Monday, April 11, 2011
The book's cover showed some wear;the scene was dreary,a black and white desert.It was "The Sands of Tamanrasset",published in 1961.I kept it for the longest time without reading it and one day,almost gave it back to Goodwill.Finally, I read the story about a Frenchman,Charles de Foucauld, who I knew nothing about.
He was a soldier,born in 1858 and a roue' by all accounts.Selfish,violent and sensual.Pictures show him to be slight of build,with piercing eyes and a mustache,always dressed in military garb.He was an adventurer,exploring Africa and the desert.Here he encountered the Muslim faith which intrigued him.He had left his Christian faith in his youth.Something stirred in that bleak,formless place,in the silence and the wind.Then, after going back to Paris to work on the travel book he was writing,this happened:
"One morning in late October ,1886,unable to sleep,he arose very early and sauntered aimlessly up the dawn-quiet Rue de Miromesnil.As he turned into the boulevard Haussman,his pace quickened and by the time he reached the Place Saint-Augustin,he knew that he was not wandering aimlessly at all.Ahead of him ,surmounting the three byzantine arches of the entry,was the great rose window of Saint-Augustin church."1
He found a priest and said,"I have no faith.I have come to ask you to teach me."The priest replied,"Kneel,confess your sins to God and you will believe."In that church, a humble knee was bent and in anguish, the wrongs of a lifetime poured out.As Charles stood up,he believed.And in that moment, Charles hoisted himself onto the Path that would lead him to martyrdom in Tunisia,in 1916.
Now a priest,in 1901,Charles went to the desert of Algeria to be a friend to all men and he was.Ministering to the poor Bedouins in his humble way,sharing his food and his kindness.He was joined by a priest or two but they never stayed in the desolation for long.His wish was to have others serve with him and to continue his work after his death but he died alone not making one convert to the faith.He had done what he believed was God's will for him.He had planted seeds,what would happen to them? That was out of his control.He said,"Have confidence that the destiny God has reserved for you will be the best for His Glory,for your soul,and for the souls of others."
Charles is in some way walking with me on this Lenten journey and I look at his last picture;his wonderful smile,his dusty,shabby monk's habit and I feel warm.Seeds....
Googling recently I found ,quite by accident ,that the solitary monk has left an indelible mark and has women and men following Christ in his footsteps all over the world and in the desert.I felt joy in this knowing.All of this came to mind today because I had told a dear friend that writing can be discouraging because I have no idea if anyone is reading what I blog.He said to keep on because I may never know who it will affect but it is what I should be doing.Bless you for saying that!
St.Francis, as he lay dying said to his brothers,"I have done what was mine to do,I pray you find what is yours and do it".What a blessed world if this was our goal.
1,"The Sands of Tamanrasset"by M.M. Preminger