Blessed Charles de Foucauld: The Blessedness of Tears

In one of his Meditations on the Gospels, Blessed Charles de Foucauld considers the third beatitude according to Saint Luke (which is itself a variation, or perhaps an intensification of the second beatitude in Saint Matthew’s Gospel), that ‘blessed are you that weep now’ (Luke 6:21). In doing so, he neglects the second article of this beatitude (‘…for you shall laugh’) to focus solely on the blessedness of weeping, of tears, and the way in which they can have a purifying power, drawing us closer to the grief Our Lord feels for us all, and also opening our eyes to the suffering of others, deepening our empathy for their grief and our sorrow for their sins.

Blessed Charles thus distinguishes between the purely natural grief we feel for the sufferings we endure in this world, and of contrition for our sins, both of which can be used for our purification, and those which emerge from a disposition of Charity in the soul, leading us to weep for others because of their sinful state, in our desire to see them delivered from their bondage. The first case is part and parcel of life in a fallen world, but can be turned to our advantage; the second gives us more cause for hope, as it shows that we are being given a clearer sense of our own state; and the third is more blessed still, as it displays a perfect concern for the good of the other, which can only come from a heart that is filled with divine Charity – the love with which God loves us.

Finally, there are the tears which come from a yearning for God – a desire to be with Him and gaze upon Him eternally, without the distance of knowing and loving that we experience in this life. Whilst this last is most blessed of all, all of these, according to Charles de Foucauld, are blessed states indeed, and so we should not disdain the fall of tears in times of grief, but embrace them as both opportunities for growth and signs that there is still love in us, albeit in varying degrees. We must also trust that God will be able to do something with our tears – that if we offer them up to Him in faith, good will be done, both with respect to our own souls and the degree to which we empathise with the tears of others.

Let us pray then that, whilst it is natural to want to avoid tears, we do not try to protect ourselves from them so much that our hearts become hardened. One who weeps, while it often may not feel like it at the time, is more blessed than a soul who cannot do so for lack of love, and is also closer to He who wept over the hardness of the hearts of many (c.f.; Luke 19:41-44; Matthew 23:37-39):

Let us hope, let all those of us who weep and shed innocent tears keep on hoping; let us hope whether we are weeping for the pains of body or of soul: these will serve as our purgatory. God will make use of them to… make us raise our eyes to him, purify us and sanctify us.

Let us hope even more if we are weeping for the pains of others, for this act of charity is inspired by God and pleasing to him. Let us hope even more if we are weeping for our own sins since this compunction has been placed into our souls by God himself. Let us hope even more if, with a pure heart, we are weeping for the sins of others, for this love for the glory of God and sanctification of souls has been inspired by God and is a great grace.

Let us hope if we are weeping with desire to see God and pain at being separated from him, for this loving desire is God’s work in us. Let us hope even more if we are weeping simply because we love, without either desire or fear, desiring completely what God wishes and nothing more, happy in his glory, suffering from his former sufferings, weeping sometimes for compassion at the remembrance of his Passion, sometimes for joy at the thought of his Ascension and glory, sometimes simply from emotion because we are dying for love of him!

O sweetest Jesus, make me weep for all these reasons; make me weep all those tears that cause love in you, through you and for you to spread abroad. Amen.

from Meditations on the Passages of the Holy Gospels referring to the Fifteen Virtues, number 15, courtesy of Daily Gospel.


16 thoughts on “Blessed Charles de Foucauld: The Blessedness of Tears

  1. Well Michael, I don’t know which of all those above (^) reasons has set me off weeping, but tears flow! Perhaps just for all those reasons rolled into one I think, for this is a deeply moving, thought-provoking and evocative post… And beautifully written, as always. Thank you.

    • Thank you Kathleen – after what I wrote in the post, I can’t then say that I am sorry that it made you weep, but I sort of am!

      Nevertheless, I know what you mean, and am touched that you have been so moved by my words, and those of Bl. Charles de Foucauld 🙂

      • Don’t be sorry dear Michael! As you say yourself: “One who weeps, while it often may not feel like it at the time, is more blessed than a soul who cannot do so for lack of love, and is also closer to He who wept over the hardness of the hearts of many”.

        Any imitation of Our Beloved Saviour cannot be a bad thing, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. 🙂 (Although He was the Sinless One and I am a sinner.)

        Re Bl. Charles de Foucauld – I have read quotes and articles about him before; he was an amazing saint with a fascinating, heroic life story. A friend of mine is passing on a book about him that she enthusiastically recommends when next I see her, and I can’t wait to read it.

        • Very wise words, especially regarding Our Crucified Lord. One thing that I am always grateful for (in a weird way) is that when I sin, I am made much more aware of my sinfulness in general, and thus appreciate how great my salvation is, as well as being moved to consider the tragedy of sin in general. God writing straight with crooked lines, as the saying goes!

          As for Bl. Charles de Foucauld, I dont know a great deal about him, other than a video I watched on him by Ven. Fulton Sheen, and what I have reproduced here. An amazing conversion story by all accounts though – I think the book you are looking forward to will be a good one 🙂

          • Yes Michael, it is a great grace when our sinfulness is made vividly apparent to us. In this way we can mourn our sins with true repentance before throwing ourselves into the arms of Our Blessed Lord to beg His forgiveness and mercy. The tragedy would be to see oneself as ‘ticketyboo’ (as Toad would say), in no need of seeking God’s forgiveness, and blaming all faults or failings we might commit on the ‘mistreatment’ or wrongs of the world around us.

            Amazing to hear how some of the greatest and holiest of saints had such an acute awareness of how sin and evil offends God that they would see themselves, and their own tiny failures or weaknesses, as terrible betrayals to God’s Love and Goodness! This lead them to weep for their sins with the humblest sincerity.
            So how much more so for those of us whose sins are far greater and far more numerous!

            Dear bumbling, lovable St. Peter knew himself forgiven for denying Christ three times, but that did not prevent him from weeping for this one sin for the rest of his life. Tradition tells us that so much weeping left deep furrows along the lines of his face from all the many tears he shed!

            • This is so true isn’t it. It is not the sin itself but that our sinfulness is ‘made vividly apparent to us’ – this is a wonderful (and very vivid) way of putting it! Also re the saints, I remember reading somewhere that it is only great saints and great sinners that truly realise how sinful they are and thus how much they need help.

              That tradition about Saint Peter’s tears leaving furrowed lines in his face is beautiful! Thank you for that, I had not heard it before. I also love the description of him as ‘bumbling’, which is so true, and one of the things that makes him so loveable 🙂

              • Thank you for your kind words Michael.

                “it is only great saints and great sinners that truly realise how sinful they are and thus how much they need help.”

                Yup – and I know full well how many light years away I am from sainthood! 😉 I fall into the second category, with my hope and prayers in Our Lord’s eternal Mercy, that just a fraction of one tiny drop of His Precious Blood will save me from being eternally deprived of the Beatific Vision.

                • I can certainly add my name to that second category as well, though (as we’ve been discussing) I am often blinded to my sins and thus wall into the third category which doesn’t appreciate how much help I need (at least not in terms of the will anyway – I always know it in theory).

                  Btw, I cam across a great quote from Saint John Chrysostom (whose feast day it is today) which is highly relevant to all this:

                  ‘Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave.’

                  • A beautiful quote from the great St. John Chrysostom!

                    You are so right, a conscience AWAKE to the REALITY of our sinfulness is truly a blessing… for if not how could we even begin to mourn for our wrongdoings, before falling on God’s loving Mercy to beg forgiveness?

                    • It is isn’t it!

                      Re being awake to the reality of our sinfulness, this is a big problem for evangelisation today – people in all ages right up until very recently recognised that there was such a thing as right and wrong, and that they were guilty of choosing the latter much more often than the former, but now people seem to have (deliberately, at least in part) forgotten this, or convinced themselves otherwise.

                      The result of this is not freedom from sin of course, but a kind of creeping despair, which we try to rid ourselves of by filling life with temporary satisfactions of our desires, or even dulling the senses via various methods. Unfortunately, the churches have colluded in this by trying to rebrand salvation as therapy and making worship just one of many alternative experiences.

                      What people really need to hear is that what their consciences are telling them is true, but also that, as Saint John Chrysostom says, forgiveness has risen from the grave!

  2. Michael, you have pointed out some vitally important truths here in your last comment. (Although I would question whether in fact people’s consciences are “telling them the truth” a lot of the time; too many have had their consciences numbed by “the spirit of the age” I fear.)

    To go a little deeper into this: there is a divide between RIGHT and WRONG; sin is PERSONAL, a breaking away from the dignity given to us as Sons of God at our Baptism; sin is disobedience to God’s Divine Law; it brings a loss of sanctifying grace to the soul (if the sin is mortal); and it OFFENDS God. Our sins crucified Our Blessed Lord! (Unless this is drummed into Christians, how can they ever begin to feel sorrow for their sins?)

    How can sin and wrongdoing be written off by such feeble and stupid excuses (e.g. “bad luck”, all down to evils in the world around us, little human failings, nothing more, etc.) as it often is nowadays? Or worse – not even recognised as “sin” at all?

    How often do we hear homilies from the pulpit about sin? Unless the priest is from one of the truly traditional orders, or from the SSPX, only very rarely I’d say, if at all!

    This has been a disaster for thousands of souls, who, instead of weeping tears of repentance for their sins and begging God’s forgiveness, carry on offending God with the confidence of the Pharisee that they are “basically good people”, and “well, we all go to Heaven in the end”, and the greatest error of all, “Hell doesn’t exist anyway – that’s old hat” !!!

    Those of us who have been blessed with knowledge of the Catholic Church’s true teaching must never tire of preaching it to others… (whilst PRACTISING it faithfully ourselves of course!) Only “the Truth” will set people free.

  3. Yes, I know what you mean about the degree to which our consciences can be blunted by the spirit of the age, and I would also add that our own suppression of that innate knowledge of right and wrong we have all been given (which I alluded to above) contributes to that blunting. The moral sense we have been given never quite goes away though, and this is why we cannot escape our guilt by covering it up with distractions and multiplication of temporary pleasures, but only turn what is a clear call to repentance into a nagging, gnawing feeling that all is not quite right, which will never leave us alone.

    This is part of the tragedy of sin – its sole positive function (relatively speaking) is to ‘prod’ at our conscience, in order that we might repent. This prodding function never goes away, for it is a part of our basic makeup as human beings to have that moral sensibility. But as we continue to blind ourselves to moral boundaries, we render ourselves less able to repent, but still with the ‘prodding’ somewhere in the background.

    And yes, you are right – sin is not just a legal crossing of boundaries, it is a reduction of our participation in the life of grace, and ultimately a diminishment of our humanity. God’s way is not arbitrary – it is the way it is because that is the path to true happiness, the fulfilment of what we were made for. Thus it is not surprising that sin is not only personal, but has wider repercussions, impacting our relationships with others, and even affecting cultures and societies – the path laid out for us by God is the path to holiness and happiness for ALL of us, as communities and as individuals.

    But yes, as you say, this is very seldom preached, and if sin is mentioned, it is more likely to be in the context of institutions (corporate tax avoidance or something like that) or purely in corporate terms (global warming being a favourite here), but never in terms of the individual and their obligations. Bizarre really, as the self is the only place that anyone can start if they are to truly make a difference with respect to the ‘bigger picture’!

    • Hahaha – great comment Michael, leaving me (us) with plenty to chew over. 🙂

      Btw, my little rant last night was not intended in the slightest to be a criticism of your previous comment – I would hate you to think that – but only due to my general feeling of frustration that (as you yourself had already pointed out) sin as something PERSONAL and not to be excused or brushed over, but this is rarely ever mentioned these days.

      I groaned inwardly during the homily at Holy Mass yesterday. In talking about the Cross, the visiting Father mentioned in his homily those dreaded, (hijacked-by-the-liberals), words of “social injustice”, “evils in our society”, etc., but not a word about how each one of us is a sinner and in need of falling at the foot of the Holy Cross to weep for our sins that led to the Crucifixion, and to beg Our Blessed Saviour forgiveness for them. Such a shame! Yesterday’s feast would have been an ideal teaching opportunity to impart this fundamental truth.

      • Oh dear – unfortunately I know exactly the sort of homily you mean, and would add to the list of things in that category the great heresy of offending against the doctrines of ‘equality and diversity’ (which we all of course know are the true heart of the gospel)! 🙂

        P.S. Not to worry, I certainly didn’t take your previous comment as a personal criticism. I know well the frustration you mean!

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