Part 8


Now I was priest and at the same time a pastor. My first parish consisted of two towns, not far from Boulogne. This would not be easy; we were under the authority of a hostile power. Firstly I went to see my dean. He was the pastor of a little city near to my parish and received me well. Together we went to my parish for a first introduction. Underway he warned me to look a little friendlier. This was good; I looked too serious and this did me having got a smile.
First we went to the rectory. its true pastor was a soldier and now a prisoner in Germany until the end of the wa. The housekeeper was an elderly lady and she had taken her brother with her for company. I had to live with them but both were never sympathetic to my; they had prefered, it seemed, to be left alone.
Someone more had taken possession of the house. This was the German commandant; he was Catholic and had chosen the rectory to become his lodging-place for the night: doing so he was near to the church and he came every Sunday to the Mass but nobody of the soldiers. This was them forbidden.
The tower of the church was for a part destroyed by a cannon ball, maybe for the reason that some soldiers might have been there hidden to shoot on the first Germans who had come in sight of it. When I was there the first order of the commandant was to deliver all the radios to the kommandantur. There was a nice one in the rectory, propriety of the pastor who was now a prisoner and I delivered it but having taken out the lamps. They were distributed among the soldiers. One day two of them came angrily to my house to claim for the lamps. But I answered them that only the set had been claimed and never have them to them. They went home empty-handed but they came never back. The commandant was Catholic and this gave me confidence. But at one of my Sunday sermons I finished my sermon with the words:"We shall win the war". This must have displeased him: he would no longer talk to me.
Another order came forbidding us to leave the home after 8 o'clock in the evening. This was not easy for me. The departure of another pastor made that soon two other towns were joined to my parish and these were a little far away. Happily the way to there was not going over the road to Boulogne, but a lonely way where I saw never a German soldier, sometimes I came late in the evening home and I was always happy to meet nobody, except once, coming back, late in the evening and near to may parish I had to ride about a kilometer more over the road of Boulogne when I saw a column of auros coming from there with fromt lamps on but downed to the ground, so not to be seen by English planes which passed every night to bombard objects that were suspect... So it came that I was not observed by them from far and had passed the first cars when they all stopped to see who I was. Juatly then I had arrived at a sideway that went to my parish and I glided between two cars that had stpooed to disappear into the darkness of a small side lane, hearing the German officers talking, but nobody followed me and I came home without any trouble. However, this could have costed me my life.
It was also forbidden to let any light shine outside the houses; the windows had to be totally blinded. I lived on a mountain and this made it almost impossible to distinguish during the night, from where came the light of my house. It could be as well made by a German soldier as by a French family. I did so to help the English planes to find their way and several weeks had passed before I was detected. One night the commandant came home at midnight and scarcely home a soldier cane behind him and knocked on his door, crying "Commandant!" and after having opened the door, I hears him saying: "There is a light in the house". "Where" he was asked. "At the room of the pastor", was the answer. The commandant cane to my door and ordered me to blind the windows, which I did from that time on, With this the game was out.
Soon this commandant was reassigned and another came to take his place. This was an elderly friendly man who would not cause me any trouble and took his room in an other house. He was not Catholic, but better for me than his predecessor. Each time, I came to him his first words were:"What wishes you, mister pastor?" and all I asked him, I obtained without difficulty. But he stayed only a short time with us and then came another who was from the beginning unfriendly to my. Of course I had been imprudent several times, but I did not count on a new commandant who might have been informed that I was a dangerous person for the Germans.
One day I was called to appear before the chief commandant of the little city near to my parish. This day I had just an important funeral of an old man who had lived with his only daughter in a small castle of the next town but I thought to have the time to go first to the commendant and I went to him but arriving there I was made a prisoner in spite of my protestations that I had in my parish a funeral. Ther they were waiting in vain for me. I was put in a truck and driven with three other prisoners to the prison in Boulogne sur Mere. I never heard how the funeral was done; surely with a grand delay to have first a priest from another parish.
The prison was full of prisoners, all make by the Germans, all suspect to be dangerous, because Boulogne is so near to England. But the jailers were the same as before the war; they were all French and we were well treated. and I was there in good company with people that had only shown that they did not like the Germans and therefor considered as dangerous people. We were three priests among them: I, as a Dutchman, then a Polish priest who worked in the same region as I did and a French Jesuit, taken in custody, after a German soldier had been shot, near to his convent. There for the Germans had come to search the house and found him without being in cassock because raising himself. They had taken him for a layman and brought him to the Kommandantur and he was condemned to death. Placed in the spot to been shot he was praying in Latin and some of the soldiers heard this and told the commandant that he was a priest. and this was the reason that he was not shot to death, but put in custody.
We were not a longtime there. Some day we all-some 200 in total-were brought to a train and when all were sitting in the wagons we left into an unknown direction.We passed Paris where the train stopped a moment. Here the nurses came to bring us food. Then again forwards. The following day we stopped again. Here all went out; we were in Troyes, a city south-east from Paris, we had to march through the streets and came to a complex of schools reserved for us as our lodging, maybe until the end of the war, the desks had been taken away and replaced with beds, tables and banks. We had to live here in peace together.
But going here through the streets I saw a priest coming from the opposed side and I called him and told what we were wnd that we were three priests and I asked him to tell this the bishop, not knowing who this was. Later I should know his name; this was Lefebvre, Much later I should know that he was the uncle of the famous French bishop Marcel Lefebvre, who during the II Vatican council would stand up to defend the true Faith against the modernist with a coalition of 400 other bishops both bishops were from the diocese Lille, northern of my diocese and I had already heard about this bishops-family while I was in the seminary. It was this future Cardinal Lefebvre who as bishop of Troyes had stopped the fighting in his city between German and French troops while going with a white flag to the Germans to offer the surrender of the French soldiers, saving the city from more destruction; there were already many deads among the soldiers and the population. the German commandant had a great respect for the bishop of Troyes and he obtained easily the freedom asked for us the three priests but we had to remain in the diocese where we were.
By this way I became no a pastor in this diocese and I received two parishes, where of the pastor had died shortly before. His sister was the housekeeper and she had remained in the house to become the housekeeper of the following priest. But she was not and ideal. when I came I had to eat in the kitchen with her. She took the food out of the pan with her fork and her fingers that were always dirty. During the meal a cock sprang from the ground upon the table to take there its meal. I was told my one of the parishioners that when someone was dying and called for the pastor, she would not let him go BECAUSE SHE WAS NOT LIKING THE PERSON. I went soon to the bishop to ask him permission to take pension in one of the houses of my parishioners and he set me do so.
Soon thereupon she left the house and then I could there take my lodging. Troyes was one of the most dechristianized dioceses of France. There were only 40 priests in this diocese. From there I should soon have some more towns in my parish. For a short time I depended from three deans of whom one was bothersome. About 3% of my parishioners should come regularly to the Sunday Mass, but all would be considered as good Catholics. In France, it is a custom that every child makes its First Communion, even if they are nit practising. Few make herein an exception. I had in one of my towns one such a child but I visited the family and could persuade them to let their girl come to Catechism. Although she was more than half a year behind. It began good but soon the girl showed herself too lazy. I came sometimes alone for her but in vain: nothing learned. Finally, I let them know that I could not continue with her. Then cane her father claiming that I should let her make her First Communion but I refused. He had gone to the dean and this had promised him to force me to admit her, but I was the pastor and the only one responsible for it.
The day for the rehearsal for this feast came and the dean came also which was not necessary at all, to force me to give in. I had hereof a presentment and hold the rehearsal not in the church but in a private home. The dean came but he sough me in vain. I had talked about it with the bishop and he gave me all the rights. The catechism lasts two years and after the feast is passed many children are never more seen in the church, but at least they have learned how they must live to can go to Heaven.

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