WEBSERIES 2/9 – Special Edition of Le Figaro provides an issue with the father of the desert, canonized on Sunday May 15. Received at military school in 1876, Charles signed his act of voluntary engagement with the army. He promised “to serve with integrity and honor for five years”.
He spent nearly two years at the Sainte-Geneviève school. He hated boarding school, multiplying fugues and grimaces to distract his teammates. In the second year, the Jesuits informed him that, out of respect for his grandfather, they did not want to expel him, but strongly advised him to return to Nancy to prepare alone for the Saint-Cyr competition. Excited to have found freedom, she prepares for exams with a tutor, who has already helped her pass her baccalaureate. The exams are scheduled for the month of June 1876. They will last three days. Charles was admitted to the school 82nd out of four hundred and twelve candidates.
On October 25, 1876, he signed a five -year pledge to the army before leaving for Paris. Charles left his belongings at the Hotel du Bon La Fontaine, where his grandfather lived and where he rented a room for him, before going to Saint-Cyr. For about ten days he would stay in school, wearing civilian clothes, with only regulation shako, because of his obesity we could no longer find a uniform for him.
He cursed the Jesuits, he started the military again. Charles doesn’t want to wake up early. Often consigned on Sundays for things he considered trivial, he yawns in boredom. Horseback riding is one of the few disciplines he practices with pleasure, but watching Antoine de Vallombrosa applaud, he understands that he will never be as smart a rider as his new friend.
In the second half of the year, his results were better and he finished 143rd overall with first class stripes. He spends his vacations with Nancy to stay with his grandfather, whose health worries him. When he returned to school, his sister warned him that Colonel de Morlet would never leave his room. He asks for permission. It was granted to her and she returned to Nancy on February 1, 1878. Two days later, her grandfather died in her sleep.
Charles was angry. He had the impression of suddenly being twenty years old. With eyes full of tears, he remembers the indulgence shown to him by his successor to his parents, his intelligence, his kindness, the pleasure he felt in listening to him talk about archeology or geography, which where the colonel was keen, of the walks they had gathered near Saverne, of their stays with the Moitessiers.
His second year at Saint-Cyr would be affected by this loss. Charles was deprived of his stripes, falling to 333rd rank from three hundred and eighty-seven students, but still graduated as second lieutenant and was able to join the Saumur Cavalry School. He spends the summer at the Château de Louÿe with Mimi. He was still a minor and would now live with the Moitessiers. Charles was released by the family council and inherited, along with his sister, a large fortune. It was a young man of twenty years of age, driven by pleasure, who joined Saumur. He is running into insane expenses that will very quickly worry his family. He is also open to lending money to his comrades, which is often misused.
In Saumur, life is less rigorous than in Saint-Cyr. In the evening, the officers went out freely. Charles keeps an open table in a hotel not far from the school where he shares a room with Vallombrosa, who knows how to organize “dissengagements” where he invites women with little kindness. When Charles or Antoine found themselves at simple stops, their companions rushed to join them. Play cards.
At the end of the year, Charles, who was too busy enjoying life, was 87th out of eighty-seven students. What does he care! He intends not to deprive himself of any pleasure. Even more often, when the party is over, he is sad and empty. However, the next day, he started again. It was a whirlwind. Sometimes he wonders if it wasn’t a chasm where he would lose a soul. But can people have a soul without God?
Charles de Foucauld, a voice in the desert164 pages, € 12.90, available at newsstands and Figaro Store.