11 Things to Know About Charles de Foucauld

The martyred priest lived among the Tuareg people in the Algerian desert and brought the Gospel to Muslim lands.

Detail of the banner displayed in St. Peter’s Square for the canonization ceremony of Charles de Foucauld on May 15, 2022.
Detail of the banner displayed in St. Peter’s Square for the canonization ceremony of Charles de Foucauld on May 15, 2022. (photo: Daniel Ibáñez / EWTN News)

Blessed Charles de Foucauld will be canonized on May 15. Here are interesting facts about his holy and interesting life in the footsteps of Christ. 

1. He was beatified by Benedict XVI in 2005.

2. Charles is mostly known for having lived as a hermit among the Tuareg people in the Sahara. He translated the Gospel in the Tuareg language and published the first bilingual Tuareg-French dictionary. He also reproduced thousands of lines of Tuareg poetry about their ancestral habits. These research works continue to have scientific value today.

3. His missionary zeal cost him his life. On Dec. 1, 1916, Brother Charles of Jesus was assassinated by an armed tribal group connected with the Senussi Bedouins who had encircled his hermitage of Tamanrasset, in southern Algeria.

4. He was remembered by Dominican theologian Yves Congar, together with St. Thérèse of Lisieux, as one of the two “beacons lit by God on the threshold of the atomic century.”

5. A miracle attributed to his intercession happened a few days before Dec. 1, 2016. A French carpenter named Charle, who was working on the restoration of an old Catholic chapel in Saumur, in western France, next to the cavalry school where Foucauld once studied, fell 53 feet to the floor and impaled himself on a bench leg. The CEO of the renovation company, a practicing Catholic, was advised by a local parish priest to pray for the intercession of Foucauld, asking him to save Charle. In a few hours, a prayer chain involving the entire diocese was launched for the carpenter. While the doctors said the violence of the impact should have been fatal, he not only survived the accident, but was up and walking six days later.

6. Born in Strasbourg, in northeastern France, in 1858, Charles became an orphan at 6 years old and was raised by his grandparents. Although he received a Catholic education, he lost his faith in his teens and became interested in pagan and atheist thinkers. He entered the prestigious Saint-Cyr Military Academy, becoming a military officer.

7. It was the reading of Elevations on the Mysteries, the masterpiece of the French theologian and bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, that made a new inclination for Christian virtue to bloom in his heart.

8. His cousin Marie de Bondy aided his reembrace of the Catholic faith of his childhood during the summer of 1886. Father Henri Huvelin, curate of the famous Parisian Church of St. Augustin, gave him religious classes and became his spiritual director.

9. Living in Nazareth, the Holy Land and with the Trappists of France and Syria aided his faith journey, until his ordination in 1901.

10. He loved the Holy Eucharist but was deprived of the possibility to celebrate Mass for a long period of time in the desert.

11. He developed an apostolate of evangelization among the people he encountered based on personal relationship, radiating the beauty of Christianity through his work and goodness. He even fought against slavery in Beni Abbes (near the Moroccan border), where he spent three years. As he said, “Loving God, loving people is my whole life; may it always be my whole life. This is what I hope for.”