“In my fall, I abandoned myself”

Relaxed, casual sneakers and polo shirt, Charles – without s – was 21 on the day of the accident. Six years later, he agreed for the first time to appear publicly and confided in The cross. If the miracle did not convert him, he now knows Saint Charles de Foucauld well, canonized thanks to the miracle that occurred in Saumur (Maine-et-Loire).

On November 30, 2016, you are working on the frame of the Saint-Louis chapel in Saumur. At the end of the day, the arch on which you walk gives way. And you take a 15.5 meter fall that should have been fatal. Did you realize that when you fell?

Not at all, for me the fall lasted a very long time, the time to ask myself how to protect myself, not to damage my legs. I felt like it lasted about five minutes. When it was explained to me that it took just over a second, I was very surprised.

What did you think about during this time that seemed so long?

I opened my eyes in the middle of the fall, telling myself that I hadn’t arrived yet. Then I closed my eyes again, there was only to wait until I was on the ground and I abandoned myself. In fact, I ended my fall impaled on a post of a wooden bench.

Who rescued you?

I didn’t lose consciousness, I immediately opened my eyes and told myself that I had to go get help. I headed for the exit, but I didn’t want to go through the main door that opens onto the schoolyard; if the children saw me in this state, they could be shocked. Through the back door, I found two teachers who called the fire department.

But taking care of it was complicated: the wooden upright was still stuck in your body…

A helicopter arrived, but I was untransportable: I had to go to Angers hospital in an ambulance under the escort of motorcyclists from the gendarmerie. From there, I was on painkillers, and I don’t remember.

At the hospital, once operated, did you realize?

I did not measure the seriousness of the accident, I quickly wanted to move on, I was thinking above all of resuming a normal life, I did not want there to be too many cuts. I was in full training. If I didn’t go back right away, I might not be able to resume. The first time you go back up, there is a little bit of apprehension but you no longer think about the fall. Very quickly I was back to normal.

Did working in a church, despite everything, make sense?

Above all, it’s the love of the trade, of working in the old fashioned way and discovering French architecture, restoring what the old carpenters did, contributing my stone to the building… From up there, we often have a extraordinary view of the cities.

→ READ: Crossing our deserts with Charles de Foucauld

François Asselin, your employer, came to see you at the hospital the day after the accident. How did this meeting go?

I immediately apologized to him: for me, it was a bit my fault, I walked to a place where I should not have been. I was in training, I did not want the company to have difficulties. But he was especially relieved to see me sitting, peacefully, without sequelae. He again addressed my mother and me to say: “I need to tell you about someone. I don’t know what he’s doing in this story, but I think he’s no stranger to it…” It was Charles de Foucauld. He gave me a comic about his life. I didn’t know him, and that was it.

For François Asselin, very invested in the parish, there were strange coincidences… How did you react?

It’s true: my name is Charles, it was in Saumur, where Charles de Foucauld was a cavalry officer, the accident took place the year of the centenary of his death… I also learned that the parish de Saumur bore his name, and that the faithful prayed a lot to Charles de Foucauld that year. Circumstances that raise questions.

What would you like to say to the parishioners who prayed and invoked Charles de Foucauld?

Thanking them for thinking of me and doing all of this is nice. I can’t say much more.

It was then that the Church became interested in your accident, an investigation that went until Pope Francis declared that you were “miracled”!

It was very weird. I was far from all that, but I asked myself questions. But why not ? My mother and my grandmother, more believers than me, were very interested in this religious part… If my relatives easily accepted the inquiry for canonization, the main thing was that I did not have any sequels! For me, meeting all the people in charge of this case made me want to go further in discovering Charles de Foucauld.

Does it make you want to believe it?

In a way… I always wonder ” Is… ? “. You never know, really. There is always a question that says ” perhaps “… I am not baptized and I do not believe in God, but the little question comes back. There is always this part where the circumstances make that… it makes you want to believe in it a little all the same. And Charles de Foucauld… I can perhaps say thank you to him.

Do you want to know more, to go to the desert in the footsteps of Charles de Foucauld?

No, it did not open the door to God for me. I was very happy to participate and learn more about Charles de Foucauld, but it won’t go any further.

With The cross, it’s your first interview that puts you in the public square. Will you go to St. Peter’s Square in Rome?

Yes, I will attend the canonization. It’s an opportunity to go to the Vatican, to meet important people, I lend myself to this experience and I’m very happy. And maybe I can meet the pope.

What do you want to tell him?

What can one say to such a personality? I don’t know at all, I think it will be spontaneous. I don’t know what he’s going to tell me either. The words will come instantly. I will thank him.

Read also.

→ Charles de Foucauld, paradoxical universal brother

→ Charles de Foucauld: a controversial role

→ Canonization of Charles de Foucauld: some prayers