WEEK III — MONDAY: Blessed Michel Coquelet, o.m.i. (18.08.1931-20.04.1961)

coquelet-omi-editedI cannot hide from you that things are going very badly for Laos. As far as I am personally concerned, I found myself peacefully in my village here, not worrying about a thing, because I had not gone to Xieng Khouang for more than a month. I was getting ready, however, to go up there, when we saw some soldiers arrive here, as well as some women and children who were fleeing the Plain of Jars and Xieng Khouang. Out of breath, they stopped here to regroup. They settled in a rice paddy, a terrain where a small plane could land to evacuate women and children toward the south. So it is that in four days, the village was transformed into a military camp.

I am absolutely unaware of what is happening in the rest of the country, but you can see that for me, things are not that bad.

Morale is excellent, both mine and that of the people. Once the first emotions have died down, one gets back to business. Even the fugitives don’t give the impression of being very upset. So we wait for whatever is next… Strange country, however. So for your part, do not worry: the future is in the hands of the Good God.

Last letter of Blessed Michel Coquelet to his family,
6 January 1961

WEEK III — SUNDAY:  Blessed Michel Coquelet, o.m.i. (18.08.1931-20.04.1961)  

 

coquelet-a-xieng-khouang-1957-1960This month, we saw our little flock grow: one village (oh, not big: 6 houses, 45 persons) asked me to “chase out the spirits.” Another asked for us for the same reason. There, one can see that it is the grace of the Good God who converts: we didn’t even know of the existence of this last village. There’s a lot of work awaiting us: teaching them and giving them a Christian mentality, something a long way off for them.

“Chasing out the phis” (that is to say, to destroy and burn everything that was used for the worship of spirits), that is a big step, very difficult to do, for they have to break away from ancestral customs which many of them hold in high regard…

For us, that is the easiest part. The difficulties start afterwards: toilsome visits to small groups, hidden in really remote places, in holes or in veritable eagle nests in a season when vegetation has overgrown all the roads. And then to teach a supernatural religion to very primitive peoples in a foreign language! The two villages are Phou Theng; now in that language, I am able only to care for the sick, not teach catechism.

Letter of Blessed Michel Coquelet to his family,
12 September 1958

WEEK II — SATURDAY:   Blessed Michel Coquelet, o.m.i. (18.08.1931-20.04.1961)

 

couqI am very happy at my first Christmas in the brush. I went to say Midnight Mass in one of our “chapels”, an hour and a half hike from here, but what a hike! First you have to go down a steep slope for three quarters of an hour, and then cross a large river on a sort of a “monkey bridge,” then go for three quarters of an hour up an equally steep slope. Walking that way under a beautiful blue sky and a brilliant sun, through a forest resplendent in leaves and even flowers, I could barely realize that it was the 24th of December! In the village, I heard confessions (in Laotian, a language which the adults know well enough, even though it’s not theirs). After evening prayers in common, some kids kept me company until Midnight Mass.

At midnight, almost the whole village was there, squeezed into the little church of mud and bamboo. Many came back for the Mass at Dawn. After that Mass, I had to take care of the sick; there are always a lot of them, from minor injuries to high fevers, and it’s sometimes disconcerting with the few drugs and the little bit of medical knowledge that I possess.

 Letter of Blessed Michel Coquelet to his family,
28 December 1957

WEEK II — SATURDAY: Blessed Michel Coquelet, o.m.i. (18.08.1931-20.04.1961)

couqI am very happy at my first Christmas in the brush. I went to say Midnight Mass in one of our “chapels”, an hour and a half hike from here, but what a hike! First you have to go down a steep slope for three quarters of an hour, and then cross a large river on a sort of a “monkey bridge,” then go for three quarters of an hour up an equally steep slope. Walking that way under a beautiful blue sky and a brilliant sun, through a forest resplendent in leaves and even flowers, I could barely realize that it was the 24th of December! In the village, I heard confessions (in Laotian, a language which the adults know well enough, even though it’s not theirs). After evening prayers in common, some kids kept me company until Midnight Mass.

At midnight, almost the whole village was there, squeezed into the little church of mud and bamboo. Many came back for the Mass at Dawn. After that Mass, I had to take care of the sick; there are always a lot of them, from minor injuries to high fevers, and it’s sometimes disconcerting with the few drugs and the little bit of medical knowledge that I possess.

Letter of Blessed Michel Coquelet to his family,
28 December 1957

WEEK II — FRIDAY:   Blessed Louis Leroy, o.m.i. (8.10.1923-18.04.1961)

 

ban-pha At Ban Pha, where Father Leroy was, there is clearly religious persecution. The people are terrorized; they have to hide in order to pray. The church and the Fathers’ house have been systematically pillaged…. Father Leroy had been searched, stripped completely naked in front of everyone. He had a respite of a quarter-hour which he spent kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament; then he followed the soldiers who pretended that their commander was calling for him: he was in his cassock, his cross in his cincture, his breviary under his arm, barefooted and bareheaded. They took him into the woods. The people heard gunfire, and now there is a fresh grave…

Fathers Leroy and Coquelet were probably the best religious of the community: humble, zealous, pious, hard-working in studying the language—these greatly compensated for the intellectual slowness of the one (a very late vocation—a Norman peasant), and the shyness of the other.

On the other hand, both were capable of spending entire hours in the church… Their people have come several times already, in spite of the danger, to get news of them. But we cannot give them any.

Letters of Henri Delcros OMI to his family
concerning Blessed Louis Leroy, 17 May and 2 June 1961

WEEK II — THURSDAY Blessed Louis Leroy, o.m.i. (8.10.1923-18.04.1961)

leroy-omi-a-xieng-khouang-1957-1960In the last months, I had the opportunity to spend a night in the pagan villages to try to let them know about our religion, but at least apparently, what I told them did not seem to interest them much. It is the missionaries’ duty to preach; nevertheless, he learns quickly that only the all-powerful grace of God can convert a soul. For the past two months, I have traveled a lot; I am alone in a sector that has six villages, each with its chapel where worship is taking place. For some villages, just to get there, one has to walk for five hours, carrying a backpack on paths that go up and come down very abruptly.

Furthermore, we are taking care of two tasks: besides our apostolic work, we must care for the sick. Once Mass is over, I have to care for all sorts of maladies for two hours. How happy we will be once there are doctors in the region! But I think that day is still far off. On certain days, I have more to do than I can, but I am always glad to work for the Good God.

Letter of Blessed Louis Leroy
to the Carmelite Sisters of Limoges, 14 February 1959.

WEEK II — WEDNESDAY:  Blessed Louis Leroy, o.m.i. (8.10.1923-18.04.1961)

 

l1

Among the Christians, we have some who are living their Christianity deeply and who would be ready to shed their blood, if necessary, to profess their faith. A Christian, quite advanced in age, baptized three years ago, told the Father: when I am alone on the trail, I say my rosary to obtain for the Christians the grace to resist the communists if they should invade our country. Besides these beautiful examples, there are some less beautiful ones; the weakness of human nature is found everywhere; original sin has overtaken all of humanity; you notice that quickly, not matter where you find yourself.

Recently, communist propaganda was spreading the rumor that within a year, all the Fathers would have gone back to France, leaving the Christians to themselves; therefore, those who want to become Catholics could not do so reasonably. This propaganda succeeded in troubling some of the people: in that case, it’s better to wait before joining that religion. At the same time, we have the joy of being asked for in many villages. Let’s hope their request is sincere!

Letters of Blessed Louis Leroy to the Carmelites of Limoges,
2 March and 13 November 1956