Todo - Nada

Chapter 3

A Priest's Mother's diary


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.


Wednesday 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 room)

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 end.”

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.


February 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 under control.


February 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 (…)


February 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.”


February 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.


February 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.”


February 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.


March 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.”


Tuesday 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.”


Friday 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.


Monday 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.”


Friday 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.”


Wednesday March 17th.

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!”


Thursday 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.


Saturday 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.


Tuesday 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. "


Thursday 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.


Monday 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.


Tuesday 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 Henry.

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.


Wednesday 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. "


Holy 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. Impossible complication.

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.


Good 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 of everyone.


Chapter 2

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