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He survived a 50-foot-fall thanks to what the Church calls a miracle – but he doesn’t believe in God

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APL / ALETEIA

Charle, 26 ans, le "miraculé" de Charles de Foucauld.

Agnès Pinard Legry - published on 04/29/22

Charle, a 26-year-old carpenter, was saved by a miracle through the intercession of Charles de Foucauld—the miracle which was approved for Foucald’s canonization.

Charle, a 26-year-old carpenter, was saved by a miracle through the intercession of Charles de Foucauld—the miracle which was approved for Foucald’s canonization. In November 2016, he was working in the restoration of the chapel at Saint Louis Institution, a school and college in Saumur (a town in western France) when he fell almost 50 feet from a scaffold. He ended up impaled on the armrest of a pew, a piece of wood piercing his side.

That evening, the vespers of the 100th anniversary of Charles de Foucauld’s death, Charle’s employer asked many people to pray to Foucauld for the young carpenter’s healing. It was also the day the parish of Saumur, dedicated to Charles de Foucault—the parish territory in which the accident took place—completed their novena in preparation for the feast.

They, along with members of Foucault’s spiritual family around the world, had been praying for a miracle that would allow the blessed’s canonization.

Miraculously, no vital organ was affected by the wound, and Charle recovered completely with no long-term consequences to his physical or psychological health. A non-believer in sneakers and a polo shirt, with a well-trimmed beard, the young man isn’t what some people might expect as a key player in a cause of canonization. However, he agreed to let the Church initiate a procedure for the recognition of a miracle.

For the first time since his accident, he talked publicly with us about that day.

Aleteia: What happened on November 30, 2016?

Charle: It was a very usual day. I was working on the restoration of the carpentry of the chapel at Saint Louis Institution in Saumur, an academic institution. The morning had gone normally. But while there were two of us on the wooden framework, late in the afternoon, I stepped on the wrong spot and fell about 50 feet before impaling myself on the armrest of a pew that was turned on its back.

What did you think about when you fell?

Mostly I thought about protecting myself. I didn’t want to break my legs so I turned on my side and protected my head. I closed my eyes, opened them once when I was in the middle of the fall, and closed them again. When I got to the ground, I got up right away and didn’t immediately see that I had a piece of wood inside me that was sticking out about 6 inches on both sides!

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What happened next?

I didn’t want to go out the main door because the chapel overlooks the schoolyard and I didn’t want to shock the children. So I took a side door on the right and asked two teachers to call for help. A helicopter came but I couldn’t get in because of the piece of wood. I arrived at the hospital in Angers by ambulance but I was no longer really conscious at that time.

Were you afraid for your life?

It was very strange: I wasn’t aware at the time that I had been lucky. I minimized it, as if I had sprained my ankle. But it wasn’t until I saw people’s reactions as I walked down the hospital hallway that I began to realize. And then the reaction of my surgeon, my relatives and my employer, who I still work for and who came to see me in the hospital, made me realize that such a fall is fatal. 

How did you react when you heard people refer to it as a miracle, and talk about Charles de Foucauld, and also about the procedure to follow so that what happened to you could be recognized as a miracle?

I didn’t know about Charles de Foucauld. It was François Asselin, my employer, who told me about him when I was in the hospital. He gave me a comic book about him, telling me that what had happened to me was not trivial and that he wanted me to learn about this personage.

As for the procedure to follow to see if what I had gone through could be recognized as a miracle, I didn’t hesitate. When François Asselin came to ask me if I was interested and explained to me that it could possibly be used for the canonization of Charles de Foucauld, I said to myself, “Why not? I don’t mind.” Since I had no problem with it, if what I had experienced could be used for Charles de Foucauld, I said to myself: “Let’s try it then!”

Since you are not a believer, did this surprise those around you?

Some people still ask me why I accepted. But I never had a negative reaction; the people around me supported me by telling me that if I wanted to do it, I should do it; otherwise not.

How did it happen, concretely?

It really started in early 2018. We went to see my doctor and Fr. Bernard Ardura, postulator of the cause before the Holy See, accompanied me. The idea was to analyze the fall, the after-effects, etc. We also went to see other doctors in Angers, surgeons and psychiatrists. The idea was really to study whether what had happened to me was scientifically explainable or not.

Has this changed anything in your relationship with God?

I was not a believer before my fall and still am not. My mother is somewhat religious, my father is not, and my grandmother is. I went to a private school in elementary school but not in high school. After that, I still went to church occasionally, either for work or for family events, funerals… I enjoyed getting to know Charles de Foucauld better but did not become attached to this figure.

Is your life different before and after the miracle?

Not really. I dismissed everything that happened and went back to my life and my work.

So you are the beneficiary of a miracle, who isn’t a believer?

There’s always a question mark, of course. But I wouldn’t define myself as a believer. Maybe Charles de Foucauld helped me to avoid any after-effects, maybe not. I don’t know. In any case, I’m happy to have been able to serve modestly in his canonization.

Will you be at the canonization of Charles de Foucauld on May 15?

Of course I will! I will be there with both of my parents.

What do you expect from it?

To have a good time! I was warned that the recognition of a miracle could take two years or ten years, so I’m happy to be able to attend. Perhaps it will be an opportunity to meet the Pope, to get to know this religious environment, Rome, the Vatican, how things work…

If you had the opportunity to address the pope, what would you like to say?

I don’t really know, I think I would be surprised. Maybe I’d just like to talk and maybe he’d have some questions!

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