Charles de Foucauld: The Miracle that Paved the Way for His Canonization

The 21-year-old man, known publicly only by his first name, had fallen 50 feet onto the armrest of a church pew.

François Asselin.
François Asselin. (photo: EWTN / Vatican Bureau)

Late on Nov. 30, 2016, François Asselin got a call from his construction manager.

“Listen, François, there has been an accident,” he heard on the other end of the line. 

One of the entrepreneur’s employees, a carpenter named Charle, had fallen from a ceiling vault in the chapel of St. Louis high school in Saumur, western France.

The 21-year-old man, known publicly only by his first name, had fallen 50 feet onto the armrest of a church pew.

“This piece of wood went through his abdomen and under his heart and out the back. He impaled himself on the wood,” Asselin explained to EWTN News during a sit-down interview in Paris.

Asselin’s wife, Marie-Claire, immediately began praying for the young carpenter. She also sent a text message to the family’s priest at Charles de Foucauld Parish and to the Fraternity of Mary, Immaculate Queen, explaining the situation and asking for prayers.

The accident occurred on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the death of Charles de Foucauld. The French explorer who became a Catholic missionary in Algeria had been beatified in 2005.

Charles de Foucauld. Public domain

Charles de Foucauld. Public domain

Hundreds of people at the parish and in the fraternity prayed for the young man’s healing through the intercession of the Catholic priest and hermit, who was killed in the Sahara in 1916.

After Charle, an alternative spelling of Charles, fell, he remained conscious, and stood and walked to look for help.

He was rushed to the hospital, where he was operated on, but “no vital organ had been touched, [there were] no aftereffects, either of the brain or physical,” his employer said.

The doctors who examined the carpenter agreed that the impaling, together with a fall from such a height, would usually cause the body’s organs to burst.

Asselis said: “Three days later, I tell you, I was in his hospital room, he was talking to me like I am talking to you. The following week, eight days later, he was released from the hospital, and two months later, he was back to work as a carpenter in the company as if nothing had happened.” 

When the Catholic entrepreneur learned the details of the incident from Charle, he was amazed to hear the young man tell him that when he began to fall, he “lay flat, put my head in my hands, and abandoned myself.”

To Asselis, Charle’s words echoed the celebrated prayer of Charles de Foucauld beginning “I surrender myself to you.”

“If we look up the Prayer of Abandonment of Charles de Foucauld, you will find these key words,” he said, explaining that what made it even more remarkable to him was that “Charle was not baptized, Charle did not know Charles de Foucauld at all.”

Asselis said that following the recognition of the miraculous healing of Charle, many people have written to Charles de Foucauld Parish in Saumur asking for intercessory prayers in hopes of receiving their own miracle.

“And then sometimes it doesn’t work out there, and that’s complicated to understand,” he admitted. 

“I humbly admit that this is the case, but we must not be dismayed,” he said. “We can see that prayer can work miracles and here prayer has worked a beautiful miracle.”

Solène Tadié contributed to this report.