Charles de Foucauld — martyr without an executioner

Charles de Foucauld is the figure who teaches Catholics about the true nature of Christian martyrdom, too often distorted into a “persecutionism” ideology. Brother Michael Davide Semeraro, a Benedictine monk and spiritual teacher, looks at the experience of the “Little Brother” and his legacy, from an original perspective, 100 years on from his death.

As Semeraro explains in his book “Charles de Foucauld. Explorer and Prophet of a Universal Brotherhood” (San Paolo Editions, 2016), De Foucauld is relevant as a figure in today’s ecclesial climate: many see the Church’s relationship with Islam as problematic if not hostile.

Brother Charles’ experience is useful in reconsidering the sense and profound meaning of Christian martyrdom: “In his case, it simply lived in him there was no need to look for the executioner. This is the only way to escape the vicious cycle of revenge and enter the world of the Gospel. A Christian martyr doesn’t need an executioner: what counts is the willingness to give one’s life completely,” the Benedictine explained to Vatican Insider.

This is where the subtle difference lies, separating the experiences of martyrs from those who use them as a pretext for defending an identity or as a trigger for indignation campaigns of a cultural-political nature.

Too often today, martyrdom undergoes a kind of “genetic modification”, when the suffering of faithful is exploited for power or business-related reasons. Or when the reaction to this suffering leads simply to “rights being claimed”, claims which remain confined within an “Amnesty-style” Church.

“What Charles de Foucauld represents in the history of the Church is a point of no return: his prophesy fell in the Sahara desert like an evangelical grain of sand on 1 December 2016. It opened up new paths well before the Second Vatican Council became aware of it,” Semeraro explains.  Continue reading

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