Five words and a plea: “I don’t want to die; Lord, give me a second chance.” Matthieu Noli will never forget these words that he repeated at least a hundred times more than 20 years ago.
It all began like any other ordinary weekend. On the night of August 31, 2001, he headed out to visit a friend in Toulouse, France. After a surprise evening with other friends, he set out to find a place to stay for the night.
“I remembered only one thing: my friend lived above a restaurant near Capitol Square. So I asked the first person I saw for directions, and then a second person… until I met this guy.”
The stranger, who was tall and bearded with a slightly angular face, wasn’t very friendly. “I wished him a good evening, and told him that I was looking for an address, and he sent me packing. I got angry and made the mistake of insulting him. He said in reply, ‘What do you want from me?’”
The man then stabbed Matthieu in the abdomen and in the throat.
At first, Matthieu didn’t realize the gravity of his wounds, but then the 30-year-old noticed that he was losing a lot of blood. He managed to walk to a police car, at which point the officers came to his aid and called for help.
A second chance
With a perforated lung and a deep cut on his neck, Matthieu’s prognosis wasn’t good. Any any moment, this hospital bed could have become his deathbed. Matthieu Noli decided to immerse himself in prayer. “I said to God, ‘Lord, I can do something good in my life, give me a second chance …’ and my prayer was heard.”
After three weeks in the hospital, he was a changed man.
“My second life began with a raft made up of three planks: faith (which became truly alive), love, and writing.”
Matthieu had traveled a lot up to then and had varied professional experiences in different fields; now, he decided to take the risk of settling on the vocation that had always seduced him: writing. “Surviving these stabbings has not made me a superman, I remain full of weaknesses. I’m fond of the prayer of the Russian pilgrim and the little Thérèse.
Two decades later, Matthew Noli infuses his books with the joy of belief that inhabits him. He even goes so far as to have a character in his latest novel, La Conversion d’Arthur Grandin, give voice to the faith that animates him. “We have the joyful faith of those who drape themselves in the cloak of shared weaknesses, the peaceful faith of those who know that charity will prevail in the end, and the light faith of those who believe that He will come to raise us up.”
When asked if he has any resentment against the person who stabbed him, Noli laughingly replies, “Somewhere along the line, that person saved my life!”