Charles de Foucault

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2016/07/15 at 12:00 AM

On October 29, 1886, something quite beautiful happened at the newly built Church of St. Augustine in Paris: a 28-year-old by the name of Charles de Foucauld went to confession.

This was no ordinary confession, though. This confession set the young Charles on a path of heroic virtue that culminated in his martyrdom in North Africa 30 years later.
Charles had been orphaned as a young boy and raised by his grandparents. When he became of age, he inherited a sizeable fortune, which he used to support a life of dissipation that brought about the annihilation of his faith.
As a young man Charles developed a fascination with North Africa, and through his travels in Morocco he came into contact with devout Muslims. As Charles described it, the faith of these Muslims shook him to the core, reigniting something within him long dormant.
Once back in Paris, Charles felt the Lord calling him to renew his own religious commitments, and thus it was that Charles de Foucault found himself within the sacred walls of the Church of St. Augustine that late October day.
He had heard the call of the Lord and chose to listen to it, and through the grace of the sacraments, Charles not only began practicing his Catholic faith again, but he also pursued a religious vocation and became a priest. For 30 years, he was our Lord’s capable instrument of peace and charity.
Charles de Foucault was martyred by being shot to death in Africa on December 1, 1916. Pope Benedict XVI beatified him on November 13, 2005.
As the lives of the saints illustrate for us, the call of the Lord can be quite powerful and come in many different fashions. Certainly, it is difficult to think of a saint who had a more powerful call and conversion than St. Paul, whom we hear from today.
In our 2nd reading today good St. Paul is addressing the fledgling Christian community in Corinth, many of whom he knows have engaged in various forms of sexual impropriety. In his gentle but direct way, we hear St. Paul lovingly correcting them in fatherly fashion.
As the founder of the new Christian community in Corinth, St. Paul knows it’s his duty to help them understand the implications of their baptism, of how through their baptism God calls them to a higher moral standard than the pagans among whom they live.
Thus the Church’s fearless preacher reminds the wayward Corinthians of their baptismal dignity as he tells them: “You have been purchased at a price.”
Because of God’s generosity toward them in making them His children, St. Paul exhorts the Corinthians to avoid all immorality because it’s displeasing to our Lord and an offense to their newfound baptismal dignity.
Certainly our society should take some note of Paul’s words to the Corinthians, drowning as we are in a morass of sexual excess and sexual impropriety. For chastity is one of the most beautiful of virtues, and one of great importance for growing in holiness.
Indeed, no one can ever grow in holiness without first learning to master his passions. Learning to be chaste, temperate, and prudent in all of our actions is a crucial step in the process of sanctification, for learning to master ourselves prepares us to make a gift of ourselves.
Learning to love others with a selfless disinterest, learning to set aside our own needs and desires for the sake of others, learning to give without counting the cost, is truly the essence of holiness.
Just as our dear Lord gave Himself fully and without reservation on the altar of the cross on Calvary some 2000 years ago, we, too, must learn to make a gift of ourselves if we wish to become like Him. Indeed, this is precisely what Jesus calls all of us to do.
With this in mind, St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is all the more important. The marital act is a gift from God that is meant to foster the giving of oneself as a gift to another. It is an inherently sacrificial act that comes with great responsibility.
Whenever we misuse sexuality by engaging in immoral acts, we turn what should be a selfless act into a very selfish one. And instead of growing in virtue, we grow in vice.
Just as he did with St. Paul and Bl. Charles de Foucault, Jesus calls to all of us. He calls us to holiness of life. He desires to be in relationship with all of us. And it is through our personal relationship with our Lord that we grow in the virtue that leads to true holiness.
Our readings today present us with the examples of three men who were called by the Lord. And each, in his own way, models for us how we should respond to the call of the Lord so that we may advance in holiness.
In our first reading we hear the story of the young Samuel under the mentorship of the wise Eli. Like Samuel of old, we must be attentive to our Lord’s voice in all circumstances – ready to rise at His command.
Like Samuel, we must be ready to say: “Here I am; speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,” whenever we hear the voice of the Lord.
In our Gospel we get the poignant story of the calling of the first apostles. Like dear St. Andrew, who was the first of the 12 apostles to follow Him, we must respond to our Lord’s call with immediacy.
And like St. Andrew, we must be willing to try to lead others to Christ as well, so that they, too, might experience the grace of being in relationship with Him. Grace is never something we should keep to ourselves, but rather share so that others may benefit.
But it is not enough simply to respond to Jesus’ call immediately and be in relationship with Him. Our association with Christ must change us. And we see this in the person of Simon, who at the Lord’s bidding becomes Peter – change of name that was symbolic of a much greater change within the man.
Interestingly, the Gospels do not record Simon Peter refusing our Lord’s changing of his name. Rather, he humbly accepts it.
And while we know that St. Peter did not live his vocation as an apostle perfectly, He did eventually learn that self-mastery that enabled him to make a splendid gift of himself, and in the process he became one of the greatest saints of the Church.
In closing, I leave you with a prayer by St. Charles de Foucault that speaks of making a gift of oneself to the Father so that His perfect and most adorable will may be done in our lives:Father,I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.Whatever you may do, I thank you:I am ready for all, I accept all.Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul;I offer it to youwith all the love of my heart,for I love you, Lord,and so need to give myself,to surrender myself into your hands,without reserve,and with boundless confidence,for you are my Father.
May we all learn one day to answer our Lord’s call by making of ourselves a gift to the Lord and to one another.
15 January 2012


© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

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