Page 8, 17th January 1941

17th January 1941
Page 8
Page 8, 17th January 1941 — Morocco, Algiers those French North African chess pieces standing enigmatically on the political board that divides Vichy from De Gaulle

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Locations: Algiers, Rome


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Morocco, Algiers those French North African chess pieces standing enigmatically on the political board that divides Vichy from De Gaulle


SAHARA HERMIT OF THE DESERT" PR. DE FOUCAULD was a French I army officer who became famous for his daring explorations in parts of Morocco which were hostile and in fact closed to Europeans.

While still a young man he came under the influence of Abbe Huvelin, experienced a remarkable conversion and afterwards never looked back from the path of sanctity. He first tried his vocation as a Trappist monk, then travelled to the Holy Land where he lived humbly as an outdoor servant to the Poor Glares at Nazareth. Finally he became a hermit in the Sahara.

In 1916, he was murdered by Arabs in his hermitage at Tamanrasset, in the iloggar Desert, 1,200 miles south of Algiers. His remains have since been transferred to the White Fathers' Mission of El Golfo (Sahara), and the Cause of his Beatification hos been introduced in Rome. The white-robed figure of the Sahara hermit, Father de Foucauld, " the gieat sower whose steps no man counted," as he has been called, looms once again from the not very distant past, as the eyes of the world turn to Morocco and Algiers, the French North African chess-pieces standing enigmatically on the political board that divides Vichy from de Gaulle.

Something has happened in those sunny lands; something as sensational as a mirage that turns out to be the real thing.

It was an African mirage that attracted Lieutenant Saint-Avit, the hero in Pierre Benoit's most satirical of satires, L'Atlantide—the mirage of Peace, which he vainly thought he would find at the end of his love-quest It lay beyond the Southern mountains, where the desert begins.

It was, in the eyes of the world, a mirage that beckoned Lieutenant de Foucauld, later a Trappist priest, 1,000 miles into that sante desert in search of Peace in the conquest of wild peoples for Christ. He found instead death at the hands of Arabs he so ardently desired to redeem. His life was, said the world, and his ambitions remained unattained. When he was murdered in 1916 not one single companion had joined him in his " Ikhouan-el-khloua," to give the Arab name for the Congregation of " The Brothers of Solitude" of which de Foucauld remained till death the one and only member, as well as founder.

But the world was wrong, for de Foucauld's mirage has now become a citadel, and it rises white, gleamingly and solidly real, at El-Abiodh-SidiCheikh. It is the monastery of the Little Brothers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Father de Foucauld.


The story of the beginnings of the most modern of contemplative Congregations for men has yet to be told in full. Events leading up to them are recent, and the war has prevented the compilation of data which would otherwise be now at the disposal of the public, Fr, de Foucauld's modern hermits of the African desert recall to some extent their predecessors of Egypt under St. Anthony, yet they differ in certain respects. Theirs is a missionary apostolate of prayer and the dispensation of charity, in which their only active work is the care of the sick and the giving of alms. Rather than preach by word of mouth, they seek to sow where later others may reap, by example.

The Little Brothers' desert life is one of peace, of contemplation, of silence, and of self-immolation, all directed to the winning of Africa to the Faith, to furthering the monastic Ideal in missionary countries, and, above all, to giving glory to God.

We are indebted to the White Fathers for the particulars or the new Congregation which we give here and readers of Fr. de Foucauld's life will recall his own intimate connections with the famous missionaries to whom the evangelisation of North Africa has been confided by the Holy See.


Fr. de Foucauld had drawn up by degrees regulations for an enclosed Congregation of Brothers of the Desert who were to observe strict silence and live in the humblest conditions, hound by vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. It was not till 1936 that such a Cong.' eation was established, that is, twenty years after the founder's death, and although the letter of Fr. de Foucauld's original Rule was modified—because questions of health had to be studied in Africa's trying climate, and it was necessary to conform to the new regulations of Canon Law — the spirit remains the same.

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