15 quotes from soon-to-be saint Charles de Foucauld, the 'Universal Brother'

15 quotes from soon-to-be saint Charles de Foucauld, the “Universal Brother”

Charles de Foucauld, the nineteenth- and early-twentieth century French soldier, explorer and geographer-turned Catholic priest and hermit in the Sahara Desert, is to become a saint, the Vatican announced May 26.

In honour of the man who called himself the “Universal Brother” to Christians, Jews and Muslims, and who was eventually martyred for preaching the gospel of love, here are 15 quotes that sum up his spirituality of drawing close to Jesus through a life of simplicity and humility and of concern for the poorest and most forsaken.

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“Whether our life be that of Nazareth, the Public Life or the Desert… it should cry the Gospel…”

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“The evangelisation that I am called to live is not through the word but through the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass. It is through prayer and penance and the practice of the Gospel virtues – love, fraternal and universal love, sharing even my last mouthful of bread with every poor person, with every visitor, every stranger, and welcoming each person as a beloved brother or sister.”

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“I want all the people here, Christians, Muslims, Jews, non-believers, to look on me as their brother, the universal brother. They begin to call my house ‘the fraternity’ and this makes me happy.”

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“Above all, always see Jesus in every person, and consequently treat each one not only as an equal and as a brother or sister, but also with great humility, respect and selfless generosity.”

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“Be loving, gentle, humble, with all human beings. This is what we have learned from Jesus, not to be aggressive towards anyone. Jesus taught us to go out like lambs among wolves.”

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“We are all children of the Most High. All of us: the poorest, the most outcast, a newborn child, a decrepit old person, the least intelligent human being, the most abject, an idiot, a fool, a sometimes sinner, the greatest sinner, the most ignorant, the last of the last, the one most physically and morally repugnant – all children of God and sons and daughters of the Most High. We should hold all human beings in high esteem. We should love all humankind, for they are all children of God.”

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“Have that tender care that expresses itself in the little things that are like a balm for the heart… With our neighbours go into the smallest details, whether it is a question of health, of consolation, of prayerfulness, or of need. Console and ease the pain of others through the tiniest of attentions. Be as tender and attentive towards those whom God puts on our path, as a brother towards brother or as a mother for her child. As much as possible be an element of consolation for those around us, as soothing balm, as our Lord was towards all those who drew near to him.”

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“Set up home as Jesus of Nazareth, obscurely, poorly, humbly with hard work. Imitate as closely as possible the humble and hidden existence of the Divine Worker of Nazareth, living solely from the work of your hands.”

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“What is impossible for humans is possible for God: ‘Caritas omnia sperat’ – ‘Love hopes for everything’. God loves and can do anything. God respects the freedom God gave to humankind but God does not hold back when freely giving graces. God’s grace can be such that it overturns all obstacles and brings the calm after the storm. Let us know how to obtain powerful graces from the one who said: ‘Ask and you shall receive’ and ‘When two or more of you are gathered in prayer, I am among you.'”

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“Forgive us our debts. One cannot ask for forgiveness if one has not forgiven. Forgiveness like grace is something one does not ask for oneself alone, but for all people.”

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“Islam shook me deeply. Seeing such faith, seeing people living in the continual presence of God, I came to glimpse something greater and more real than worldly occupations.”

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“Real faith causes every impossibility to disappear. It makes a nonsense of those words, anxiety, danger and fear. It makes us walk through life with calm peace and deep joy, like a child holding its mother’s hand.”

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“It pleased God to make it easy for us to be saved. He didn’t attach salvation to knowledge or intelligence or wealth, nor to long experience or rare gifts that are not given to all. He attached it to something within the reach of everyone, absolutely everyone. Jesus attaches salvation to humility, to the act of making yourself little. That is all it takes to win heaven.”

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“We must stand up for the rights of our neighbour who is suffering from injustice; we must defend them all the more vigorously because we see Jesus present in them. Surely this is our duty because of our love for others for his sake. We have no right to be ‘sleeping watchmen’ or dumb watch-dogs. Whenever we see evil we must sound the alarm.”

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“There is one case when we must resist evil forcefully. It is when it is not a case of defending ourselves but of protecting others. It takes forcefulness to defend the weak and the innocent when their oppressors wrong them. The spirit of peace is not a spirit of weakness but a spirit of strength.”

(Quotes taken from Jesus Caritas: News & Archive of the Spiritual Family of Charles de Foucauld)

Next on Novena:

Pope praises “witness up to the sacrifice of life”, “luminous example” of Charles de Foucauld

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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.
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