Tag Archives: Carlo Carretto

St. Francis, poverty, and Carlo Carretto

On the evening of October 3, 1226, lying on the ground, Francis of Assisi breathed forth his soul to the Lord. Every year, Franciscans celebrate his passing with a simple ceremony called the Transitus, the Passing of Francis.

Central to the prayer is Psalm 142 (141) which Francis prayed as he was dying. But there is a verse that strikes me as being central to the spirituality of Francis:

Francis, poor and humble, enters heaven as a rich man.

This might be what Paul meant when he wrote (2 Corinthians 8: 9):

you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ. Although he was rich, he became poor, to make you rich through his poverty.

Francis became poor, like his and our Lord. He then enters the presence of God enriched.

But I don’t think it was easy for him. In fact, I think that he was much like many of us from North America.

Carlo Carretto, a Little Brother of Jesus, a follower of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, died on October 3, 1988. One of my favorite works of his is I, Francis, in which he speaks in the voice of Francis.

Reflecting on Francis’ turn to God and the poor, and the desolation he experienced after being freed from prison in Perugia, Carretto has Francis say:

      Owing to the upbringing I had received at my mother’s hand, as well as the attitude of the church I had been attending up until that time, I had always thought that it was we rich and well-to-do who would be the ones to rescue the poor. The latter depended on us, it seemed, and our generosity was their salvation. Without us they would have been destined to death.
What blindness was ours and mine!

It was the poor who would be my salvation, and not I theirs.
It was they who would put me back on my feet.

The poor Christ teaches us that the poor teach us; they open up to us the devastating, yet hope-bringing, reality of the world, seen through God made flesh, offering himself up for us, in love.

What a hard message for us – but how redemptive when we begin to identify with the poor and accompany them. Then we might, like Francis and Carlo Carretto, be put back on our feet.

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.