Part 10

Again back in my diocese

My diocese of Arras was one of the best dioceses of France, but this does not mean that it was at that time like it was in my country of origin. As a young priest I was full of enthusiasm to begin my new ministry, believing to be able to change the population of an entire parish into fervent Catholics, but this should in reality be a kind of miracle, more in France than in Holland. I had again received two parishes; my former ones had been transferred longtime ago to another priest. My new parishes had good people but not very ardent in their faith.
Several people went never to Mass on Sunday but came only on some great feast days. In Holland I had the custom to see every Catholic, going every Sunday to Mass, except some rare apostates. I remember to have known only two cases of this. The first of them was under the pastor who had baptised me. This priest had a strange name that was Helweg, which means in English "Way of the hell", but he was a saintly man, as proven what follows. This parishioner was an apostate and he hated the Catholic Church wherein he was born. He lived alone and he had become dangerously sick. Some good people came to visit him, but then it happened that A STRANGE BIG DOG APPEARED BEFORE THE HOUSE and threatened every one who would visit him so that nobody dared more to come. Except the pastor who would come to try to convert him before he should die. Then pastor Helweg had come; he opened the fence that separated the property from the street, but they the dog stormed upon him to attack him. Quickly he picked up a straw from the ground and reached it to him; the dog bite the other side and became quiet. The priest led it to the street and arriving there the dog left him and was never more seen. It was the devil as most people was thinking. The pastor was well received and he converted the man who died soon after having become a Christian again.
In my parishes I had not similar people. Ever one died as Catholic after having received the last Sacraments. Several of my new parishioners did never come to Mass on every Sunday. It seemed to them not to be a great sin and they would not take care of my words when I told then this. Others came always too late to the Mass and seened to believe that I as a foreigner, was exaggerating, telling then now sinful this was. And those who had come on time would not enter into the church before I had begun to say Mass, They were chatting outside and looking from time to time through the door to know if I had not already begun the celebration. Only then they rushed in to their sears, before other should have taken them. It seemed to them also that all my claims to be there before the beginning of the Mass were exaggerations because it was their custom and not sinful in their eyes.

What a difference with Holland where every one went every Sunday to the Mass and the late-comers were running to be there at least as soon as possible. During my time in the seminary I had read a book about the liturgy of he Orthodoxes in Russia. This had interested me so much that I had the thought to go to Russia as a missionary, to a people who were fervent in their practice and love for their liturgy, which in certain sense is nome impressive than that of our own liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. But now they were living under the tyranny of the Communists, which I believed would have soon changed after the II World War, but continued to reign there against all my predictions.

After the II World War, a Dutch priest called Werenfried Ban Straaten, had gone to Germany to take a surbey about the needs of that people, so deeply humiliated after the was had passed and he turned back to his country, full of compassion for the needs of the many who were dying from the misery that had followed the crushing defeat of Nazi-Germany. He did not forget that half of the population was not following Hitler and that the Catholics especially had their martyrs of his regime. Moreover, the Russians had driven hundreds of thousands from their homes, leaving them deprived from money and food. This priest took away the hatred of the once defeated countries against them and he began to send to them trains of food, which was the most lacking.

He asked also foe other priests to help him in the apostolate of charity that he had initiated and I felt pressed to come to join him. I had only worked a short time in my diocese and I went to my bishop, who was not the same as he who had ordained me and was still young. I had restored one of my two churches that had almost been demolished by the earthquake-like tremblings caused by the mysterious B2 shots against England, landed by the Germans during the war, not knowing where they fell down but probably with London for target. This church was of a respectable age, maybe of the Middle Age. The bishop came to bless it and he was very content.. I had wexpoded to him my desire to work in Germany with Fr. Van Straaten and I received from him this wonderful answer; "I respect your vocation", and he permitted me to go to East Europe.

After this I left my parish with the hope to become happier in my new ministry in Germany and in other countries where I should go.

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