Brother Charles De Foucauld

North American Jesus Caritas Communities

The Practical Side

6.1  How to start up a local fraternity

 

There is no single formula for starting up a fraternity, but it is useful to assess and act considering these situations :

–            Those who already live the spirituality of  Brother Charles in their lives:

  • invite them to join the local fraternity
  • assist them so that they may join with others to form a new fraternity

 

–     Those with a developed spiritual life but not knowing Brother Charles:

  • organize “get-acquainted” days
  • inform them through the bulletins of the national Fraternity,  slide shows, videos, contacts, etc. on the spirituality of  Brother Charles
  • invite them so as to explain the characteristics of the Lay Fraternity
  • If the occasion arises, propose that they start up a local fraternity,  assisted by  a member of the Fraternity

 

–    For those in search of spirituality:

  • invite them to days of recollection,  Days in the Desert
  • invite them to retreats
  • If the occasion arises, propose that they start up a fraternity, assisted by a member of the Fraternity  

 

–    For groups who ask for the assistance of the Fraternity :

  • become acquainted with them, then propose that they begin to share their experiences.

The proposals must always be clear and well-defined.  In every case it is important :

  • Place the emphasis on the the spirituality of  Brother Charles and fraternity living.
  • Plan for assistance and acompaniment  over a fixed period of time, to review the path taken and consider the following steps.  If a local fraternity is near, it can sponsor the new fraternity and help through its first steps.  But if there is no fraternity in the same region, then two or three people may begin with the help of the Little Brothers,  the Little Sisters, or of the Lay  Fraternity from neighboring regions.

 

Considering recent experiences in many countries, one can say that what often is a great help toward the growth of a new fraternity is the testimony and encouragment of people from the Spiritual Family of Brother Charles:  Little Sisters, Little Brothers, Priests Fraternity “Jesus Caritas”, Lay Fraternity etc.

 

We are referring here to the case of  a group of interested people who wish to become members of the Lay  Fraternity. If there is only one interested person, see Chapter 5.12 “Renewing  Fraternity Membership” and 5.2  “Isolated Membership”.  A  contact address should be given provided with all necessary information.

 


6.2    How to conduct a meeting of the local fraternity

 

In chapter 5.6 the components  of a meeting have already been mentioned.  Here  they will be explained in more detail.  It is important to emphasize again the three main points:  prayer  —  sharing  —  conviviality. It also has already been mentioned that the procedures for a successful meeting depend upon the needs and possibilities of the members of the group. The following elements are only suggestions.

 

Some groups share a meal at the beginning or in the middle of the reunion.  Some begin with a time of Adoration; others with an exchange of news and information, others sharing a commentary on a Gospel passage or a text of Brother Charles.  Still others work upon a specific theme,  others upon a question taken from the exchange of information.

 

There are  two common and complementary sides to this dynamic in the local fraternity meeting:

–            Communication among members

–            Understanding and living the Gospel

 

6.3   How to share the Gospel

 

6.3.1    The importance of the Gospel to Brother Charles

 

The most important thing is for us is to follow Jesus of Nazareth.  We are called to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us.  Our influence in the world will depend on this action of the Holy Spirit.  In order to live a Christian life that reveals God to others, one must bind oneself to the life of Jesus and to his message in the Gospel.   In the Directory, Brother Charles says:  “In everything, ask yourself:  ‘What would Our Lord have done?’ and do it;  that is your only but  absolute rule!”  Which is to say: to live the Gospel, imitate Jesus!  “Our entire life, however silent it may be…must be a preaching of the Gospel, not a preaching of the lips but a preaching by example, not in proclaiming but in living it.”

 

To imitate Jesus, so as to love him more, is possible only when we know him.   And we get to know him from the Gospels.   Therefore, the only chance for us ourselves to become a “living Gospel” and to shine forth God’s love in our world is to read and reread the Gospel the most often we possibly can.  It was above all at Nazareth that Brother Charles meditated on the Gospel every hour, and wrote long meditations on the Gospels.  Following him, we ourselves are invited to give great importance to meditating on the Gospel.  Because of that,  sharing the Gospel is a very important part of our meetings.

 

6.3.2   A seven step method to Gospel Sharing:

 

To share the Bible is to Share the Faith (according to Bishop O. Hirmer LUMKO,  South African   Institute)

 

1.   We invite the Lord to come to us.

One person in the group invites Jesus personally by prayer, we open ourselves to the presence of God.

 

2.   We read the proposed text.

When all in the group have found the biblical reference, one person reads the text.

 

3.   We meditate on the text;  we choose some words (a single word or phrases)  and we read them as a prayer.

Which word / phrase is important for me?

Each participant reads his word  / his phrase, sometimes several times, with pauses so that this word may penetrate our minds.

 

4.    We let God speak to us in silence. 

After having read the text once again, we remain in silence during a predetermined time (for example, five minutes) so that God may speak to us.

 

5.   We exchange among ourselves what our hearts have perceived;  we express what has touched us.

We must avoid preaching or discussion.  I tell the others what has been called out to me.

It is possible also to exchange our spiritual experiences, for example, explaining how one has lived this “word of life”.

 

6.   We discuss a task that is clarified for the group.

We want to see our life and our work in the light of the Word of God.   It is a matter of implementing this “Word” in my actual life every day, and in the life and relationships of the whole group.

 

7.   We pray spontaneously

Each in the group, one after another, is invited to speak spontaneously, about what pleased him or her and  what is in their hearts.  We finish with a prayer or a song known to all.

 

This is one of the possible ways of sharing the Gospel.

 

 

6.4  Adoration

 

6.4.1   What is  Adoration?

 

“ Meditation on the Gospel and the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament are the two principal acts of faith on which we must base our knowledge of Jesus and our love for him,” says Brother Charles in the Directory of the Fraternity. It is difficult to talk with Jesus if one does not know him.  And to know him is to spend time with him just  like two lovers on a bench.  They can stay a very long time side by side without  saying anything but simply looking into one another’s eyes, in silence, a silence full of love for the other.  It is a mysterious and intense exchange in the silence of the soul, in the presence of the immense silence of God.

 

Teresa of Avila says in her autobiography,  “Now, mental prayer is, to my mind, simply an intimate exchange of friendship whereby one converses, often alone, with the God by whom one knows oneself to be  loved.”   The Cure of Ars noticed a peasant who spent a lot of time before the tabernacle.  He asked him why.  And the man answered:  “I look at him and he looks at me.”  He was there in a heart-to-heart conversation with God.

 

In the prayer of Adoration, we simply open ourselves to the eyes of God and we let ourselves be filled with Divine Love, to be seen and irradiated by God;  We welcome in Divine  healing and tenderness that transforms us in the way that God wishes to make us.

 

Jesus present in the Host is the same as Jesus at Nazareth, the same Jesus whom I hear and speak during the proclamation of the Gospel, the same Jesus whose garment the woman in the Gospel wanted to touch so as to be cured.  To look at the Body of Christ, to contemplate the Holy Eucharist in faith, permits a kind of irradiation into us of that force that went forth from Jesus and healed. To contemplate Jesus in the Eucharistic bread is to accept that God is totally different from us, but  at the same time, we are trying to bring  ourselves into harmony with him.

 

Adoration of the Lord is directly joined to his presence in the Eucharist.  It cannot become an act of individual devotion isolated from the Eucharistic celebration.  It is directly knotted to a believing community that celebrates the Eucharist and gives a Eucharistic dimension to its entire life.  Vatican II shows us that “transubstantiation” is not a magic and limited act,  but that it is situated in the group where the proclamation of the Gospel, the faith of the community, the action of Jesus Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit have a capital role.  In  regular Eucharistic prayer we adore the Father through and with Jesus.  And, following Jesus, we intercede for the world.

 

We know the importance that Eucharistic Adoration had in the life of Brother Charles.  We should live today the time of Adoration linked to the world to which we are committed.  Thus we should  humbly offer our act of Adoration in the place of,  and on behalf of people, who may no longer even pray. We have need of Adoration, of this patient and attentive gaze at Christ to discover his presence, his behavior, his face in our daily life, so as to discover him and understand  him in concrete down-to-earth terms.  (cf. Mt. 25, 31-46)

 

“Pray, that you may not enter into temptation!” (Lk 22: 40, 46;  12: 35-38;   Mk 14: 37, 38;   13: 32-37).  We have the need to be vigilant, perseverant, repetitive and fully conscious so that  at no point  do we give up on our Fraternity  pursuit, and surrender to other responsibilities, occupations, demands or temptations, pressurized perhaps by acts of enmity or even  malevolence, and succumb to our own weaknesses and faults.

 

We have need of Adoration in order to recognize the different ways in which God is revealed in the heart of the world and at the center of our lives.  God is present in the world, but is not of the world nor like the world.  God cannot be discovered as God except in the attitude of Adoration.  “My Lord and my God!” exclaimed Thomas as soon as he recognized the Resurrected One. (Jn 20: 28)

 

Brother Charles wanted to live Adoration as a heart-to-heart dialogue with God;  he wanted to espouse the sentiments of his “Master”,  the sentiments of  the Incarnation and of abasement. (Phil 2: 7-8);  he wanted a life that would be the prolongation of the Eucharist, that is, a Eucharistic life.  Jesus was not only man, but he made himself much smaller.  He is raised up in a piece of bread and allows himself to be broken and eaten.  In the bread, Jesus is exposed to the risk of profanation and indifference and he accepts apparent ineffectiveness.   Brother Charles also let himself  “be eaten” so as to become smaller and more approachable.  Like him we are called to become women and men raised up, handed over  and should learn to allow ourselves be “eaten”, that is,  to put our charisms and our time at the disposal of people around us.

 

6.4.2   How to plan a time of Adoration

 

  1. Set a length of time, determined in advance, and stick to this fixed time.

 

  1. Adopt a good position.  The body should be at ease to avoid cramping.  It is a matter of praying with the body also.  One cannot pray without the body, nor outside of it, but only with and through it.

 

  1. Avoid distractions from outside the room.

 

  1. Look at the Blessed Sacrament; call also on the Holy Spirit and begin by thanking and praising Jesus.  All this must help us to be conscious of the Real Presence of Jesus.

 

  1. Give interior distractions to Jesus.

 

  1. Remain in total silence (silent, loving adoration).   Neither rosary nor book.   Free presence before God.

 

  1.  Listen to what the Lord is saying.  Perhaps a dialogue will begin.  What counts is to be there and to let oneself be irradiated by the rays of God’s love.

 

  1. Carry to God all that surrounds one.

 

  1. Finish with a song, a prayer…

 

6.5   “Review of Life”

 

6.5.1   What is “Review of Life”?

 

Brother Charles did not do a “Review of Life” in the strict sense of the word as he lived a solitary and not a community life.   Nevertheless one sees him continually seeking the will of God.  He wanted always to do more, to better imitate his “Beloved brother and Lord, Jesus Christ”,  “to cry the Gospel”  with his whole life.  “Our entire life”,  he writes, “however silent it may be, the life of Nazareth, the desert life,  as well as the public life,  must be a preaching of the Gospel by way of example;   Our whole existence,  our whole being must cry the Gospel everywhere;  Our entire self must breathe Jesus;  All our acts, our whole life must present the image of the evangelical life;  All of our being must be a living sermon, a reflection of Jesus, a perfume of Jesus, that shines like an image of Jesus.

 

It is following this perspective that the “Review of Life” is practiced in the Lay Fraternity.  To enter into a “Review of Life”, two fundamental conditions should  be present in those participating :

–            to be motivated by a deep desire to follow Jesus of Nazareth, a deep desire to change oneself, to struggle against the temptation of pride, to desire to be a true disciple of Jesus, to be taken up  and be fascinated by him, as St. Paul says.

–            to be deeply convinced that we can be helped by the brothers and sisters of our local fraternity  whom we trust, and who are engaged in the same search as us.

And some concrete conditions should be met in the group:

 

–            A “Review of Life” presupposes a climate of faith and prayer in the group.

–            To attain a true review of one´s life, there has to be a sufficient depth of friendship and intimacy so as to allow one to share about one´s spiritual life.

–            Mutual trust, discretion and great respect for the personal life of each person  are indispensable.

–            Those participating, or maybe leading the “Review” meeting,  should seriously consider the facts brought forth by the brother or sister who is sharing,  and help him/her to get to the bottom of his or her “Review” in order  to discover the truth  even if that causes discomfort.

–            A better understanding of one another is desirable so as not to merely  recount stories, but to allow more insightful,  qualified and more fraternal responses to take place.

 

The “Review of Life” thus becomes a “communal lesson” of our lives seen in the light of the Word of God in order to be able to discern there the presence and the voice of God.  Thanks to our brothers and sisters,  Jesus gives us a signal which we had not expected nor which we had seen nor heard of before.  Through the “Review of Life”, we receive,  from one another,  a new way of understanding what is happening to us.

 

“Review of Life” is meant to help us encounter Jesus actually present in our existence and, as a result, to welcome his concrete demands.  It becomes the  means for us to carry out our permanent conversion.  Besides that, it appears as a concrete application of the “Prayer of Abandonment” in our life.  To sum up, through the “Review of Life” one commits oneself to the path of a total abandoning of oneself to Jesus Christ.

 

The “Review of Life” is a means of mutual fraternal help that assists us in  advancing toward God, and is a true gift from our brothers and sisters.  It is demanding as it jostles our ways of doing things.  God is present in our questioning of one another.  God is at work in each of us.  God acts everywhere and always.  The “Review of Life” helps us to lift up obstacles that bar the road towards  discovering God:

–            obstacles that we see and  know but  that still we may not  the courage to overcome.

–            obstacles that our brothers and sisters help us to discover by asking us deep questions about the facts we share.

 

Like the first disciples of Jesus, we will only discover what God is doing with  us, when we look at the past.  The search of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is also the road of the “Review of Life”:  On the road “they talked about all that had happened”. (Lk 24: 14)  And Jesus, the stranger, helped them to look at everything in a new context.  Then they discovered the true  meaning of the events.  “They said to one another: Was not a fire burning within us when he was speaking to us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?”  (Lk 24: 32)

 

 

6.5.2   A Plan for  “Review of Life”

 

For practical reasons, the “Review of life” takes place in a limited group, the local fraternity of about ten members.  It is prepared, preferably  “as in the desert”,  always with prayer and the sharing of the Gospel.   It presupposes an atmosphere of listening,  of mutual attention and reciprocal trust.   Moments of silence should be of no concern or embarrassment..   It takes courage to do mutual questioning,  gently but with frankness, without fearing some tension or even perhaps possible offense.  Forgiveness, tolerance and discretion are strongly advised, in a climate of true friendship, of true fraternity.  In some fraternities, each member prepares his or hers own individual “Review”.  And this will be shared at the reunion of the group.

 

The following is a plan for a “Review of Life” in the sequence:     TO SEE – TO DISCERN – TO ACT. (from:  Courrier Jesus Caritas Vol. XIV no. 1,  August  1990, Quebec-Acadie  Canada)

 

TO  SEE:

The goal of this stage is gain a better grasp of the experience of the group. A fact.  What happened ?  It is not a matter for discussion or debate, but of sharing a lived experience.  A precise fact in the lived experience, “I bring up the aspect as I want to look at again.” What is it that I want to review?

 

Similar happenings

–            Each member of the fraternity may report on other facts that he or she has experienced with regard to that aspect that one wants to change.

–            Similar facts that each one feels are involved in changing one’s life.

 

The causes and consequences of these facts:

–            One seeks together to understand:

  • Why is it like this?
  • On what does it depend?
  • What  influences my belief  and behavior?

 

TO DISCERN:

The goal of this stage is to  discern the presence and action of God in this experience.

 

The important aspects:  What do I believe?   In whom do I believe?

  • What do I find the most important and significant for me, and how does it meet my deepest aspirations?
  • Does Jesus’ plan and his Gospel enlighten me, question and motivate me?
  • To what words and deeds of Jesus does the experience lead me?

 

TO ACT:

The aim of this stage is to help ourselves grasp the calling of God and to respond in concrete ways.  This stage needs an openness to others in  friendly and fraternal trust.   Having seen and confronted my experience with my aspirations and my faith in Jesus of Nazareth:

–            What have I learned?

–            What changes am I called to?

–            What am I ready to do  personally ?  With the help of my fraternity ?  Of my community ?

 

6.5.3  How to do a “Review of Life”

 

Having too many people present does not allow sufficient space for the listening and the contributions of everyone.   Too small a number reduces the possibility of exchanges and openness.

–            Plan enough time.

–            Create a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.

–            Have someone guide the session.

–            Begin in a very recollected way, perhaps with a time of prayer because a “Review of Life” is not an ordinary conversation.

–            Remember that each one should speak.

–            Respect the other person.  Let him /her take their time.  Consider their point of view.  Allow him /her to express themselves and help them with tact and respect.

–            Allow also exchanges in silence  with no discussion nor debate.

–            Allow for moments of silence.

–            Do not judge.  Let the brother or sister who brings up a happening, who entrusts himself or herself  to us, not be judged but treated like a brother or sister.

–            Avoid saying  “One cannot ever…” ,  “You realize, in our group, that is not possible…” ,  “I´ve already understood your problem…”

–            Ponder together so as to ask where the Lord is who cares for each one of us.

–            If there is accord, continue in a climate of prayer.   Be able to ask mutual pardon.

–            Finish the “Review” in a recollected way  (as at the start).

 

 

6.5.4   The fundamental structure of a “Review of Life”

 

Because I look at my life in the light of the Gospel, as well as reading the Gospel in the light of my life, there are two paths to making a “Review of Life”:

–            to start from a Gospel passage and go toward concrete reality, or vice-verse.

–            to start from a happening and go toward the Gospel.

 

The objective therefore is to look at one’s life in the light of the Gospel, to try to hear the voice of God and to answer it in daily life.

 

 

6.6   “Nazareth” Time

 

6.6.1   What does  “Nazareth” mean?

 

“Nazareth” means:   God is always with you in your life!   The “Way of Unity”, our spiritual road map, speaks to us of the spirituality of “Nazareth”.  It is at Nazareth that the mystery of God is revealed.  It is there that God is revealed in a human face.  Because of that, it is in our daily life that we can best discover God in little signs, happenings and ordinary experiences with those around us.

 

Brother Charles was always very much captivated by the mystery of Nazareth and by the hidden life that Jesus lived there during the first thirty years of his life.  Brother Charles went to Nazareth to imitate Jesus and to be close to him, but he discovered more and more that one could live the life of “Nazareth”  anywhere  because it is not the extraordinary that is the locus for abandonment to God and to humanity but daily life itself.

 

“Nazareth”, therefore,  is not a dogma  but a living model that is possible for each person.  To explain what “Nazareth” means, one can reply: “a simple, unassuming life in the midst of the world which can be lived anywhere”.  It is based on the conviction that  holiness, which is offered to all,  is possible at every moment,  in the most common of situations.

 

“Nazareth” is the choice to love and evangelize by sharing in the living conditions of one´s fellow men and women.  And by simple prayer, silent and continuous, to incorporate the reality of  living  with  others there where one actually  is.  It also means living a normal working life,   that most natural yet critical human activity . “Nazareth”  can be described then as the  sanctification of daily life.

 

“Nazareth” means living relationships in a brotherly and sisterly way in a spirit of service and simplicity, accepting my own limitations as well as those of others. It is to meet people without prejudice, to value each other, and to give a positive self-image to all.  It is the choice of a simple and shared life style. Friendship reveals God in our own lives and helps us to become, more and more, universal brothers and sisters.

 

“Nazareth” also means to be completely at one’s right place in life.  It permits  developing that spiritual sense so as to get to know the will of God for oneself.  And then to dedicate oneself always to that option  by continually  reviewing and redefining that spiritual search.

 

“Nazareth” is to live events of ordinary life as extraordinary, because God became extraordinarily ordinary at Nazareth.  There are other aspects of “Nazareth” living which are not developed here, but can be experienced  according to the different circumstances of life.

6.6.2   What is a “Nazareth “ time” or a “Nazareth” week ?

 

“The Way of Unity”(paragraph 4.2) presents “Nazareth” as an attitude to life by which Fraternity members seek to make fruitful their personal potential in diverse life situations.  A “Nazareth” week or “Nazareth” time can become an important  help to us along this path as it means working consciously together on this vocation during a certain period of time.  Considering that monthly meetings are limited in time, the advantage of a “Nazareth” week is that it makes possible the sharing of everyday life with members coming from diverse states of life (singles, couples, families with children, young people), and with those who do not belong to the same local group of the Fraternity.

 

Such a week, called “ Nazareth” can be organized for members of a country, a linguistic region (neighboring country), or for a Continent, or even for members united through the “twinning” arrangement.  Members of other branches of the Spiritual Family of Brother Charles can also be invited to live this valuable time, above all “isolated” members of the different branches who are in communication with the organizers.   These meetings also become the occasion for those interested to get to know the spirituality of Brother Charles.

 

Community apprenticeship in the spirituality of “Nazareth” takes place during the week by means of  a spiritual program, but also in the sharing of daily tasks and  organizing together the group’s leisure time.  The exact development of the week´s program will always depend on existing conditions, opportunities and the needs of participants at the moment.  As to “spiritual food”, the spirituality of Brother Charles, will truly have a central place.

 

Three essential elements characterize “Nazareth”  week:

 

–            Fraternity life

–            Introduction to  and/or deepening of  the message of  Brother Charles

–            Reviewing  together of how we live out the demands of the Fraternity (“Review of Life”, Adoration, Prayer, listening to the Word of God),

 

A day in the “Week” might be structured as follows:

 

Morning prayer

Breakfast

Talk / conference

Sharing of Scripture in small groups.

Lunch

Free time

Eucharist/ Adoration

Dinner

Free time

Conclusion of the day together

Night Prayer

 

Theme:

 

Choosing a central theme beforehand may be very useful. And this can be developed day by day.  Talks should be linked to life and contain the message of Brother Charles.  The speaker could refer to a scripture text (Gospel), prepared in advance, that will serve as a subject for reflection and discussion in small groups  (six to eight people).   Besides Scripture reading and conferences,  reflection on the theme  should  be continued on the personal life of each participant, and translated wherever possible into concrete proposals for action.

 

It is good for everyone in the mornings, especially their parents,  to involve all children in activities that suit their age group, and to approach the theme with explanations especially chosen for them.  A “special children” program should  be prepared.  In the afternoon, participants choose between an individual activity and a communal one.  One may sequester oneself for Eucharist and/or a time of Adoration.  The evening can be simply a time for conviviality, or it may be devoted to a question, a problem, or a decision to be made.

 

A half-day or even an entire day in the “desert” (“Desert” day) is to be reserved for personal reflection, of which results can be shared in the course of Eucharist or during exchanges in the small groups.  The retreat week or “Nazareth” represents for many members the only occasion for having an experience of  ”Desert.”  Careful preparation and an overall susceptibility to each one´s needs  are therefore desirable.

 

In places, it is possible to expose the Blessed Sacrament during the entire “Nazareth” week and to practice Adoration continuously. In that case,  participants can withdraw to pray according to their own needs, and thereby place their reflections in the hands of God.

 

6.7  A “Desert” Day

 

6.7.1 The importance of “Desert” experiences for our spiritual maturing process

 

When we speak of  a desert, our minds go to the geographical deserts of the world – long stretches of sand with  clumps of date trees in oases scattered here and there.  But the desert has a beauty of its own.  Brother Charles lived in the midst of such a desert among the Tuaregs. But most of us are not blessed with such an experience. Yet all of us can experience the “Desert” in our lives.

 

“Desert” in Biblical thought is not a goal in itself  but a passing stage. You do not go into the desert to stay there, but to cross it.  All know the Exodus story was followed by the 40 years passage of the “Chosen People” through the desert.  In the Exodus we read about the march of the Israelites from slavery to freedom. That journey took place in the desert.  The Israelites in facing many trials and sufferings learned to walk with their God.  God led them, protected them, fed them, quenched their thirst and stayed with them until they reached the Promised Land.  In the Gospels we read about the “Desert” experience of Jesus. Going to the “Desert” was a period of preparation before He began His ministry.  He faced  temptations to power, prestige and pleasure (Mk 1,12 – 13. )

 

For the Israelites as well as for Jesus,  the “Desert”  was:

–          a place to meet God

–          a place of powerlessness

–          a place of temptation

–          a place of rebellion and resistance

–          a place of yearning

–          a place of silence

–          a place of prayer

–          a place of hidden sources

–          a place of simplicity

–          a place of renewal

–          a place of Grace

 

The “Desert” can become all this for us when we allow it into our life. We have to find a “Desert” space in our busy life.  We have to create our own “Desert” and remain in silence.

 

As members of the Lay Fraternity of Brother Charles we are encouraged to spend a “Desert” day with  a certain regularity. To move away from all noise with only the Bible to turn to if necessary.  To remain so still as to let our minds descend to the heart, and at the same time discover ourselves as well as God.  It is the goodness and mercy of God that leads us to the “Desert”. There we learn to pray.  “Desert” is a time when we discover that we are weak, poor and little, and that we are a mixture of pride and wickedness,  laziness  and inconsistency.

 

This experience is essential for our spiritual growth.  We experience our own hunger and thirst and wait on God’s kindness and mercy.  (“Truth will set you free!” Jn 8,32). Our maturing process happens in the “Desert.”

 

“Desert” is however not the final stage. It is only one stage of the journey, but a very necessary one.  As human beings, we need periods of silence, absence and separation.  Being in the “Desert”, strengthens us to move back to the streets, to go back  to our brothers and sisters in need, and to carry all people in our hearts.

 

6.7.2  How to spend a “Desert” day

(Some useful orientations  not only during vacation or weekend meetings)

 

Fix the date of the “Desert” day in your diary and keep to it.  Remember: A “Desert” day is not a holiday!

 

Preparations:

 

–          Where do I want to spend my “Desert” day?  In the open countryside? In a church?  In my room?

–          What is the timing of my “Desert” day?  How much time is available? Only the morning/afternoon?  Possibly fix  a certain time for prayer

–          Do I spend the “Desert” day alone or together with somebody else?  Make arrangements  before.

–          What do I need?   Something to eat ….. writing materials …. a Bible …..raincoat ……

–          What is the subject matter I want to reflect upon?    Important steps in my life … preparation for an important decision… to think about a personal, partner or family conflict … a  Gospel reading…  “Review of  Life” )

 

 

 

The “Desert” day:

 

–          Avoid all  distractions.

–          Start as soon as possible; do not forget available time is precious.

–          A “Desert” day does not mean “getting away from it all” nor just “roaming around”. It can be helpful to have a walk not to reach some place but to enjoy walking . Try to get some inner peace.

–          Become conscious of your body and its signals,  and of nature.

–          Become aware of the simple things of life (breath, calmness, to be able to smile, to reflect, to dwell on something …)

–          Permit inner questioning and  nonconformity.

–          Be aware of restlessness but don’t permit it to disturb you.

–          Reflect on a Gospel reading, a prayer or some  special subject.

–          Look at your life before God.

–          The sense of a “Desert” day is to visit  yourself so as to be able again to meet other people.

–          Keep to your resolution concerning times of prayer … Try to abandon yourself to the presence of God.

–          Make an evaluation at the end of the day (What happened to  me? What was good, or not so good?  Is there anything I would like to do afterwards?).  It will probably be helpful to write your thoughts down.

–          On reaching home realize that this and not the “Desert” is the place of your vocation.

–          Probably you may want to share your experience with somebody else (friend, wife, husband, priest, counselor).   If necessary make arrangements for an appointment.

 

 

6.8    Deepening the Spiritual Message of Brother Charles

 

Deepening the spiritual message of Brother Charles is an important challenge;  We need to get a more profound insight into his life, his conversion, his spiritual journey, his preferential choice of the poorest, his concern to lead a humble “Nazareth” life.  There are many tools for this purpose such as :

–            Books  (see bibliography)

–            “Living the Gospel with Charles de Foucauld” (a special publication) which exists in several languages  (see bibliography)

–            National and international Lay Fraternity bulletins,

–            Charles de Foucauld Spiritual Family publications and bulletins.

–            Meetings with other branches of the Spiritual Family

–            Videos, slides, DVDs, and other audiovisual material

–            Web sites

–            Retreats, days of recollection

–            Special events:  December 1st Celebrations,  “Nazareth” time

–             Local fraternity  meetings

 

 

6.9    Lay Fraternity Commitment/ Making the Promise

 

In some regions the question has arisen as to whether an external expression of  commitment is necessary in the Lay Fraternity.  It was decided many years ago that it does not have to be an obligation, but an external  sign (“Promise”) expressing the seriousness of the decision to become a member of the Lay Fraternity can be useful.

 

For the orientation of a candidate wishing to join the Lay Fraternity, the following aspects are important:

 

–            Acceptance by a local fraternity

–            Definition of the expectations of the group and of the candidate

–            “Review of  Life” and regular evaluation, which allows the candidate to freely decide his or her commitment to the Fraternity.   (The personal path of the candidate is to be respected  even when because of  good rapport with them, she or he  asks for a place in  the local group).

–            If the candidate(s) wishes and local fraternities so decide, an external expression of commitment (Fraternity “Promise”) can be organized, but there is no obligation in this respect.

 

6.10   Sharing Tasks

As much as possible, reunions should take place alternately in the homes of different members.  Each one in turn will take charge of running  and facilitating the meeting.

 

6.11   Sharing  Fraternity service responsibilities

 

“The Fraternity must be a place where responsibility is lived together…   The service of coordination, entrusted to some,  does not dispense the other persons from assuming and living communal responsibilities.”   (Statute No. 30, France)

 

“Communication between  different groups within the Fraternity is important as a  living witness of unity where the life of one becomes food for the whole Fraternity.  It is a treasure to be shared;  this sharing is done at all levels: group, diocese, region, country, world.”  (Statute No. 32, France)

 

It is good for each local  fraternity to choose from among its members a responsible who will be the person to link with the other fraternities  (town, diocese, region, country, world )  according to the Fraternity organization of that country.  At all levels, this responsibility  should  be subjected to a mandate within  a time limit.