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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
“Well, a little more
and you would not have found me.”
“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
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
“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
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.
"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
is taken from a French lecture by Fr. Michel Koller
Life of Father La Praz ", Tradiffusion,
28, CH-1630 Bulle, Switzerland.