The Church, the Poor, and Carlo Carretto

Carlo Carretto, Little Brother of the Gospel, follower of Charles de Foucauld, died on October 3, 1988.

I read his Letters from the Desert soon after it was first published in 1972. I bought copies and handed it out to friends. In this book, Little Brother Carlo wrote of his desert retreat as he began his life as a Little Brother after being a leader of Catholic Action in Italy. He felt called to the desert spirituality of Charles de Foucauld who lived among the poorest of the poor in Algeria.

His writings have continued to nourish me, especially his first person account of St. Francis of Assisi, I, Francis.  It is probably not a coincidence that he died on the very same day as St. Francis did in 1226.

In his last years he wrote a number of books that challenged the church, but he was quick to say, “No, I shall not leave this Church, founded on so frail a rock, because I should be founding another one on an even frailer rock: myself.”

But he sought a church that was poor, that accompanied the poor. He was especially disturbed by those who dream of a triumphant church in this world. (I wonder what he would say about the church today.)

The true Church is the Church of the defeated, of the weak, of the poor, of those on the fringe of society.

It is a pity that the great gatherings of Christians too often take place in St. Peter’s Square, where Bernini, son of a pagan period sick with triumphalism, designed everything as a triumph.

We must beware!…

In that square there is no sign of the Church’s agony, of human agony … and everything may go wrong if I forget the reality, even when everything seems on the surface to be fine.

Rallies of Christians are more suitable in hospitals, in prisons, in shanty towns, in mental homes, where people cry, where people suffer, where the devastation of sin is being physically endured, sin in the form of the arrogance of the rich and the powerful.

Jesus’ face is there and reveals itself there because it is there that “the lost” are to be sought and saved (Luke 19:10)

Let’s go there with Carlo – and see Christ.

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