On 15 May, in the Vatican, Pope Francis canonised 10 Blesseds. Among them was Charles de Foucauld – Brother Charles of Jesus. “In him, we can see a prophet of our time, who knew how to bring to light the essentiality and universality of faith,” said the Holy Father, speaking to those who chose to continue the work of the man who dedicated his life in Africa, to the poor, to prayer and meditation. There are many publications on Brother Charles’s prayers, but not everyone is familiar with his devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
St. Charles de Foucauld had a very strong Marian devotion. Aware of his spiritual poverty, having entered the path of conversion, he asked for the protection and guidance of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, hoping to receive by her intercession a grace of discerning God’s will and following Jesus Christ more closely.
As he was staying in Rome in 1896, Brother Charles visited the St. Alphonsus church and prayed before the Icon. He gave an account of it in a letter to Pere Jerome:
We arrived in Rome… First, we went to St Mary Major and then to the church of St Alphonsus, where there is a picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a title that suits the Blessed Virgin so well! We need her Perpetual Help so much, we who are so weak and stumbling!
For a long time now, and particularly for the last three years, I have been under her special protection. This is how it happened. Three years ago, I had many difficulties regarding my interior life, fears, anxieties, periods of darkness. I wanted to serve God; I was afraid of offending him. I couldn’t see things straight. I suffered so. I placed myself with all my heart under the protection of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I implored her to guide my footsteps as she had guided those of the Infant Jesus, and to lead me in all things to Jesus Christ in such a way as to console as much as I could the heart of Jesus who sees and loves us.
So, it was very precious for me to stand beneath the picture of our so dear and good Mother on my very first day, in my very first hour, in a time of great sorrow, not knowing where to take refuge, fearing to be misled by the evil one.
I remembered the heart of the Mother of Perpetual Help, and I placed myself in her care, like her child, like her property. I begged her, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, to carry me as she carried Jesus when he was a child and to make me become, not what I would like to become, but what she herself would like for the greater glory of her Son, according to his will and to what she read in his heart.
Since that time, I have considered myself as yours, Mother of Perpetual Help.
Charles de Foucauld would often pray to Blessed Virgin Mary under this title, and he entrusted his first fraternity to her as Mother of Perpetual Help. He himself had painted a picture of her, copying the original Icon. This picture is kept in the Poor Clare Convent at Nazareth (cf. a note on the website charlesdefoucauld.info)
My good Mother, Mother of Perpetual Help, you to whom I am entrusted and to whom I have been devoted for some years, you have helped me so much and have faithfully guarded and led me.
My most dear Mother, keep me always close to you, in between you, Jesus and Joseph. Assist me always, give me always your all-powerful help and the grace ceaselessly to seek it….
I give, dedicate and consecrate myself to you. I place myself into your hands, like a tiny child: make me do this or that -whatever pleases you. I abandon myself to you as an infant in swaddling clothes. The only thing I ask of you, which you yourself have inspired me to ask, is to do the will of your Son at every moment of my life and thereby to console him as much as possible every instant.
…Oh! Guard me, look after me, guard my heart. See to it that in this night, in this day, and always, both myself and all those Jesus would like to see there, may be between you and Joseph in the little house of Nazareth. May we console the heart of Jesus as much as possible and share his life and yours as his little brothers and sisters. May we endlessly share your love, your contemplation and your adoration of Our Lord, through Him and for Him, Amen.
(translation by Fr. Sean Walles, C.Ss.R.)