Christian Living:The Spirituality of the Foyers of Charity, by Donal Foley, (Theotokos Books £7.95)
As so much has declined in the Catholic Church in the last forty years, it has been good to see the growth of what are sometimes called the ecclesial movements or communities. Pope John Paul II supported them vigorously and his successor no less so.
This short and very readable paperback book - 157 pages - has two aims: to explain the spirituality of the Foyers of Charity, a French movement, and to provide general spiritual reading. It succeeds in both aims.
The author uses as the basis for the book a series of retreats given by Fr Tierny, at the Foyer of Charity at Courset near Boulogne. Cleverly, he welds together the two aims so that the book’s strength as spiritual reading is that it gives us something of the flavour of a retreat of the Foyers of Charity.
The word “foyer” primarily means “hearth” or “fireside” and the founder of the Foyers wanted them to be homes, “of light, centre and love”. The French word derives from the Latin “focus” meaning fireside or hearth. The word “foyer” in English now, unfortunately, though still pronounced in the French way is limited to mean the entrance area of a building like a hotel. We are talking about centres of Christian love.
As the book clearly tells us, the founder, Marthe Robin, was born near Lyons in 1902. Out of her immense devotion to Our Blessed Lady she secured the support of a good priest, Père Finet, and set up the first foyers in 1936. They came into their own from the 1960s onwards. They are made up of consecrated laypersons and directed by a priest, the Father of the Foyer. Their main task is to provide weekend silent retreats. Marthe especially wanted people to pray against the influence and spreading of communism and freemasonry. Because Marthe was French, she wanted the retreatants to have fresh, well-cooked food, but the rule of silence she saw as essential for them to ask what they were doing with their lives. By her death, in 1981, there were some sixty Foyers in five continents, though England is not yet included. In 1999 the Holy See approved the statues of the Foyers. The cause for the beatification of the founder is well advanced.
Like so many of the new movements, the Foyers show how one can lead a holy life in the middle of the bustle of modern life. The chapters, following the retreat talks, treat of useful topics: discipleship; holiness; prayer; silence, meditation and contemplation; some of the sacraments; and running throughout all, devotion to Our Blessed Lady. The author is always worth reading and the chapters, at about eight pages each, are in small enough doses to be read in a short time. This would be an ideal bedside book to be read last thing at night or first thing in the morning.
I strongly recommend the book and those unimpressed by my recommendation should be more moved by the endorsement of Fr Ian Ker, an expert on, and supporter of, the new movements, and one of the cleverest and most inspiring priests in England.