The Neocatechumenal Way rejoices with the whole Church for the canonization of Blessed Charles de Foucauld
Charles de Foucauld

On may 15, 2022 Charles de Foucauld, known as Brother Charles of Jesus, that was beatified by Benedict XVI on November 13 2005, will end his journey towards the altar and will be proclaimed a saint, as the Holy See recognized a new miracle through his intercession, as approved by Pope Francis.

With this short note we want to underline the deep connection that, within the specificity of each charismatic gift from God, exists between the “universal brother” as Charles de Foucauld has been called, from whose spirituality 19 families of lay people, priests, religious men and women were born, and Kiko Arguello, initiator, together with Carmen Hernandez of the Neocatechumenal Way.

These bonds are various and deep, and begin from the moment of his conversion, to the intuition of the hidden life among poor, to the way of living “as poor among poor”, to the dream of a chapel for the adoration of the blessed sacrament on the Mount of Beatitudes… We will underline some of the most relevant moments.

The first is the cry, the plea to God at the moment of existential crisis, of the searching for God: “My God, if you exist, let me know you”, is the famous invocation of Charles de Foucauld; “If you exist, come, help me, because before me I have death!” [1], is Kiko’s prayer. He himself says: “I was wondering: Who am I? Why do injustices exist in the world? Why the wars?… I distanced myself from the Church to the point of abandoning it completely. I had entered a profound crisis searching for the meaning of my life… I was internally dead and I knew that my end, sooner or later, would be suicide” [2]. Through the philosopher of intuition, Henri Bergson, Kiko received a “first illumination” on the existence of God. He went into his room and started screaming at this God he didn’t know. “I shouted at him, ‘Help me! I do not know who you are!”. And at that moment the Lord had mercy on me: I had a profound encounter with the Lord that surprised me. I remember that I was crying bitterly, the tears were falling, the tears were flowing…”. It was the certainty of the existence of God

Kiko Argüello

This encounter, providential for Kiko and for the Way, took place through ways that only God knows: a Dominican theologian, Father Aguilar, had received a grant from the Juan March Foundation to look for points of contact between Protestant art and Catholic art , before the upcoming celebration of the Second Vatican Council. Before embarking on this trip through Europe and to prepare for it, Father Aguilar wanted to take Kiko to the desert of Los Monegros, in Farlete (province of Zaragoza), where the Little Brothers of Charles de Foucauld were. Here Kiko was able to meet Father R. Voillaume, founder of the Little Brothers and read the life of Charles de Foucauld, being fascinated, above all, by the discovery of the hidden life of Jesus and the Family of Nazareth. [3]

Kiko, listening to a speech by John XXIII, had the intuition that the renewal of the Church would come through the poor. “Convinced of this and that Jesus Christ identifies with the poor and miserable of the earth, I went to the shacks of Palomeras.” “I left everything and everyone,” says Kiko. “Also my promising career as a painter and I went to live in the shantytowns. In Charles de Foucauld I found the formula for living: an image of Saint Francis, a Bible – which I still carry with me because I read it every day – and a guitar… From Charles de Foucauld I learned the image of the hidden life of Christ, to be silently at the feet of Christ, rejected by humanity, destroyed, to be the last, and to be there at his feet” [4].  

Farlete Cave, (Zaragoza, Spain)

When Kiko went to the shacks of Palomeras Altas, he was following in the footsteps of Charles de Foucauld in the hidden life of Christ, without any social program. Kiko recounts: “I didn’t go there to teach those people to read and write, or to do social work or even to preach the Gospel. I went there to put myself next to Jesus Christ. Charles De Foucauld had given me the formula to live among the poor like a poor man, in silence. This man knew how to live a silent presence of witnessing among the poor. His ideal was the hidden life that Jesus lived thirty years in Nazareth, without saying anything, in the midst of men. This was the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld: to live in silence among the poor. Foucauld gave me the formula to realize my monastic ideal: to live as a poor man among the poor, sharing their house, their work and their life, without asking anyone for anything and without doing anything special. I never thought of setting up a school or a dispensary or something like that. I just wanted to be among them sharing their life” [5].

This moment will be fundamental and essential for the announcement of the kerygma, which accompanies all the evangelization of the Way: God loves us and comes to meet us, even in the depths of our being sinners, of our being “last”, to save us. His experience of Jesus Christ and his mission is based on this intuition of Charles de Foucauld, which Kiko makes his own.

The canonization of Charles de Foucauld is a good news for the entire Church and for the Neocatechumenal Way. Several times Kiko has recalled that there are three Saints –and the three Frenchmen– who took him to the shantytowns: Therese of Lisieux, Elizabeth of the Trinity and Charles de Foucauld. In the message that the Virgin will give him: “We must create Christian communities like the Holy Family of Nazareth that live in humility, simplicity and praise. The other is Christ”, humility is represented by Saint Charles de Foucauld, simplicity by Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and praise by Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity.

Charles de Foucauld

Furthermore there has been an inspiration that will be fulfilled 50 years later and that is very meaningful. Kiko himself explained it during a meeting of Bishops on the Mount of Beatitudes: “We have fulfilled a dream, let’s say, a great idea; that is, that on the Mount of Beatitudes there is a chapel for the real and permanent presence of the Holy Eucharist. We, the Neocatechumenal Way, whose image is the Holy Family of Nazareth, have seen with surprise that we are very close to Blessed Charles de Foucauld who wanted, had the intuition, the mission of the hidden life of Nazareth… Charles de Foucauld impressed me for his intuition about the hidden life of Christ, for the Family of Nazareth… This is another brushstroke… Now, here, we will inaugurate a chapel. Charles de Foucauld thought of buying this site because he felt from God that on the Mount of Beatitudes there should be a chapel with the constant presence of the Holy Eucharist, day and night [6].

Brother Charles spent long hours in contemplative prayer before the tabernacle. In his spiritual writings you see this desire, this passion to be close to the presence of Christ.

“Adoration… a silent look more eloquent than a thousand words… a silent look that contains the most passionate declaration of love…”. (Spiritual Writings, p. 59)

“My Lord Jesus, you are in the Holy Eucharist: You are there, one meter away from me, in this monstrance! Your body, your soul, your divinity… How close you are to me, my God! My savior, my good Jesus, my brother…”. (Spiritual Writings, p. 69)

“My God, deign to give me a continuous feeling of your presence, and at the same time this fearful love that is experienced in the presence of what is passionately loved and that makes it impossible to take your eyes off the loved one.” (Spiritual Writings, p. 51)

Blessed Sacrament Chapel on the Mount of Beatitudes

Precisely in relation to this, Charles de Foucauld wrote: “I believe that it is my duty to make every effort to acquire the probable site of the Mount of Beatitudes, to secure its property to the Church, later ceding it to the Franciscans, and also to strive to build an altar where, perpetually, Mass is celebrated every day and Our Lord is present in the Tabernacle…” [7]. On this intention the saint reflected and prayed a lot and wrote the date on which he made it: April 26, 1900, feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel. He is profoundly convinced that his vocation to “imitate our Lord Jesus as perfectly as possible, in his hidden life”, with a more radical and definitive consecration, he will receive it here, on the Mount of Beatitudes. “There I will be able infinitely more for my neighbor, for my sole offering of the holy sacrifice… placing a tabernacle that with the sole presence of the Blessed Sacrament will invisibly sanctify the surroundings, in the same way as our Lord in the womb of his mother sanctified the house of John… as well as with the pilgrims… with the hospitality, the alms, the charity that I will try to practice with everyone”. [8]

Blessed Charles de Foucauld’s dream came true during the Octave of Easter 2008, when at the Domus Galilaeae International Center, located at the top of the Mount of Beatitudes (Korazim – Galilee), during a retreat with cardinals and bishops from Europe – with the presence of the rectors of the Redemptoris Mater seminaries and the itinerant teams of the Neocatechumenal Way, of religious and Church movement leaders and civil authorities – the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Bishop Michel Sabbah, accompanied by others bishops of different rites, and the Custos of the Holy Land, blessed and inaugurated the chapel in the center of the Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary of the Holy Land, open to the different Eastern rites. A sculpture made by Kiko Argüello was placed on the roof, representing Jesus and the twelve apostles during the proclamation of the Sermon on the Mount. The dream of Blessed Charles de Foucauld is sealed with the evangelizing mission of the Church.

And since that Easter of the year 2008, day and night, hundreds of Bishops and Cardinals, thousands of priests and hundreds of thousands of sisters and brothers from the five continents, together with the brothers of the Domus Galilaeae and the seminarians of the Redemptoris Mater, have spent and spend time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, in this place that is mirrored in the Lake of Galilee. A place that was embellished by the preaching of the Sermon on the Lord’s Mountain, by the dream of Brother Carlos de Jesús and also by an original architecture, a brilliant work by Kiko Argüello.

From here a song of gratitude and blessing to the Father is sung, for the work of salvation accomplished in Christ, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, “who invisibly sanctifies the surroundings”, and an incessant prayer is raised for the evangelizing mission of the Church throughout the world.

Let us ask the saint who inspired Kiko at the beginning of the Way that on the occasion of his canonization, he may grant special graces for the Neocatechumenal Way.

Ezechiele Pasotti

[1] Kiko Argüello, The Kerygma,   In the Shantytown with the Poor,  Ignatius Press; 1st edition, p. 23.

[2] Kiko Argüello, Youth meeting in Assisi, november 1, 1996.

[3] Ibidem.

[4] Kiko Argüello, The kerigma…, p. 29-30.

[5] (Madrid-February 1972-Parish of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers)

[6] Korazim (Israel) – Domus Galilaeae, Bishops’ Retreat, March 2008.

[7] De “l’Affaire du Mont des Beatitudes”, in R. Bazin, Charles de Foucauld á Nazareth 1897-1900, Ed. Soeurs Clarisses-Nazareth 1994 – pp. 57-59.

[8] Ibidem.