Dies irae, dies illa! The day of wrath the day we learned the amazing news. It came from the gendarmes: “We found Mr de Foucauld’s car, abandoned in the middle of the forest” Then “we found his body, hanged”. That was last week. It’s dirty, it’s not possible; it’s unbelievably cruel. The anger quickly increased because the Father with his qualities and despite his faults has many friends. He certainly had character – and having it today is almost a flaw – he did some great things. I, who know him, not like his parents, but almost, since he was born, can not help but think that he was loved, even though he was very emotional and sought to become so and above all to be recognized . That’s why I bow deeply to his parents’ pain. Dear Jacques, dear Isabelle, in my friendship for you, I suffer for you; I’m suffering with you. I address just as much to his sister, Hélène, and his brothers Bertrand and Dominique and their wives: your siblings are chipped, but united. Loved by his family, François-Armand is also loved by God, who called him to become his child by bearing the first name of a grandfather, priest, martyr of the Carmelites, blessed, Foucauld like him and like Father Charles de Foucauld just canonized. In his love, God called him to the priesthood of his Son like François-Armand, like Charles and, like Charles, not without difficulty. And the Church, which acknowledged his calling, loved and pampered him. I witnessed all that, Mgr. Éric Aumônier, his bishop until recently, did for him. And many others can say that with me. And no matter what has been said, Bishop Crépy happens to be in the same mood.
Let’s get out of the darkness of the evil that took him, consider his life – he would have been 50 today -. His life also bears beautiful fruits and let us stick together in the fellowship of the Church so that we may become united in sorrow, please God, more in peace and hope.
From Houilles to Bois-d’Arcy, Father de Foucauld exercised the office which his bishop had entrusted to him in various parishes. He had a trained, sharp intelligence to seek innovative and missionary pastoral action. There are some here who remember his passion for the boat, which he put at the service of young people, even before he was ordained. He loved and served young people. He was looking for a way to reach the farthest. His “Mass for the Curious” is a fine example of his pastoral education. He did not like things that spun, hence his innovations in the preparations for baptism or marriage. He also reflected on the renewal of catechesis with the launch of the good shepherd catechesis that borrows from the Montessori method. This thirst for renewal made him think of going to Canada, to Halifax, to see the pastoral transformation initiated by Father James Mallon. Among tweets and messages on social networks, there are some that testify to his attention to people in difficulty. As any priest should be, he was faithful in friendship and with those to whom he had attached ties after a strong pastoral relationship.
I must tell the truth that Father François-Armand had difficulties with authority, whatever it was. It’s a trait of his personality. It was thought to find something about Father Charles de Foucauld, who had problems with military authority when he was an officer, and who spotted all the colors of Abbé Huvelin, his spiritual father. Charles polished himself in the discovery of obedience, which makes free. François had his credit for a psychological weakness that could tense him up, make him authoritarian, alienate him from others, so that he tolerated contradictions very poorly and simply the difficulties associated with life, more and more badly.
In short, the fair we celebrate is a valuable help to us. It is as much a community as a memory. It is also good that the community of the living carries the dead and leaves them to divine mercy. It is then a matter of much more than memory. Remembrance is certainly a means of remaining united with those who are no longer here on earth. The memory is very vivid, sometimes peaceful, sometimes painful. Unfortunately, it is often unmanageable. To whom should one entrust one’s grief, to whom should one evoke such a thing experienced with the deceased? Very often, and we are happy if we find our comfort in the Lord. May the Lord come to our rescue.
And may he come to our rescue. In grief it can falter. Death – perhaps less our own than our loved one – is undoubtedly an ordeal in love, but also in faith. It is normal for faith to question itself and for us to ask ourselves whether it is reasonable to believe that those who are openly dead are alive.
The Christian faith does not evacuate anything from reality. What is more genuine touch. Jesus himself died. He has met death many times in his life. She aroused great compassion in him and even made him cry. We must remember this when we attack God in an overflow of pain. 3 “If the good God existed, he would not allow this”. But let us go deeper into what Christian experience and faith says. They say this: each of us, each of us we mourn, we are created for God, to live in relation to God. As St. Paul says, “no one lives for himself … we belong to the Lord”. If we leave the covenant that God wanted us to make with us, we are practically in Adam’s situation after the Fall. Cut off from God, Adam can only die. If, on the contrary, we hold the hand that God extends to us, then we gain certainty. This hand is Jesus Christ, and we walk with him from death to life. Death becomes for us a passage to God, as for Jesus. In short, our life is Easter. It is obviously the solidity of God’s love that gives us this assurance.
If none of the realities of this life are hidden, therefore, Jesus invites us to bind ourselves to him by an act of faith and love: “He that believeth on me shall have eternal life.” The power of the covenant extends so far, namely, that the Lord has bound Himself to us in such a way that the imperfection of our faith, the imperfection of our lives, cannot stand in the way of God’s will for salvation. Of course, as Saint Paul says again, everyone is responsible for what they do. But all can link their prayer to the power of Christ’s intercession for salvation. We can certainly not judge the lives of those who precede us, and certainly not the father of the Foucauld.
Although we believe that their Christian life is inadequate, even though we bitterly deplore the serious or minor attacks on charity, even on the justice, strife and conflicts we have had, we can trust the solidarity that comes to us from Christ . It is therefore with good reason that we pray for the eternal salvation of our deceased and therefore of Father de Foucauld. Previously, due to the circumstances surrounding his death, we would not have been able to celebrate the Mass, which consists in applying the benefits of the Easter mystery to Father de Foucauld. Today we believe, with advances in the reflection on the psychological dramas without knowing how to cure them, that there was something compulsive in the behavior of a believing man like Fr de Foucauld that brought him to this terrible end. We can only surrender him to God to have mercy on him. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, help us. She helped her dying son on the cross. She felt a mother’s compassion for her son with all the tenderness imaginable. She lived compassion in a strong sense because in faith she was associated with passion. To this compassion we are all called to sacrifice our lives connected with the life of Christ, but also to sacrifice the life of our brother François-Armand, whom we accompany even in death.
But let us remember, because each of us in this hour thinks of his own death: when a man dies, he is born to eternal life in the logic of his baptism. At baptism we have already given up this life, which depends only on itself to receive all that comes from God. And this eternal life has already begun. When we die, we will consent to our baptism. By giving up everything, we will receive everything from God, all his love, all his life. Saint Paul would add: “Remember what I just told you and comfort each other”.
Let us pray that François-Armand de Foucauld and all the deceased rest in peace.
Sainte-Marguerite du Vésinet, July 8, 2022 Monsignor Philippe Brizard, prot. Ap.