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The Canonisation of Charles de Foucauld, and Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries

Today Charles de Foucauld is being canonised. The Frenchman who turned away from God and then back toward him in a way that led to his martyrdom in Algeria in 1916 will now be known as St. Charles de Foucauld.

I’ve noted my own contact with Muslims over the years, but in the case of de Foucauld the connection is different, coming through Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries. A priest from South Carolina named Leonard Tighe pointed out to me the following:

“I am just beginning to do a project on the life and spirituality of the newly named Saint Charles de Foucauld. I am just looking at sources that influenced him in his long journey to conversion, and the Elevations were given to him at age 14 for his first Communion. They would deeply influence him in his later years also. This is the first I have ever seen or read any part of this in English. I would hope and like to include some parts of the texts in my future work…Thank you so very much for this masterpiece of work. I had no idea it existed and I am excited to use it. 

Fr. Leonard Tighe

As it happens it is the first complete translation of the work in to English AFAIK. This #straightouttairondale article notes in particular:

The best illustration of Bro. Charles’ insight is his meditation on the Visitation of the Virgin to her cousin Elizabeth. Inspired by Bossuet’s Elevations sur les mystéres, he did not dwell on Mary’s readiness to help her elderly cousin Elizabeth. In his eyes it was not so much a visit of practical charity to assist her cousin in the last months of her pregnancy and at the birth, although Mary goes to her and this is important.

But something else was far more important: “Mary set out to sanctify St. John, to proclaim the Good News, to evangelize him and to sanctify him, not with words but by bringing Jesus to him in his home, in silence…”.8

This point deserves further development: “John the Baptist was sanctified, and with him, the whole of Zechariah’s family, not through words or an invitation to conversion that would in any case have been impossible, but simply through the presence of the Son of God within her. From before his birth, therefore, Jesus is Saviour with his presence alone. Continuing along the lines of Bossuet, Bro. Charles extends this form of sanctification to all souls.

“Just as Mary sanctified John by going to his home and bringing Jesus himself, the living Gospel, within her, a soul that is filled with Jesus can bring salvation. With regard to the Visitation, Bossuet notes that as soon as she is filled with the Holy Spirit she is full of love, and that this is what happens to every soul: it possesses love to the extent that it lives on Jesus”.9

The specific set of elevations he is referring to is Elevations on the effects which the Incarnate Word produces on men immediately after his Incarnation. I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that I was astonished at Bossuet’s take on this event when I translated it.

The Elevations are in the last stage of serialisation; you can follow them here. It was a blessing for me to translate them and for them to be connected to such a dedicated man.


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