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Nazareth as Model for Mission in the Life of Charles De Foucauld

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Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916) certainly never envisioned himself as a missionary at the moment of his conversion. He was a contemplative who wanted to live for God alone in imitation of the hidden life of Jesus at Nazareth. But this same concept of Nazareth that became the lens through which he saw his relationship with God and his place in the world became a dynamic force that evolved over the course of the years. Charles' evolving understanding of this took him from Trappist monk, to hermit, to what he called a "missionary monk." He came to believe that a contemplative life lived in close proximity with others could be a living sign of the love of God. His past life experiences played no small part in the way he saw presence and goodness as a means of "shouting the Gospel by one's life" and in his eventual mission among the Muslim people of the Sahara. Charles clearly set out to convert them according to the model of evangelization in his day. But his own ongoing conversion and growing friendships, as well as his extensive study of the language of the Tuareg, among whom he lived, developed into a model of mission based on friendship and respect, where the "other" becomes "brother and sister" and where evangelization is about communion and solidarity as a sign of the Reign of God.


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