Carlo Carretto was an Italian monk who died in 1988. For many years he lived as a hermit in the Sahara, translated the Scriptures into Tuareg and from the solitude of the desert wrote some extraordinary spiritual books. His writings and his faith were special in that they had a rare capacity to combine an almost childlike piety with (when needed) a blistering iconoclasm. He loved the Church deeply, but he wasn’t blind to its faults and failures, and he wasn’t afraid to point out those shortcomings.

Late in life, when his health forced him to leave the desert, he retired to a religious community in his native Italy. While there he read a book by an atheist who took Jesus to task for a phrase in the Sermon on the Mount where he says: “Seek and you shall find” (meaning, of course, that if you seek God with an honest heart you will find Him). The atheist had titled his book I Sought and I Didn’t Find, arguing from his own experience that an honest heart can seek God and come up empty.

Carretto wrote a book in reply called I Sought and I Found. For him, Jesus’s counsel rang true. In his own search, despite encountering many things that could indicate the absence of God, he found Him. But he admits the difficulties, and one of those difficulties is, at times, the Church. The Church can, and sometimes does, through its sin, make it difficult for some to believe in God. Carretto admits this with a disarming honesty, but argues that it’s not the whole picture.

Hence his book combines his deep love for his faith and his Church with his refusal to turn a blind eye to the faults of Christians and the churches. At one point in the book he gives voice to something which might be described as an ode to the Church. It reads this way:

How much I must criticise you, my Church, and yet how much I love you!

How you have made me suffer much and yet owe much to you.

I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence.

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