom.' He attached supreme importance to the local and, so to speak, external presence of our Lord in the reserved sacrament. For him it was the divine method of blessing both believers and even the ignorant heathen or Mohammedans who came within the radius of its influence. In all this he did but follow with unquestioning fidelity the current practice and teaching of his Church, which has--it is not unfair to say so--gone far towards substituting the sacramental presence in the Host for the operation of the Holy Ghost in the hearts of men.
Much the same may be said of his devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the Saints. This is not particularly prominent in the extracts given from his letters or diaries, but every now and then one comes across expressions which, if interpreted strictly, equate the creature with the Creator and contradict the first principles not only of Christianity but even of theism itself. We may criticize and rightly these one-sided developments of the faith, but they need not diminish our admiration for the man who accepted them in simple loyalty. To Charles de Foucauld Christianity meant the Roman Church, just as civilization meant France. His mind never travelled outside the circle of ideas in which he was brought up. Of independent thought, of intellectual questionings or doubts, apart from the period of unbelief before his conversion, there is not a trace in his history.