The following pages are
an excerpt from Madame La Praz's diary for the year 1982. They vividly
depict the calvary of a son and his parents but more particularly
of his mother's. More than anything else they are a poignant testimony
of the victory of faith and charity in the midst of calvary.
February 17th, 1982. Father Maillard came
to the house to take me by car at 9.45 a.m. to accompany him in
bringing Extreme Unction to Henry. Through thoughtfulness on his
part, he brings two Hosts so that I can receive Communion after
Henry. In fact, Henry could absorb only a tiny particle and
I received the divided Host – Deo gratias. By 10 o'clock, Henry
had anticipated everything and the room had but the one invalid,
all the others having gone for a walk. We had calm and silence for:
1) The Asperges
2) Confession (I left the
3) Holy Communion
4) Extreme Unction
After the Extreme Unction,
we asked him to give back the relics of St. Therese because He was
no longer able to look after them. Henry murmured: “My God, this
too, already” and gave them to us but his expression broke the
priest's heart and mine. We knew now that this was the 'stripping'
before the Passion and that we were leaving him completely alone
with Jesus. We recited the Rosary, in leaving him, to recover ourselves.
Just before, the nurse came
to give him an injection. He thanked her: “Thanks very much,
mademoiselle.” Henry was ready spiritually. He was going to
prepare himself now by painful stomach and intestinal washes for
tomorrow's big operation. When he found out the date of the operation,
he said: “It is very fortunate because my patience is at its
The stomach washes began
right away, the seminarians coming from Ecône (the printing team)
were to find him in this condition…always peaceful. There were 161itres
of liquid ready. In the afternoon, the intestinal washes take place.
(They can pass up to 28 litres.) This washing of the intestines
by itself lasts – in principle – 3 hours.
18th, 1982. Papa telephones (from the bank)
at 6 p.m. to give me some news. Henry is in the surgical 'Intensive
Care.' Very, very big operation. Enormous loss of blood during
the operation. Very low tension. Internal haemorrhage. They
will have to re-operate if they can't stop it. Everything is
the consequence of the radiotherapy 7 years ago which has damaged
all the intestines.
Henry is perfectly lucid
in his mind. Telephone again tonight at 11 p.m.
11 p.m. The haemorrhage is
19th.10.45 a.m. Maman in the ‘Intensive Care
Unit’ to see Henry two minutes or at least to make him kiss the
relics of St. Therese.
I do not ask to enter. I
see the doctor. “Madame, I don't have good news to tell you.
All the intestines are full of little wounds which bleed (consequences
of the rays that burnt them). Perhaps it will require a new intervention?
We can do nothing more than what we are actually doing.”
“Doctor, I don't know
if you have Faith?”
“Yes, Madame, I do have
the Faith. Why?”
“Then, since there remains
only faith, his own and mine, which can achieve something, will
you have him kiss this?” (and I give him the relics of St.
Therese wrapped in some tissue ).
“May I ask what is this?”
“Relics of St. Therese
of the Child Jesus.”
“I will go right away,
Madame, you can count on me.”
“May I ask you too to
give them back to me right after, he is not in a condition to
watch over them.”
“Of course, I will bring
them back immediately.”
When I am allowed to enter
in my turn, for one minute near Henry, (while I had not asked for
it!), I place them on his hair and on his forehead. I caress his
forehead with the relics while praying: “St. Therese, intercede
for him!” At 6 p.m. Papa sees him with his oxygen mask. He is
very tired. Papa does not know if he recognised him. He places the
relics in his hand for a few moments but without any reactions.
His pulse, which last night was 113, today at noon 134, is 147 tonight.
He does not look well…as 7 years ago and Papa judges him very ill.
(Papa has always seen right for his children.) Papa blesses him,
passes the relics of St. Therese on the wound and comes back home,
calm (with the relics) but without a bad impression.
The operation was so long
because the surgeon found the intestines forming a block of concrete
23rd. For the 1st time, Henry has
asked the question: “What did they do to me precisely?” Henry
complains a lot of his kidneys to his Papa.
We believe we are dealing
with one of Our Lord's privileged souls. To these superhuman pains,
without any complaints, the divine strength corresponds, inexplicably.
Similarly in that which concerns his perfect lucidity immediately
on awakening after the anaesthetic – and that every time.
“Lord, Thy will be done
and may he never lack Thy grace.”
24th. Ash Wednesday. 3 p.m. I give Henry the
relics into his hand. Giving them to him to kiss beforehand. Father
Maret puts the ashes on him. We pray to St. Joseph, then he anoints
his chest and his forehead with the oil of St. Joseph.
Litany of St. Joseph. Memorare
to the Blessed Virgin.
26th. I make an act of Faith by bringing to
the hospital clean pyjamas, clean clothes and his sleeveless pullover.
The nurse tells us – “There is no hurry…he will not put them
on for a while.”
27th. He showed us 'six' operations with his
fingers. I asked him if he had managed to offer up his sufferings
and he replied to me: “It is very hard.” I made him kiss
the relics and we placed them on his stomach. He stopped breathing
for a while, at least for a period of 5 or 6 breaths.
We saw Dr. Huber who explained
the operation to us – the stomach remains open, cleansing every
second day…the next on Sunday. Gerard does not know whether he still
wants to struggle. He is very, very tired. He was cold and
we finally got them to put a sheet over him.
lst. In the morning post, a very beautiful
letter from His Grace which gives us a deep, profound joy.
We finish the Novena to Our
Lady of Gray. We start one to St. Pius X and to St. Therese
of the Child Jesus. We are also beginning the Month of St. Joseph.
The big candle which burns in the dining room is nearly finished.
We are, both together, this evening very distraught.
“Lord, what is Thy Will?
Do not delay further! A real suffering endured with Faith and lucidity
is reassuring but what is one to think of sufferings under the knockout
of morphia and valium? We distort Thy gifts, Lord. Lord have pity
on him, have pity on us.”
March 2nd. “If we
are not answered, Lord, it is that something, in our prayer
or in us, does not please Thee, Lord. We have not the Faith of the
centurion, it was presumption on our part. We have perhaps the Faith
of Jairus. Lord, hear us according to our hopes in Thee. Lord, change
us, make us like unto what Thou would want us to be. Remove from
us all that prevents us from being completely Thine. Do unto us
whatever Thou wilt should be done.”
“In fact, Lord, Thou
has prepared us with Thy tenderness all the time, for the separation.
Thou knowest that our hearts are ready, fashioned by Thee for
the last month, with the help of all the prayers here below ...and
all those in Heaven. Lord, all we desire is Thy Will here below
and in Heaven.”
“Forgive us, Lord, for
being jealous of the doctors – they who have his moments of perfect
lucidity in the morning while we, his parents, Thou allowest us
to have only his human aspect. Change me.”
March 3rd. To be a broken-down machine in
a repair shop at 23 years of age while one has a heart, a mind,
an interior life. To use one's willpower to come out of an anaesthetic
while one is exhausted, to confront with serenity another operation
the next day or the day after that.
March 8th. Message from Mother Marie Christians.
“Novena after Novena is made that the Will of the Good God shall
be done and that peaceful submission to the Good God be in all hearts.”
March 12th. He is tired,
told me to put my hand in his and to stay thus praying in silence.
I said to him: “But can you pray also?” “Yes.” I recite
Hail Marys and invocations without any other interior thoughts except:
“Give him strength, give him courage.” He actually explained
to me – “They do not completely anaesthetise me, only locally,
by an injection, which does not anaesthetise completely the wound
nor its core. This means that it is really painful. I dread this
operation. He had already said this to Gerard.
“If death and suffering
were left to my own choosing, I would not be sufficiently generous
to embrace them for Thy love but at least in the vital inevitability
in which I am, to suffer and to die, I will be faithful and grateful
enough not to suffer and to die except for Thee, to unite myself
to Thee, to imitate Thee.”
6.30 p.m. Gerard finds that
Henry is not too well. He is covered with sweat. He is in a delirium.
Papa remembers Dr. Huber’s words: “When I opened Henry's stomach,
on February 26th in the evening, I closed my eyes at the horrible
sight. Had Henry been 70 years old, I would have closed back
immediately and it would have been death. As he was so young, I
attempted the only chance of survival, but it is so minimal!”
March 18th. 1982. At
8.30 a.m. I telephoned Father Maillard. He has no car .He asked
me to pass by the priory and to pick him up and we fly to Henry.
Henry is tired but he recognises us. He asks Father to hear his
Confession and I go out very quietly. When I return, I kiss him,
I feel sure that he recognises me.
Father exhorts him, makes
us recite Ave Marias for the Souls in Purgatory, the nurses, the
parish, the sick. Henry told him that he suffers much and Father
explained to me that on the vigil of big Feast Days, his sufferings
are greater. He tells him to offer them up. We could see that he
suffered because in order to pray, he took up a rather rigid posture.
I telephone Papa not to come
to lunch. I told him that Father Maillard's innermost conviction
is that the Blessed Virgin wants Henry to be her own priest and
she is keeping him for herself and that he will be a priest. It
is comforting, in the darkest hour of suffering, to hear calmly
such an assertion.
March 20th. Henry recognises us. He says to
Papa: " You must ask all those whom you see to continue
to pray, tell them to pray. " The two of us pray without
a sound and during this time the relics are on him. We give them
to him to kiss. Papa blesses him as he does each visit and as he
shuts his eyes, we leave.
"It is a question
of prayer, we must pray well, we must pray much. " I tell
everyone, believers or unbelievers, that this is Henry's message.
March 31st. 5.00 p.m.
Papa telephones Dr. Huber, he finds the intestines less infected.
Henry is in good spirits and his general state improves. "
I do all that I can, Henry must do all that he can. "
Gerard answers: "You are doing all that you can, Henry is
doing all that he can, we are doing all that we can and the Good
God crowns it all. "
6.30 p.m. Papa sees Dr. Huber
who says: "That makes 34 days in which I have attended
Henry. The stitches have given away after 6 days this time.
It was necessary to start again. "
1st April. Henry goes to the operating theatre
at 2 p.m.
4.30 p.m. Henry has his eyes
open. He greets me by saying: "You have already been here
and I was not there, forgive me. "Poor Henry who excuses
himself! Afterwards he turns himself completely on his right side
".so as to be able to talk with you ". He asks
me indeed a question and then another. He is worried about books
I am reading at present. I tell him that Papa had given me the Lithurgical
Psalter ; it is a very enriching discovery for me.
He is content, I put him
back on his back, making me wonder how moments of suffering he must
have had in that position must have pulled on all his wounds. But
I know that he takes the suffering with open arms to offer it up
and I want him to the full merit in the Heart of Our Lord.
April 5th. He has much fever: 40 degrees.
He has been given a blood transfusion. Henry complains of pains
in his chest. He shows the right side.
5.30 p.m. The doctors come
to carry out a pulmonary liquid -tapping. He has pleurisy again.
He suffers again, one by one, all the post operative complications
which occurred after his first operation. Henry has no more strength.
He is still very distressed.
April 6th. 1.30 p.m.
Visit. I was able to tell Henry that His Grace is coming this evening.
He is glad.
4.00 p.m. Archbishop Lefebvre
comes with the simplicity and the goodness which is characteristic
of him. He says very simple words, to offer up the suffering, to
put himself completely into the Hands of God, .whether to be cured,
whether to rejoin him.
And Henry answers him: "
Like the Blessed Virgin, she is our model. "
Henry asks for a special
blessing. His Grace gives it to him. We recite a Hail Mary .Then
the Angelus. His Grace, not having said his Mass as yet, tells us
that he is going to say it in the Oratory for Henry and we will
thus be able to assist at his Mass and receive Holy Communion for
I do not know whether it
was His Grace or Father Roch who asked Henry's permission for Papa
and Maman to leave him to assist at His Grace' s Mass. Henry prefers
that we should assist at it rather than to keep us with him.
April 7th. 6.30 p.m. Papa sees Dr. Huber.
Henry has water around his heart, that does not seem to be too serious.
Pericardium inflammation. (Every organ bathes in a liquid, like
a substance in oil. If water penetrates into this liquid, it makes
the liquid corrosive and creates inflammatory pains, or additional
pains for Henry who still never complains.)
The doctor told Papa: "To
say that he has had so much suffering, because while he had his
legs swollen, he must have suffered enormously. He will have suffered
all over and just at the moment, from my point of view as surgeon,
things were getting better, I am going to fail because other problems
are seriously worrying me. " Papa heard him say on the
telephone: " I will move Heaven and earth. I will move all
this hospital but he must be saved. "
Thursday April 8th. Visit
1.00 p.m. I could not see Henry immediately because a physiotherapist
was trying to make him breathe. She came out suddenly from the room,
called a nurse who then called another. The doctor and the surgeon
were called on their calling system, all arrived running, attending
Henry to finally carry him in his bed to the Intensive Care Unit.
I saw Henry, his face purple, unconscious, half sitting up, a broken
-marionette. Henry was asphyxiated at this morning's operation.
Up to 4.00 p.m. I knew nothing
of what was happening. I waited in prayer. In the meantime, I telephoned
the priory so that a priest would come and give Henry absolution
as I felt he was lost.
Father Maret emerged from
the unit shaken by having seen Henry in a terrible state. With Father
Maret, we said the prayers for the dying in the entrance hall to
the Intensive Care Unit.
Visit 5.00 p.m. Henry is
in the Intensive Care Unit. His lungs were full of carbonic gas.
To add pneumonia to the other complications already existing and
not stabilised, (kidneys being under dialysis; necessity of cardiovascular
-ventilatory support). One alone of these complications would suffice
to cause any other invalid to die. Telephone at 12.45 a.m. to Intensive
Care. Henry's breathing improving.
Friday April 9th. Visit 10.15 a.m. Henry is
very well this morning.
I am astounded that he could
be so well today and I have two good witnesses, whereas yesterday
he was practically dead and Father Maret was the unhappy witness
of that. One sees that he suffers, one knows it because each of
the complications brings about its own amount of sharp pain (pleura,
the lungs, the heart.) And Henry gives everyone a smile, his
smile of welcome, of gratitude, of goodness. It is the report
which every visitor makes himself.
Behind each suffering, the
strength of God obtained by his interior life and by the prayers