Fr. Byman Part 3
Which country would it be where I could have the blessing to become a priest? I had heard of a French priest, the abbe Vorage from Paris, who had come to Holland, a country so rich in vocations, where , to become a priest, one had to be physically and spiritually, in the best conditions, and he had told through the Catholic Radio, that France had 14,000 parishes without pastors. These were only small parishes, each one of them with 200 to 1000 inhabitants. Later I should know a priest who had some ten of them alone for him, each one with a church but formerly each one with a pastor. there was a real lack of priests. The revolution of 1789 had changed the mentality of this once so deeply Catholic people.
Since then, some young Durchmen had begun to become priests in France. Now I was home and out of prudence I would not do some hard work, but I had heard of a new language, called a world-language, invented by a Polich doctor, which was winning popularity in West-Europe. It consisted of 3000 stemwords, formed from the most known European languages and from these stems one could form almost amy other word. I began to study to study it and obtained in three months a diploma for knowledge, one month later I obtained a diploma to become a teacher and began to teach it in several spots. So I won a little money, that I gave to my mother for my pension.. It was also popular in Japan that gave it the preference to English and corresponded with a Japanese young man; we could understand us perfectly in this language. When five years later the WWII broke out, I was in France and I lost all contact with my pupils, but last year two of them had foumd my direction, a young man and a lady, both of about 80 years, and wrote me a letter. Both were widowed and hoped to have and answer in Esperanto but I had this totally forgotten. I cane to visit one of then at my last visit to Holland and scandalized them, talking to them only if Dutch. They had remained faithful to my instruction, but the war had destroyed the way it had taken. First Russia: Communism for vad it as being dangerous and helpful for espionnage and then Nazi-Germany for the same reason; they persecuted the Esperantosts; the invertor, Dr. Zamenhof, died in a cincentration camp, as I learned.
Now almost two years had passed. But little by little I decided to go to Lourdes and to find underway a seminary that would accept me. Thusnot by train; I had not the money for it, but in bicycle. I had an old one but for such a trip I needed one that could last a long time. I had a reat friend who was clever and generous, who had a bicycly shop. Being always cheap, he had therefore easily everyone as a client. He sold me what he had as the best and ordered for me extra strong doubly-worstedtires of which one, that of the frint wheel, would come home, although completely used after a trip of almont 10,000 kilometers. I would never had thought of this.
My mother was the only who was anxious, like a food mother who loves her children, but I had my plan and would not give it up. the day had come and early in the morning I stood up and prepared me for my departure. My parents were still sleeping and I went to their bed to make my farewell. My mother made a last effort to hold me home; it eas in vain. I asked their blessing and went outsice. The whole city was still sleeping. To go to Lourdes was straight on to the South. I stopped only when I saw a church open where the Holy Mass was celebrated and entered to receive the Holy Communion. The West Eind is always strong in Holland, but I was fresh and in the afternoonand in the afternoon I passed the kilometer-long bridge over the Rhine, the big river that comes from Germany and flows not far from here into the North Sea.
In the evening I reached Bergen op Zoom where is the seminary, where I finished my preparatory study for the pristhood. They were all amazed to see me coming on bicycle from a little more than 200 kilometer on my trip to Lourds. He thought that I should be found dead on my way, somewhere on my road and them seeing me back ALIVE AND FULL OF HEALTH.
The following morning I continued my trip and passed the Belgian border. Here I stopped at one of the many convents in this country. It belonged to the Jesuit fathers and I showed them the letter of recommendation,--- given by my pastor and written in French. Here I net also a spamish priest, who had fled the country during the short revolution that had dethroned the king and made it a replublic. I talked with him also about my intention to go to Fatima, about which I was thinking but never had spoken to anyone. Here-fore I had to pass through Spain and therefore he wrote me too a letter of tecommendation in Spanish, which would be of a great help for me. Belgium is a little smaller than Holland; so it cane that I reached the same day the border of France and after about 100 miles I reached a small city called Arras. that I had passed quickly. I would stop at Amiens. that is about 60 km farther and I was on the street that is called Rue d'Amiens and saw on my left a big building of which the gte was open. It seemed to be a chapel and I would stop a moment to make a little prayer. But entering through the gate, I was greeted in Dutch. It was a former seminarist who had inown me in Holland. I was in the seminary of the diocese of Arras. How providential this was. It was a Thursday, the weekly day that the seminarists had their free day and walked every week to the country seat, about seven km far, regardless of the weather and this was just the moment that they were returning home. Here were also other Dutch seminarists. They want to the Superior to talk of me, a so good man who would fill his seminary with Dutch-men and wrote down my name for the following. Scarcely in France I had reached my first purpose. How wonderful is God's Providence!
I was moreover in one of the best dioceses of the country. North of it is the diocese of Lille, wherein his grace Mgr. Lefebvre was botn, of whose family I should hear about later. I passed here the night and the following morning I continued my journey to Lourdes. About a week later I arrived there.
The roads in France were the best of all the countries I visited; they were all asphalt-paved. Italy had only two asphalt roads; from the north to the south on both coasts. Spain and Portugal had mostly bad roads, Portugal had even some sandways where over it was hard to pass on bicycle.
A few kilometers before arriving at Lourds is a much older pilgrimage, now almost forgotten, I knew about and passing here I saw on the street its miraculous warer and storred to drink it. One of the villagers saw it and mocked me, but I did as if I heard nothing. All the people in France was Catholic and almost every one baptized, but most of them lived like pagans; only a small part of them live as good Catholics and many of these live as saints. So is France. The others are only Catholics when the hour of death has come to receive the last sacraments. Now I passed along the Gave, a small river on its road to the North Sea and Lourdes was near. From far the grotto is visiboe on the other side of the Gave with the multitudes who come here to pray to the most Holy Virgin. How impressionant! A kilometer farer is a bridge that one passes to come to the city. Now I had to be prudent. Every where the streets are full of people. Furst I went to the grotto th thand the Holy Nother for the good trip; here reigned and inpressive silence; all the [eople were praying. Before readhing the grotto, O saw on the one side a row of faucets where people came to drink the miraculous water or to fill bottles to take with them befor going home. How many miracles may here have taken place, besides the thousands others who are known. I was once a witness of three of them from a pilgrimage that had to return the following day: a tuberculate lady and snother sho had been lame and a boy who was going limping because one of hos legs was curved. I saw them together. after the procession with the Holy Sacrament. when most of the miracles happen. They were suddenly healed but the boy was always hobbling as of custom, but his leg was normal. In Loutdes there are some of the most famous physicians of the world, some of them without any religion who have come to examine the miracles, to declare that thay are true miracles, ofren against their own conscience.
But how to find here a place to sleep? The night was coming ond all the hotels were occupied; for I would stay here some three days. One of the owners promissed me a room for the following days and offered me to take the meals for free bit the first night, where to sleep? Late in the evening, I found a building, open the whole night that was in function for the water or for the electricity and I saw here a man and asked him if I might sleep here. He was nice and consented. In spite of the noise of always turning machines, I passed here a good night.
I passed here three happu days. Every one who comes to Lourdes returns home as a better Christian, except one case. I would later have a parishoner, a man who went to Lourdes on a pilgrimage of soldiers of the IIWW. He bragged that he went only to Lourdes to meet his former companions during the war. Poor soul! Where may she be now? He came back from Lourds not changed at all.
After having been here three days I felt rested and now first to Spain, that was near. But today, Lourdes is not more what it eas before. I have been there some twenty times; now when I come there, much makes me angry; all had changed. There isno more silence in the most holu place where the Holy Virgin appesred 18 times and where os noe her statue. From all the sides you can hear talking and even laughing. I saw even once, a cheerful nun taking picrutes of a group sitting before the sacred image of the most Holy Virgin. To pray to her has become difficult. Today many people come there badly dressed. I talked once with the policeman, appointed by the diocese to watch over the order in this holy place, about this. He answered me that he had not received orders. (?!) The joy you see there, is more that of tourists, come to enjoy the beautiful nature, than that of pilgrims. Sometimes I drove bad-clothed women away from there and was always obeyed as being dressed in cassock and held for some authority. This is an almost insoluble problem, that not existed in the time of my first pilgrimages.
From here my decision to go also to Fatima had become fast. I wrote this to my parents who must have been well surprised. Not far from Lourds is the Pyrenean Mountain, a huge mountain that lays like an enormous wall between France and Spain, almost closing the access from one of both countries to the other. I could have passed easily to Spain, passing over the west coast, where the mountain is cut off by the ocean, but I didn't forsee the difficulty to come over this rough mountain, but I liked to pass over this historically famous pass of Roncevalles of which I had learned in history and so I left Lourds after some of the most joyful days.
From Lourds the Pyrenean is visible and after having left it soon the terrain is mounting after which comes the rout to the top. A rout terrible for anyone who is going on bycycle or by car. I don't remenber if at that time a car could make the trip; I don't remember to have seen anyone on this trip, travelling to the other side; I had to go walking much time with the bicycle at the hand untill reaching the top. From here it was also dangerous to sit on my bicycle. I could easily break my neck decending on my vehicle. Formerly there were still wolves that attacked men. One of them became known historically in the time the Holy Virgin appeared at Lourds. The pastor of Bernadette had gone to a sick person and was on his return when in a snow storm a wolf came from behind him to attack him. He was not far from home and went, going backwards and threatening the wolf with his stick untill he reached the first house. Then the wolf returned and he was saved. No more danger today.
Now I was in Spain, maybe illegally, I don't remember. How futile it would be the letter of reccomendation of the Spanish priest, received in Belgium. Like in France I could find everywhere a shelter and a convent or by a priest. I could not talk Spanish but I could always let me understand with French or Latin. In Spain are like in France many pilgrimmages. I had made a list of them long time before to visit them on the way to Fatima. Down from the Pyrenean I came first into a small country town. There was only one dirty street and thereupon lived pigs and chickens like in their paradise. Maybe they had never seen a bicycle and then thereupon a man which may have been seen as the devil. Coming down on their roof and they began to run before me in the greatest confusion as before the death, untill I had passed them. But this is not an image of Spain that is a beautiful country. I was still in the Pyrenean.