We are pleased to share the following excerpt from St. Charles de Foucauld Meditates on the Psalms, a collection of meditations on 58 psalms that Foucauld wrote in 1896 during his two-year stay at the Poor Clare Convent in Nazareth. He likely wrote them in the convent tool shed, and most definitely at night—his preferred time of silence—by the light of a candle or oil lamp. The text was translated by Kathleen Fairbanks and published last year. Rev. Leonard Tighe edited the volume and supplied an introduction.
For over 50 years, Rev. Tighe has been sharing the “radical Gospel” of Jesus Christ as Foucauld saw it. He maintains the Legacy of Charles de Foucauld Website, which features biographical information, links to books and other resources, and information about the “spiritual families” of Foucauld that have sprung up around the world. He also maintains the St. Charles de Foucauld public Facebook page.
“It is the simple human images of this man that speak to us,” Rev. Tighe writes in his introduction. “He struggles like all of us, never afraid to make a mistake, risking everything in love, and yet finally forgiving himself and even finding God in his own human limitations, never hiding them from himself.”
We are grateful to Rev. Tighe for his permission to feature this excerpt. Readers may also be interested in our reflection on Foucauld from last year, written on the occasion of his canonization. “There are many folks who want to turn [Foucauld] into an ‘object of devotion,’ another saint to intercede for us,” Rev. Tighe says. “Of course, this is true, but for me, he is so much more”—Ed.
A Meditation on Psalm 5
Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my groaning.
Hearken to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to thee do I pray.
O Lord, in the morning thou dost hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for thee, and watch.
For thou art not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not sojourn with thee.
The boastful may not stand ground before thy eyes;
thou hatest all evildoers.
Thou destroyest those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men.
But I through the abundance of thy steadfast love
will enter thy house,
I will worship toward thy holy temple
in fear of thee.
Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness
because of my enemies;
make thy way straight before me.
For there is no truth in their mouth;
their heart is destruction,
their throat is an open sepulchre,
they flatter with their tongue.
Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of their many transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against thee.
But let all who take refuge in thee rejoice,
let them ever sing for joy;
and do thou defend them,
that those who love thy name may exult in thee.
For thou dost bless the righteous, O Lord;
thou dost cover him with favor as with a shield.
♦ ♦ ♦
Psalm 5: 1–7
My God, how good you are to teach us to pray! So often we don’t know how to do it. So often we need to say with the Apostles, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” You give us in your Psalms, my God, so many examples of prayers. They are your own words, the indescribable groanings of the Holy Spirit in the soul of David, divine prayer. The Our Father and the prayers reported by the holy gospels are the lessons in prayer that you give us! How good you are to give them to us, to remedy our weakness, our dryness. And to give them to each of us in such abundance, and in designating them yourself for each state of soul or moment of the day. What a consolation, what a good thing it is for us to be able to pray to you in your own words, in so perfect a way and perfectly appropriate to our condition.
This Psalm is the psalm of morning. The Catholic Church recites it at Lauds on Monday. The first seven verses are divided in a simple and remarkable way: the first three are simply invocations: “Lord, I pray you, I pray you, listen to me, listen to me.”
The fourth verse [sic] indicates the hour for which this Psalm is composed: “In the morning I will stand before you, Lord, and what will I see? I will see that you hate sin, that the evildoer will not live near you, that the unjust will not be allowed before your eyes. You hate all those who do evil, you curse liars; you abhor the bloodthirsty and the perfidious.”
This, then, is how the Holy Spirit wants us to place ourselves upon awakening, in the presence of God. Let us adore him, let us beg him to listen to us, to make us pray to him himself, to make our prayer within us himself, that it may be acceptable; that Jesus continue his life in us, that he may live in us and not we ourselves; that his kingdom may come into our souls, that he may make our thoughts, words and actions, that he may pray to his Father in us.
May this have its place in our morning prayer, since the Holy Spirit himself indicates to us this great and beneficial truth and at the same time this dazzling beauty—the holiness of God, so formidable to the living, so terrifying to sinners, so sweet to the just, to begin the day and enlighten all our thoughts and our actions until evening—to the evening of the present day and the evening of life.
Psalm 5: 8–End
How consoling still are these verses, my God, and how good you are to have inspired your prophet for our consolation! You have willed that this Psalm should start with harsh images: “I will stand before you in the morning, and what will I see? A God who hates iniquity.” Before all else, you inspire in us a hatred of evil, the fear of sin, fear of your judgments, the fear of offending you. But you do not want to leave us with only this impression. Having in the first place engraved it on our hearts as the first thing, the most necessary, the most beneficial, you have us make an act of adoration and confidence: “I am surrounded by the multiplicity of your mercies, I will enter your house and adore you in your holy temple.” And immediately after, you have us make an act of the detestation of evil, of this evil we have just seen that you hate, and as an act of the renouncement of Satan and his works.
Finally in the last three verses there is the tender and filial expression of confidence in God. It is on this that you want us to end our morning prayer: “All those who hope in you shall rejoice; they will be eternally blessed, and you will live in them. All those who love you will be glorified in you, for you bless the just one, Lord. You have spread out your love over our heads like a shield.”
Is there anything sweeter, anything more consoling? God himself, it seems, could not have found a word more tender than the one he chose to end this prayer, and which with his ineffable goodness he orders us to say to him, “You have spread out your love over our heads like a shield.”
Let us allow these acts to enter into our prayers and meditations; let us always begin by saying to ourselves, “I will stand before the Lord and what will I see? A God who hates iniquity.” And then let us ask him pardon of our faults, great and small, and let us beg him that we not commit any of them again, not even the least imperfection, because any imperfection displeases him, is an unfaithfulness, a lack of fervor, lack of love, a sadness for his heart. Afterward should come the act of adoration: “I will adore you in your holy temple.” This is the sequence which the priest follows at Mass. And after the act of adoration which will last if it pleases God to make it last, let us finish with an act of the detestation of evil and the renouncement of all that is not willed by God. And finally let us throw ourselves upon the heart of God. Let us thank him for his love, let us tell him that we believe that poor as we are, we want, we hope to avoid every imperfection, to glorify him as much as possible because he has spread out his love over our heads as a shield, because we can do all in him who strengthens us.
Let us finish our prayer by recalling his kindness, his heart, his mercies. This is an act of gratitude, of necessary confidence in his love, necessary because to give it to God is just, necessary because he will give us the strength to fight the temptations of the day. Moreover, since God makes us do it in this Psalm, we must think thereby that it is very good to do. ♦