Todo - Nada

Chapter 1

Blessed is he that findeth a true friend



After his First Mass in Geneve,
June 29, 1986

Henry La Praz was born on January 1st, 1959 in Geneva, Switzerland, the sixth child of a family of nine children. Not long after his birth, the family moved to Laval, in France, near Madame La Praz’s home territory. On the day of his second birthday, following an attack of toxicosis, in which he had lost half of his weight, Henry came close to death for the first time. His recovery is attributed mainly to the fervent prayers of his devout parents. Nevertheless, on the doctor's advice, the family moved to a drier climate in the South of France, in Marseilles.

Henry started school and joined the Parish Choir. This opened his eyes and ears to a sacred treasure – the beautiful Catholic Liturgy with its soul-lifting Gregorian Chant. The stay in Marseilles was not to last very long as Mons.La Praz brought his family back to Geneva in 1969.

In August 1971, on the occasion of some festivity, a firework malfunctioned. It exploded near Henry's face and slit one of his eyes. He was rushed to hospital and underwent a very serious operation which lasted many hours. He had lost an eye.

In 1976, he had his first attack of Hodgkin's disease. On the prayerful recommendation of his parents, he agreed to go to Lourdes "not as a patient, but as a stretcher-bearer. " Lourdes… The Immaculate had great graces in store for him, for while helping others in illnesses, worse than his own, he discovered the mystery of suffering and this discovery was to mark him for the rest of his life. Not only did he make a spiritual discovery at Lourdes but he was also cured. "Our Blessed Lady cured me ", he happily related to his parents back home. In the same year he entered the Swiss watch-making school from which he graduated four years later. Between his various illnesses or accidents, Henry led a very ordinary life, very discreet and good and he was a happy companion. His thoughts always went to others first.

Henry entered the Seminary of Ecône on October 4th, 1980 and received the soutane and tonsure on the following February 2nd. In September 1981, with the rest of his class, he went to Albano, near Rome, to begin the first year of Philosophy. In the days preceding the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, he suffered terrible temptations against his vocation, against joining the Society of St. Pius X. Thank God and Our Blessed Lady, he overcame the temptations and offered himself totally to the Almighty. Something told him his offering had been accepted but how, or when, that he did not know although it was not long before he found out.

On January 29th, 1982, during the first term examinations, he was rushed to Rome General Hospital and then flown by a Swiss Red Cross helicopter to Geneva. In the course of the following ten-and-a-half years, he underwent about 130 operations, 80 of which were under total anaesthetic and many others without any at all. You will read, in Fr. Koller's words, of Fr. La Praz's apparent death during the night of Holy Thursday – Good Friday, 1982, and the very special graces he received at that moment.

After his nine months in the hospital, Henry spent a year recovering. His desire to become a Priest continued and he hoped against hope to be able to offer the Holy Sacrifice one day. He re-entered the Seminary in September, 1983 and pursued his studies, to the best of his abilities, since he had to make frequent visits to and stays in various hospitals, until Spring, 1986.

It was then, at the end of his first year of theology, that the doctors informed the Seminary Rector, then Father Lorans, that if they wanted to see Henry a Priest, they should ordain him soon because his hopes of living were again becoming very slender. His ordination was, therefore, advanced by two years, thus catching up with his confreres. He was ordained on the Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour – June 27th, 1986 ad missam, that is, without the faculties to hear Confessions which he received the following year. Father Lorans, who preached at Fr. La Praz' first Solemn High Mass in St. Joseph's Oratory in Geneva, two days after his ordination, was truly inspired when he said: " He has been a victim long enough, he deserved to become a Priest. "

Fr. Schmidberger, our Superior General, offered the Requiem Mass for Fr. La Praz on May 25th, 1993. More than a thousand people were present. He concluded his sermon with these words: “Are not his life and his death the best apologetic proof of our work, for the very existence of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X? In the face of such virtue, what is the worth of all the reasons brought forward by the modernists against our work? Virtue is necessary! In it alone, there is holiness which is the mark of the Church. Indeed, we do find such heroic virtue in our confrere…”

One final comment: you will read in the following pages, the account of mystical graces which Fr. La Praz received. Never did he speak of them except to his spiritual directors and his friend Fr. Michel Koller who has written the following article, thus enabling those who read his words, to have a glimpse of the life and the spirituality of Fr. La Praz. If he was very discreet in relation to his own illnesses, he was even more so concerning these special graces. As for myself, who had the privilege of knowing him personally for nearly 15 years, I knew absolutely nothing about them until the afternoon of his burial. This is the sign of true humility.

May the reading of these pages inspire you and strengthen you in your trials, physical and spiritual. May it render you more generous for the rest of your life.

"God loveth a cheerful giver. " Father Henry La Praz was one. Deo Gratias.

Fr. Daniel Couture


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