A long journey of conversion and grace helped this couple get through a devastating accident.
Jacqueline, 68, and Roger, 69, have been married for 47 years. They have four children and seven grandchildren and live in Switzerland. They shared with us Roger’s long journey of conversion, which has helped them to heal their relationship as a couple and to overcome a serious accident at work.
Neither Jacqueline nor Roger had an easy childhood. Jacqueline lost her parents to illness at the age of 13. The youngest of her siblings, she grew up on the family farm, alongside her nine brothers and sisters.
Raised in the Catholic faith, Jacqueline remembers praying the Rosary with her family. When she was 17, lightning struck the farm and destroyed it. In that dark time, she turned to God. She recalls,
“We lost everything. I didn’t have many points of reference, except for God. By receiving the sacraments, I found oases of peace. I had not yet encountered God personally in my heart, but I was convinced that he was present.”
As for Roger, he grew up under the roof of an abusive father and a depressive and hurtful mother. They told him repeatedly that he was an unwanted child. It was a cruel environment for a little boy.
“I didn’t live up to my parents’ expectations. They would have preferred a model and exemplary child. I needed to be loved, recognized, and accepted as I was,” Roger reflects.
This situation gave rise to a climate of family violence and academic failure. Roger rejected God and faith altogether. “How can such a cruel God exist?” he thought.
Roger became an aviation mechanic, and Jacqueline worked at a hospital. They met at the age of 18, during a wedding. It was love at first sight.
They got married in 1974. “I got married in the Church to please Jacqueline,” says Roger.
They welcomed their first daughter a year later. A few months after giving birth, Jacqueline fell into a deep depression. “I felt lost, abandoned,” she recalls.
At the invitation of a friend, she joined a prayer group, and it changed her life. She says,
“It was through the prayer of these brothers and sisters that God healed me of my depression. My faith grew little by little. I personally met Jesus in my heart; I felt loved by God and that changed everything. I no longer suffer through life; I live with a feeling of peace and inner joy.”
A (very) cheap vacation
While Jacqueline continued to recharge her batteries with her prayer group, Roger was far from supporting or accompanying her. “I thought my wife was a bit too pious,” he recalls.
“Did she want to marry the Lord? I felt that she was slipping away from me, that she was drifting away. She was putting a lot of pressure on me: ‘Why don’t you come to the prayer group? to Mass?’ But I wanted my journey to be my own, and not commanded by my wife.”
However, one summer, Roger agreed to participate in a retreat for couples. “I thought it was a cheap vacation,” he admits mischievously. And it was a very good deal indeed, considering all the fruit it bore. He says,
“That session was the first spark. I discovered the true image of the Father through St. Joseph. That’s when I started practicing (the faith) again.”
His faith was confirmed on a pilgrimage to Lisieux in 1992, for his 40th birthday—an occasion on which he received special graces. Among others, he saw what he considered a sign on the floor of St. Therese’s room at Les Buissonnets:
“A luminous cross appeared on the floor. As I contemplated it, peace filled me; I turned around, saying to myself, ‘It’s the sun reflected on the ground.’ To my great surprise, it was raining.”
It was in Lisieux that he met a priest who would become his spiritual guide for many years.
“All this was for me a start to my conversion, at a time when I was very hard on myself and on my wife. I didn’t accept any remarks, and I was very authoritarian, not easy to live with,” he admits.
“Our life as a couple was complicated,” confirms Jacqueline. Both of them had strong characters, and their words weren’t always well chosen. “Until the day my body said stop,” Jacqueline explains.
She felt intense pain in her nerve endings that prevented her from sleeping. One night, she decided to wake Roger and asked him to pray with her.
“We shared what was going on inside me. Roger became aware that he wasn’t accepting my limitations. Together we implored the Lord for the grace of forgiveness for each other. At that moment, all my pain and anguish disappeared.” From then on, their marital relationship became calmer and more pure.
Jacqueline and Roger’s life changed on December 4, 2001, “St. Barbara’s Day, patron saint of first-aid workers,” they like to point out. Indeed, Roger survived a terrible accident at his workplace. A 500 kg (1,100 lb) concrete block broke off five meters from the ground and struck Roger’s leg, crushing it.
He was airlifted to the hospital and underwent 12 hours of surgery to try to reconstruct his leg. However, six days later, gangrene and sepsis took over. His condition was critical. Doctors decided to amputate his leg.
“I was ready and aware that perhaps my time had come. I asked for a priest to receive the sacrament of the sick. In those moments of pain, I put myself in the Lord’s arms,” he remembers.
For Jacqueline, the news was difficult. However, she quickly found a certain serenity thanks to her trust in God.
After many weeks of rehabilitation, Roger began studying human resources in personnel management. Seven months after his accident, he took up his new position at the airfield, and flourished managing 70 employees.
“Every morning, I would arrive at the office half an hour early and entrust my day to the Virgin Mary. I would ask her to give me the right words for my meetings with my employees. Many employees came to my office to share their family or professional worries with me. Over time, they nicknamed me Brother Roger,” he says with a smile.
Looking back on this dramatic episode in his life, Roger recognizes that the accident was beneficial for his personal conversion. It forced him to let go, to accept that he could no longer do everything by himself, to let himself be loved and live.
“I felt God’s love as I had never felt it before. The Lord worked on my heart, softened it, and made me more docile. The Lord not only healed my body, but he transformed my heart of stone into a heart of flesh.”