“In the desert we are never alone.” This affirmation comes from someone who loved the Sahara, Little Brother Charles of Jesus, Charles de Foucauld, and it embodies the essence of his life in the desert, where he lived in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, his own “treasure.” It embodied the presence and humility of God, but was also the sacrament of love. He had chosen to “take his place as close as possible to Jesus of Nazareth, among the least, even if it meant being hidden and ‘useless’ in the immensity of the desert.”
Paradoxically, in 1916, that “treasure” was the cause of his death. Among the marauders of the desert of Tamanrasset in the depths of the Sahara, the rumor had spread that Brother Charles was hiding money and weapons. He had built a fort around the hermitage to protect the people who lived there. However, on December 1, robbers managed to enter the hermitage by deception. In the confusion of the assault, one of them shot him, but they found almost nothing in the humble dwelling. When he was killed, he was alone, and was ignored by all. His death did not bear the mark of “hatred of the faith,” but was caused by his simple and non-violent way of living among the Tuareg. In any case, there was silence for years over his existence, his memory and even the places where he had lived. Brother Charles had not even managed to carry out any part of the project he had at heart: to found a religious institute inspired by the hidden life of Jesus in Nazareth.
Benedict XVI called him a “living exegesis of the Word of God” and on the day of his beatification, November 13, 2005, he reiterated that his life was “an invitation to aspire to universal fraternity.” On May 15, 2022, Brother Charles of Jesus will be canonized by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s.