Todo - Nada

Chapter 2

Henry La Praz - A Priest


There would be many ways to approach this subject so vast. There would be so many things to relate but one must limit oneself and try to go to the essentials. This is the reason why I have decided to divide this conference into three parts:

First part:          The Man
Second part:     The Soldier
Third part:         The Priest.

1. Fr. La Praz – The Man

First of all, the part of the man. Why do I take this first division? Simply because one must not think that Fr. La Praz was first and above all an extraordinary man who could only be considered from afar. On the contrary, he was completely approachable, even though he had some aspects which were more brilliant than others.

Very often one has a perception of the Saints which is a bit curtailed. One imagines them as men escaping all normality, “abnormal”, So that if they do not float a metre above the ground, they no longer appear to us as Saints. However, such is not the essential of sanctity, which can be summed up in this: it consists in leaving in our life, in our soul and in all our aspirations all the room to God.

I do not indeed have the power to canonise Father La Praz; nevertheless, there are many aspects of his life which make us see clearly what sanctity must be.

Let us then begin with the man. Fr. La Praz was born on January 1st, 1959 in Geneva. To better understand how Divine Providence carved his soul, we have to consider his particular character, firstly in its positive side. He was a very magnanimous boy. He loved great deeds, for God above all. As he was especially courageous, he was ready to throw himself into all the possible tests. What also struck in him was his fidelity in everything, down to the smallest details, as man, as friend, as priest. He liked moreover that watchword received from his father: " My honour is called loyalty", Both this honour and this fidelity were backed up by a piercing and rigorous intellect. He thirsted for knowledge and for study. Finally and to crown all that, he was a joyful youth by nature and this joy communicated itself to his magnanimity as well as to his courage, his fidelity and his intellect which rendered his company most enjoyable and never sad.

However – and this will reassure and encourage us – his temperament had on the other hand its share of weaknesses against which he had to struggle. In particular, there was anger and its sequels, such as getting involved in too many things at once and hastiness. Other woes urged him to fight: although gifted with a good intellect, his knowledge was nevertheless not innate and his boiling temper did not favour meek reactions. No, far from that, he had to fight – fight in a way sometimes very arduous.

I pass quickly from his early youth to come directly to certain matters which are better known to me, namely the period of the School of Watchmaking when I had the grace to know him. Here I would like to relate some particular facts about his person, facts which inevitably distinguished him from the others. First of all, as a student and a friend, it must be remarked that he was quite unique in discussions: he never spoke without reason, he always aimed at precise goals. Without ceasing, he sought to attain certain objectives: to raise souls, to direct them towards healthy discussions, towards truthful discussions. He could not stand lies and when there was a group of young men, in these mostly workmen’s circles, when the language was strong, he liked to try to raise up the souls a little, to prevent them from falling into poor standards, into silly behaviour and above all into bad language. He could not tolerate vulgarity. He did not like at all flippant jokes. Thus, as soon as he heard a rather suspect conversation, he got nearer and tried to raise the conversation as best he could but if he saw his efforts becoming vain, he had two solutions: he would make a rather sharp remark or else he would disappear. I even recall this little fact which he later told me. He had tried many times to correct his companions regarding swear words and seeing that his words were not enough, he resolved to note the number of times that he had heard swearing and in the evening, when he returned home, he prayed the number of “Hail Mary’s which corresponded to the number of swear words and he maintained that at the end of the year, no-one in his class was swearing. He offered himself through his prayers, he absolutely wanted to suppress these blasphemies against God, and by a feat of strength – because at certain days God alone knows how many were uttered! – he obtained the grace of no longer hearing them in his class.


Henry La Praz, at the age of 21

At that time, his activities were many and varied. Not only did he study in the School of Watchmaking but in addition he was attending night-school to obtain his matriculation. He interested himself very much in politics, not only national but also international. He dissected the newspapers to see all that was happening. In addition to that, he held his family close to his heart and he had a great concern for the family bonds. This care, this love of his own went very specially to those who appeared to him to have the most difficulties, whatever they might be: material, spiritual mainly and others. In all these things, whether it was in the School of Watchmaking, the night-school, in politics or with his family, he liked to spread and to find the Beautiful, the Truth, the Good. That was his big quest. All that was beautiful he had to pursue. All that was true, he had to adhere to. All that was good he had indeed to spread around him. It was from this source that later came his desire to communicate the Beautiful, the Truth, the Good through the publishing word of Tradiffusion. He was concerned about good reading. The proof was that he had, thank God, a superior capacity to read and to assimilate, so much so that, in one year, he told me he had read 600 books in order that Tradiffusion would sell only books whose content they really knew.

However, very soon Fr. La Praz fell ill. He had had many illnesses in his life, but mainly with Hodgkin's disease, a kind of cancer of the lymphatic system: the start of the great trials! Moreover, it is while undergoing the first treatments to be cured of it, that the illness that would consume him, would manifest itself.

It is to be noted that Fr. La Praz was cured a first time at Lourdes. After his first attack of Hodgkin's disease, he decided one day, on his parents' advice, to go to Lourdes and ask for his cure. However, he did not want to consider himself really as an invalid. He said to himself: "I will go to Lourdes, yes, but not as an invalid. I will go as a stretcher bearer, to help the sick." I have had echoes from different people who have known this young man who devoted himself while being ill – devoted himself to the most destitute, the most unfortunate. Many have told me how he was zealous – how he loved to look after the poor who languished in their physical misery.

Later, in spite of this first cure, Providence allowed a recurrence of the Hodgkin's disease. In the course of this recurrence and as a consequence of the complications resulting from the first treatment he underwent, he had more than one hundred operations, some of them without anaesthetics. For almost six months, he lay with his abdomen open due to the numerous interventions required in his case. It must be made clear that each of these operations was carried out with his consent. The doctors always asked him, especially in the very serious circumstances where certain operations gravely risked causing his death.

To my knowledge (there may have been more), he was in ten different hospitals on a number of occasions, which is not a small number in a person' s life time.

What about his sleep? Around three to four hours a night, often less, sometimes more, since his health problems made him get up some nights up to seventeen times. He told me that, on an average, he had to get up seven times a night. If he had a "good night" …it meant that he had slept at the most 5 to 6 hours and had got up only three or four times. But how many troubled nights! He would then simply tell me: "Good – well, I have passed my night in an armchair because I had to get up about fourteen or fifteen times". One must not think that in the midst of these sufferings, which one has difficulty in imagining, that he lost his joy. On the contrary! He remained as kindly and joyful as ever and invariably kept his sense of humour, even about himself or his illness.

All this concerns him as a man.

2. Fr. La Praz – The Soldier

Let us now look at the second point: which is his military side. Why did I choose this theme? There is a good and simple reason! He always kept anchored in his mind that part of the Spiritual Exercises which, in the five-day Retreat of St. Ignatius, comes right after the Confession – the meditation of “The Call of Christ the King”.

At that stage of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius makes precisely this comparison: on the other hand, see these men who have neither faith nor law who can nevertheless give themselves totally to a military leader and embrace a cause which may appear absurd if not foolish, such as the kamikases. On the other hand, as Christians, we should be able, with the grace of God, to do at least as much, if not more by the total gift of ourselves.

He transposed by his spiritual life, these very precise qualities of honour, of courage, of the gift of self, which are found in a real soldier. I remember the first discussion we had in the School of Watchmaking on the subject of vocations. It was on exactly what is found in a good soldier, i.e. the total gift if oneself. To be able to give oneself! That really meant something and left a particular echo in his mind. Look also at the other aspect of a good soldier – courage and selflessness and, as I said earlier on, that complete gift of himself – which goes to the sacrifice ,not of a part of ourselves but of a whole life, because we sacrifice everything for our leader.

Fr. La Praz did transpose these qualities. He wanted to sacrifice all for Our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep nothing for himself. Moreover, the soldier owes obedience, even if sometimes given orders are not understood, especially in time of war when obedience is unconditional.

Fr. La Praz wanted this same rigour in his spiritual life. From this, he had inscribed on his ordination card, these two words of St. John of the Cross: “Todo – Nada, All or Nothing” – all for God nothing for himself. He wanted absolutely that the gift of himself should be complete.

There are, on this spirit of sacrifice, of total gift, of disinterestedness in himself, many stories which one could relate, particularly when he underwent an operation without anaesthetics which lasted many hours.

He asked the doctors, after the operation, to let him get up from the operating table and get into his bed, which was placed right beside him. He said: "Let me do it – I want to get up by myself." He got up, indeed, to the great astonishment of the doctors, and at the cost of what sufferings and with what willpower…you can imagine!

Then he put himself into the bed beside him. Why did he do that? First of all, it was a victory over himself, not to listen to his nature but also and above all, through the spirit of sacrifice. There again, he said: "How many soldiers still continue the fight even when they have had a limb amputated, or injured; these people continue the battle for what purpose? Then there is no reason that I will not continue it, for God!

Here is another example through which we can better understand his military idea of courage, of selflessness, of sacrifice and of obedience. One day, as I was speaking to him about himself and was complaining on his behalf, he said to me: "It is very simple. One day, I signed a blank cheque in favour of the Good Lord and the good Lord marked it 'sickness'. I have signed – I will not take back my signature."

We must understand: he never asked Our Lord "What price will I pay?" No, nothing like that; he wanted to sign and did sign! "Lord, mark on it whatever You want!"

On the other hand, in the same way that the soldier has not the time nor the possibility of caring for his own wounds, neither did Henry want to consider his own illness. He had only one concern and that was other people – the misery of others, the problems, the difficulties of others. That was what preoccupied him the most. He said to me many times: “If I start to be sorry for myself, well then, I am lost and thus there is only one way of not thinking of oneself and that is to think of others.” Sometimes when I went to see him, we could discuss a little about himself and his health but very quickly the discussion would change and then direct itself towards such a person, such a soul.

That was his centre of interest: all the people he had known or who has asked him to pray for them. He asked for news of such a one or such another. I remember another story to illustrate this courage by which he was penetrated. It was while he had this recurrence of Hodgkin's disease. He was right in the middle of chemotherapy treatment. I was there beside him. Very often a simple presence satisfied him with, from time to time, a little word from one side or the other. Then I saw him shed tears because of his sufferings which were so intense. He said: "It is too much for my nature!” Suddenly he stopped himself and continued by telling me: “But do not upset yourself, I will not collapse. I will continue.” Look how his nature rebelled and called for a little respite. But no matter, he had to continue.

Moreover, he had serious difficulties considering that a great part of his intestines had been removed. Instead of the seven or eight metres which one has normally, he had no more than 80 centimetres. The transit was therefore much faster with all it's consequences: continual gases and diarrhoea. But so what! I remember one fine morning, he had passed a terrible night and I went to see him early to know how things were going. He was seated in his armchair and then he told me in a few words, a little about his night. He stopped himself and said to me: “All those soldiers in Vietnam, they had the diarrhoea and dysentery and God alone knows what else. Well, they continued the battle so I too will continue." Thus he had always some references to some examples of courage, of soldiers' sacrifice, saying once again: "If they were capable of doing that, well, for the glory of God, for the salvation of souls, not only can I do as much but with the grace of God, I must try to do more…"

On the question of obedience, one must admit that he had a certain fear that his Superiors, through his illness, would place him in a seminary. Fear of being isolated in some way, because the apostolate was his life, the gift of self for souls. He was just afraid that in a seminary he would not see any more the people as easily as he had in hospital.

It was his big fear. Nevertheless, he told me: "What does it matter? Just as the soldiers do not choose their place of battle, neither will I choose my place of residence. It does not matter – I will do that which my superiors tell me." However, that did not stop him from suffering interiorly and having that fear. I remember when he had that which is called 'leave of absence' for 24 or 48 hours. He returned to the hospital always with a pang of anguish. Then he would say to me: "Ah well, I return to the barracks, to take up the fight!" When he was ready to go up to the operating theatre, he would say to me "I leave for the front line. Let's see if they will have my skin!" After the operation, one of the first things he would say was: "They did not get me!"

I will not dwell on this soldier's aspect any longer. I want to stop on what is our great interest: the priest.

3. Fr. La Praz – The Priest

Let us now come to the priest.

How, may I say, was his vocation born or at least, when did he receive his first call? This may appear a little paradoxical but the first call he had was in a pub!

I cannot tell you exactly what the date was but it was well before his time in the seminary. He was with a group of pals in a pub. He told me that during that whole evening, they had spoken against priests, against nuns, against Religion and against the Church and he was in the lead. He was one of those who knew most and said the most against the clergy. Strangely enough, after having spat on Religion and its ministers, he left his friends, went out of the pub and just at the exit, he heard very loudly an interior voice: “IT IS YOU WHOM I HAVE CHOSEN." It was really something very clear. Then he had a moment of internal revolt. “No, it is not possible!” The Good Lord awaited him indeed and He awaited him first of all, through His Most Holy Mother.

Soon after, in fact, during a pilgrimage to San Damiano, he found again the grace of prayer which he had, for some time neglected. I would not say that he had lost his faith but he was giving room to doubts and had almost totally abandoned prayer. It was at San Damiano that he received again this grace of prayer.

Another event must be told which I will summarise because it is too long to recount in all its details. It was while both of us went to Rome. There, in Rome, there was another very clear call from God. We had gone with a priest, Fr. Denis Roch, to the tomb of St. Pius X in St. Peter’s and there Fr. Roch celebrated Mass in honour of St. Pius X. Just before the Mass, he said to Henry: “I say this Mass for you. I want you to serve it, and you are going to pray for yourself during this Mass.”

Henry carried this out and it was there, before the tomb of St. Pius X and during the Mass in his honour that he got in a special way confirmation of God’s call, of his vocation.

Following this new call, he started attending in an assiduous way, in a very pious way, the priory of St. Francis de Sales in Geneva. There he attended Mass every day before going to the School of Watchmaking. He took his bicycle and had a good half-hour cycling to assist at his Mass, no matter what the weather was. It really required something very serious for him not to do this.

Later, we made a first retreat together at St. Michel-en-Brenne when it was still an Ignatian Retreat House. On our return, we were both on the train and strangely, there were hardly any words exchanged between the two of us. We were both plunged in the somewhat rare books we had been able to buy right there. We were quite lost in these thoughtful and meditative readings when, after a certain time, I nevertheless wanted to know a little more and I hazarded a question: "So, what about this retreat?" He said to me: "Well then, you know, there are many things which are going to change from now on."

What were these things? He had understood, in a particular way, the call of Christ the King who was calling him for something most perfect. He had the grace to understand deeply the divine call and was decided to give all that the Good Lord had placed as qualities between his hands. He was disposed to put everything to the service of the Lord and for the salvation of souls.

Later he decided, with the grace of God, to enter the seminary but there was still some reluctance on the part of his parents because of his health.

However, since he had been cured in Lourdes after his first attack of Hodgkin's disease, his parents said: "Let us leave it to God! If they accept him at the seminary it will be truly a sign of Providence. The Blessed Virgin does not do miracles by half." There were also numerous reservations on the part of the superiors in the seminary on account of his precarious health. Of course, this hesitation, in itself legitimate, was a great trial for him – for a generous soul who wished to give himself to the Lord. This trial was indeed a good purification. Thanks be to God, the superiors finally decided to accept him.

The first year passed without anything really extraordinary. His second year was spent in Albano where he had the grace of finding himself with a room just across from the Chapel. He only had to leave his room, go through a door and he was in the Chapel. So happy to be in the seminary and in that place, he passed a great part of his nights in prayer. He said that this did not cost him anything – he was happy to be there, silent in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Nevertheless, he was about to undergo a serious testing. It was the eve of December 8th – the date of the seminarians' first commitment in the Priestly Society of St. Pius X: he was tempted seriously not to make his first commitment and even to leave the seminary. But he said to himself: “I must be generous – I must take this first step.” On the 8th of December, he did make it, on the advice of his superiors and above all, that of his spiritual director. Ever since, he told me, he had truly extraordinary peace with a desire of generosity – a total gift for souls had taken hold of him. The thirst had him spend three to four hours of meditation by day in addition to his studies. It was there when he really meditated on that spirit of sacrifice and his desire to give himself, from which came positively that "Todo-Nada – All or Nothing" …to be able to give all for God, nothing for oneself, all for souls. On that subject, here is a little text which I extracted from his notes. He has written at the top of the page: "Todo-Nada." It must have been on the feast day of St. Pius X because it is marked 'St. Pius X' above. He wrote: “From this day forth (that is to say, from the day of the priestly ordination), you will start to follow the way of Calvary which is the only way by which one arrives at Mount Thabor. You will understand then that a priest's life is a life of sacrifice. We unfortunately live in a time when only low esteem, hate and persecution is held for priests but we should rejoice at that because from that will spring precisely that strength which renders pale those who do not know the secret and which will surprise you yourself when you put it to work. That strength takes its source in the willingness of sacrifice kindled in the vision of the Crucifix and that is the priestly imprint. ‘In summafide, summum amor.’”

During the 1985 30 Day Retreat (August 21st) he also wrote: "Lord, deign to accept this poor gift of myself with all my frailty, my imperfections and my weak will. Accept this offering of my body for suffering, contempt, desertion and misunderstanding. Strike this poor person who has offended You so much but who, henceforth, desires to act only for love of You. Receive the gift of my blood to the point of total sacrifice for the redemption of souls, a life of sacrifice, of love. Fiat, Todo, Nada, Deo Gratias. "

It is therefore quite clear that he had this burning desire, of giving himself absolutely to God. However, when one gives something to God, God responds.


Eve of his first major operation.
Feb. 17th, 1982

Fr. La Praz, after his commitment in the Society, had indeed the certainty, by interior locutions, that the Good Lord was not going to leave his generous offering unanswered. How? He did not know yet but, speedily, Providence manifested itself. In fact, a few months later, in January 1982 he was hospitalised urgently at Albano near Rome and there his condition became so serious that they had to transport him urgently by air to Geneva. It was there where he underwent the great majority of his operations. For eight months, lying on his back, as if crucified, not being able to move, hardly able to turn his head, he had to be operated on numerous occasions, even without anaesthetics. One can imagine the pain caused by the bed sores, the humiliation and difficulties which that would represent.

A very special fact is to be remarked here, which I would say perhaps, was the centre of his life and the mainspring of all his acceptance of his sufferings, through which the Good Lord really responded to his generosity.

The event took place between Holy Thursday and Good Friday of the year 1982. He had undergone many operations up to the day of Holy Thursday, when the situation was seriously aggravated. On that Holy Thursday, it must be said that, that night, Fr. Roch – said to Madame La Praz: “Listen, I must still celebrate my Mass. I will celebrate it for Henry, asking Him that he be taken or very simply be kept. We have had almost the certainty that he should die as a priest, and he is now only a seminarian.”

I still see his mother, who was in the inner courtyard of St. Joseph's Oratory (Geneva) when I heard her say: "Now it is finished – these are his last moments." We had just had the telephone call from the doctors announcing that it was very serious and it was imperative to come rapidly.

When his parents arrived, he was practically dead. His face had turned purple, unconscious, he was being hurriedly carried to the re-animation services. It took four hours to make him come back to life; the heart was stimulated as well as the respiration. "It is not acharnement, it is in conscience the saving of the life of my patient", is basically what the doctor said. Of course, Archbishop Lefebvre had been informed and he had come as quickly as possible. On Good Friday, the Archbishop entered the seminarian's room. At that very moment, Henry recovered his spirits. He himself has left a written testimony of this.

What then took place during this apparent death? I will simply tell you what he told me. He had always refused to put it in writing, but finally did so when he was in the Intensive Care Unit in Lausanne’s Hospital, on January 19th, 1993.


Ordination to the sub-diaconate in Econe, May 7th, 1986

At that moment, the Good Lord had given him a very special, extraordinary grace. He had seen, in fact, two burials – his own two burials. That seems paradoxical but you will understand later. He saw in St. Joseph’s Oratory, Geneva, his body exposed and all the people who came to pay their respects. He also saw the Seminary of Ecône, with its vault and calvary, which, at the time his apparent death happened, did not yet exist. He was there beside it. Suddenly, the Cross of the Calvary became luminous and brilliant like the sun. From Our Lord Jesus Christ's side, the side of the lance, where He had been pierced, there gushed forth the body of Fr. La Praz. At the same time, he heard a piercing cry: “Sitio ! – I thirst! " He told me that at the moment he had had this intellectual vision, he had been completely inflamed. “it was as if a red hot poker had been plunged into my stomach.” He had this certainty, that the Good Lord was calling him to suffer in reparation for the whole crisis in the Church, for the Society and for souls. At that moment, his mission was decided and he knew it.

He was suffering terribly in his body, but deep within his soul, he was marked profoundly. It was at the moment he woke up that he saw Archbishop Lefebvre enter his room.

Regarding the vision of his two burials, it was only after his death that I understood. He actually died in Geneva, and since he was originally from this city and had become priest after having formerly been a parishioner of St. Joseph’s Oratory, the faithful had expressed the desire to be able to render their respect for some time to his remains, before seeing him leaving for Ecône where his funeral was to take place according to his own wish and to the permission, which, in his last days, he had asked for and received from the seminary Rector. This then explains the vision of his burial.

All these things which, in his life had appeared to us unbelievable, incomprehensible, were now made clear under that luminous explanation.

What then was this special mission committed to him by the Good Lord?

This special mission would be unfolded so that we can see very well now what the Good Lord was asking of him. If there had been things which appeared to us unbelievable, incomprehensible, under that light, we understood a bit better.

How was it unfolded? Firstly, through those various operations without anaesthetics. He told me that when he was to get up on to the operating table, knowing very well what was going to happen to him, he said to the Lord: “Lord, here is your victim and the operating table is my altar” and he would get up on the operating table reciting the prayers at the foot of the altar: “Introibo ad altare Dei.

His time in the seminary was passed as well as could be expected, with numerous visits to the doctors, to the hospitals, with their urgencies caused by an intestinal blockage, by kidney stones etc. etc. However this is not the place to list his health problems.

Just before his ordination, the Superiors had hesitated over his ordination by saying: "Will he be able to carry out a ministry? " It was a real case of conscience. Then the Superior of the seminary went to see a doctor in Martigny, Dr. Petite and this doctor told him: “Listen, Father, if you really want to ordain him, it is now or never because he has very little chance of living a long time. It is even thought that he will die this year.” That was in 1986.


Priestly ordination in Econe, June 27th, 1986

The Superior then took the decision of ordaining him, that is how he received the priesthood on June 27th, 1986 on the Feast day of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour – a Friday. The ordination went very well, even ‘though it had been a physical trial for him but it was accompanied by a joy which, I believe, we will only understand in Heaven. His first appointment was to Sierre, to the priory of the Sacred Heart.

At the start of his appointment to Sierre, he suffered enormously from kidney stones. He told me: “I have the possibility of making a rosary beads with all the stones I have.!” One day, when he was bedridden and suffering because of these stones, we talked about the priory, during which we spoke of a person whom we had an ardent desire to see come to Mass. We had tried many times to discuss it with that person but without success. We knew that if she decided to come to the Mass, she would bring all her family. During my conservation with Father, we started to talk a little about his health and I began to bewail a bit about his lot. He then reprimanded me very severely by saying: “Listen I give my sufferings to nobody; I forbid you to speak like that because I know that by my prayers, by my sufferings, I can save some souls.” I kept silent and the discussion was continued on another subject and finished very quickly afterwards.

I went to go bed myself and I said to him: “Should there be anything whatsoever during the night, do not hesitate to wake me up.” The following morning I awoke quietly around 6 o'clock. I had not been called. I said to myself: "Good, all has gone well. The first thing I will do, I will go to his room and see. " He was seated very calmly in a armchair and I said:

“So, did you have a good night?”

“Well, a little more and you would not have found me.”

“What happened?”

“Last night I went to the hospital in Sierre and asked them to give me an injection. They wanted to keep me but I explained to them that, since today was Sunday, I had to say my Mass. I asked them to let me go and here I am!”

But you could have called me and I would have brought you. It was quite unwise.”

No, you need your sleep and you see, all went well.”

That very day I had to say the Mass at l0 o'clock and during the sermon, who should I see at the Mass but the person of whom we had spoken the evening before. Since that day, that person comes regularly and now all her family practises. Mystery of grace, mystery of suffering, graces which are obtained only through suffering.

Later on, he had a relapse into Hodgkin's disease and before he left for the hospital, we talked together and I asked him: “Well, what do you think of this illness – of this relapse? He replied: “It is clear that I will get over it!” He had had several interior locutions making him understand that he was once more to suffer much but he knew in advance that he would get over it. He added: "There are times when one must learn to accept. That is the most difficult thing.”

From that time onward, three words became most important for the rest of his life: "To accept, to offer and to thank.” To accept the will of the Good Lord, which we do not always understand with our meagre vision; to offer for the salvation of souls; and to thank the Good Lord for all the graces which He gives to all souls and to us.


First Mass at St. Joseph's Oratory, Geneva June 29th, 1986

I recall another small occurrence; he was in a home for terminal cancer patients. He was recovering from his chemotherapy and suddenly he began to have absolutely terrible headaches: it was a bacterial meningitis. The doctors decided to transfer him to the Lausanne University Training Hospital. The nurse in charge of the transfer told me about the following occurrence: she had started to pack all his things and once they were ready, she had wanted to place Fr. La Praz on a stretcher to put him in the ambulance. The movements that he had to make tore from him a cry, the pain was so acute. It was really a cry from his nature, followed immediately by a cry from his priestly soul: “Lord, more, for souls!” Moved by this reaction the nurse replied: “Do you not think that you are suffering enough?” For an answer she heard: “More, Lord, for souls!”

When I had a chance of visiting him there, we spoke of different things and I would try to make him speak a little about his health, He would evade that very quickly in order to speak of supernatural things, to speak of souls. He would say: “When one knows the price of a soul! Well, the price is the Blood of Jesus Christ.

Read also what he had written during the 30 Day Retreat: “Lord, all these blows, You desire them, You love them for the value of our Redemption, what a cost! Give me the courage to remain faithful to my resolutions of penance, that I love my instruments, as You loved those of Your torture, embracing the Cross and the humiliations for me, as I do for You. O Blessed Mother, you suffered a real martyrdom in your Heart. Give me the sentiments of your Immaculate Heart whose every beat corresponds to the sufferings of Jesus and to the blows of the torturers. Judas, Malchus, Caiphas, Herod, Pilate, all could have converted at the sight of Jesus and could have died martyrs with Him. We would have so many more Saints in Heaven but alas like them, millions of souls do not want to open their eyes and to profit from the love and the mercy of God. They will know only His infinite Justice.”

He had concern for souls because he knew the price of these souls, namely the Blood of Christ and he therefore wished in his turn, as a priest, to unite himself to the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He always asked me these questions “How is such a seminarian? How is such a priest? Such a parishioner?” Out of concern for souls, he had transformed his milieu, his life by saying: “My bedroom is my chapel, my bed is my altar!”

Nevertheless, in spite of what one may think, his physical sufferings were not the greatest sufferings for him. “The greatest suffering is not to be able to offer my Mass. What a sorrow, my Mass!” he was weeping. I would reply to him: “But your Mass you are offering it in your bed!”  He answered: “Yes, it is true, but it is not the same victim, it does not have same value.”           

He did undergo as well these ‘black holes’ of which Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus spoke and which she experienced.

He would tell me at certain times he could no longer pray – to say a simple Hail Mary was even too much for him – he could not. Then one occasion, a decade of the rosary was recited at his bedside and he united himself to these prayers as well as he could. One day, I put this question to him: “Despite everything, can you still manage to meditate?” He replied: “Yes, yes, a little” And I said: “But on what do you meditate?” He replied: “Oh, very simple words, the words of St. Madeleine of Pazzi, that Saint who at first could not support suffering and who at the end of her life, with her spiritual growth, could say – ‘Lord, make me suffer but not die.’” This is a word he often meditated: “To suffer but not to die.” In the difficult moments, it sufficed to whisper to him this word of Our Lord Jesus Christ: “Sitio – I thirst!” Then his face would light up in silence. He would recall the great day when God had called him to the big sacrifice.

One day, he asked me the following question: “If I die, what sermon are you going to give?" I said: “Oh, I have some ideas but…” “Listen”, he said, " if one day you want to say something, it will be enough to take the Second Epistle to the Corinthians.” He showed me the exact passage and explained it to me. Actually, when one reads it, it is rather a resume of his life. He said: “If you want to understand my life, read this Second Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter XI, verses 23-33 and chapter XI, verses 1-10.”

Here are some passages from it, with a few commentaries which are not my own but those of Father La Praz:

“I speak as one less wise – I am more; in many more labours, in prisons more frequently, in stripes above measure.” (XI, 23) Imprisonment, yes, how many times had he been imprisoned in such and such a hospital, he had said to me: “Oh, when I see all the work there is to be done and I am there shut away in hospital!”

"In deaths often" (v. 23) Ah, how much time he spent in intensive care. He saw them dying on his left, on his right, I do not know how many!

“From the Jews five times did I receive forty stripes save one.” (v.24) There also, if one could have seen his poor body it was truly lacerated with the many traces of scalpel cuts; something so upsetting! All those injections received, the ones which were botched and which had to be redone because the veins had collapsed causing a haematoma ! Once he even had suddenly an arm practically paralysed, so badly was he injected. But at each of these painful blows he would say: “That injection is for that seminarian, that suffering is for that priest… !”

“Thrice”, St. Paul continues, “was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the depths of the sea.” (v.25) Here, he stopped me. “I too spent a night in the depth. I was dead, apparently perhaps, but clinically I was dead!”

With his Grace Archbishop Lefebvre and Father Koller,
in Sierre (1986)

“In journeying often, in perils from rivers, perils from robbers, perils from my own nation, perils from the heathen, perils in the cities, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, perils from false brethren.” (v.26) Yes, from false brethren! How many kinds of betrayal had he not suffered! From all those who left the Society and who threw themselves into the arms of those actually destroying the Church. How much he suffered for those souls. At times, he had very painful days and when I would go and see him in the evening, I would give him some news – sometimes unfortunately not joyful, he would say: “Ah well, now I know why I have suffered like that today.”

“In labour and in painfulness, in much watching” (v.27). The many wakeful nights without sleep were beyond counting.

“In hunger and in thirst.” (v. 27) My God, the ordeal of thirst! Sometimes he had not permission to drink a single drop of water, it was then necessary to moisten just the tip of a finger and pass the damp finger over his lips so that he could be refreshed a little, or to pass a damp cloth over his face. He had not the right to drink.

“In cold…” (v.27) How many times was he cold, had he shivered and saw his temperature go well below the normal temperature.

“Nakedness…” (v.27) "I have suffered it all," St Paul is saying. I believe that this poor Father La Praz missed none of these sufferings.

“Besides those things which are without; my daily instance, the solicitude for all the Churches! "(v.28) If there has been a priest who was concerned for all his confreres, for all those priories, for all those souls, for all those modernist priests, for all these priests who have renounced their vows, for those families whom he had loved so much, whom he tried to console or to guide in one way or another it was really him. When he could no longer act or speak, then he offered his sufferings for all those souls.

“Who is weak and I am not weak? Who is scandalised and I am not on fire?” (v.29) How many times did we see him consumed by the cowardice and, unfortunately, the frailty of some. He had that priestly, fatherly, brotherly concern…

“If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things that concern my infirmity! The God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ who is blessed for ever knoweth that I lie not!” (vv.30-31)

Then, in chapter XII, verses 1 to 10: “If I must glory (it is not expedient indeed) but I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.” (v.1) 

Yes, Father had received many visions and revelations, he had written about some of them while he was in intensive care last January, when because of a bacterial meningitis he was really on the brink of death. Completely exhausted, he had been unable for many months to hold a pen. However on January 19th, 1993 he had felt urged to consign in writing – what he had always refused to do – the extraordinary graces received from the good Lord. “You definitely must write.” He therefore had taken his pen and obeyed. Strangely enough after having written down these graces, he remained, until his death unable to write anything whatsoever. He put this letter in an envelope, passed it on to safe hands three days later with a unique condition attached to it: to be opened only after his return to God. In particular, that event on the subject of his apparent death and also the various revelations which he had had, mainly on his priestly vocation.


In the company of his Lordship Bishop Bernard Fellay, at the Carmel Marie-Reine des Anges in Chexbres (1988)

I will not continue St. Paul’s epistle – it is for us to read it, to meditate on it. There would still be many things to say and for this first occasion, I think I have given you some traits which will help you to know Fr. Henry La Praz a little better – not only that but that you may pray for him and follow his example. This example should draw us towards a life more perfect, holier, whatever Our state may be. Whether we are in the religious state or laymen, I think that such a life should draw us towards a much greater desire to love God, by learning that the Good Lord is always more generous than any of us can imagine because if we give a lot, then God gives infinitely more. Our dear Fr. La Praz had understood that; he had given all that he could and the Good Lord recompensed him already here below indeed in a way  which is not according to our ways.

It is certain – and we have had the proof many times -that through his intercession and through his prayers, he had been able to obtain many graces from God. How many times have we seen souls which were human wrecks, recover in a mysterious and almost miraculous way. How many souls were comforted, touched just by his delicacy of soul and also by the gift of himself for them when they were lost. When it seemed that there was nothing further to be done, that there was no more hope. How many souls, yet unknown, have doubtless become the beneficiaries of graces won from God by his suffering. We shall see it in heaven.

Now, let us pray for our dear Father, as I am persuaded that he will pray for us. Let us not hesitate to follow him, not only in his prayers but also in his sacrifice.

This text is taken from a French lecture by Fr. Michel Koller
entitled "The Life of Father La Praz ", Tradiffusion,
Champ-Francey 28, CH-1630 Bulle, Switzerland.

Chapter 1

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