WEEK V – FRIDAY Blessed Joseph Boissel, o.m.i. (20.12.1909-05.07.1969)

boissel-omijkjk-1969Who says that the Fathers are foreigners? Who says that the Fathers are no good? Who says that we are traitors because we profess the religion of the Fathers? Father Boissel lies dead before us, there, right now. His life is the answer to our questions and to our faith. If he is not good, why does heaven not thunder and the plague not gobble him up? Why was he moved with impatience and solicitude to join his children in the village of Hat-I-Et? Only his devotion for his children whom he loved urged him toward them, without thinking about his own blood, his flesh, his life.

You notables, you teachers who have known and visited Father Boissel, you know and remember that he was a good man, generous with the people and with the poor. Even though he was a man direct in words and who “sneezes loudly,” remember his goodness which he showed wherever he went. “The earth that covers the face for five hundred years cannot make us forget love,” says the poet, for Father Boissel was an example, a source of the love of Christ for us. Neither the rain which falls nor the waters that rumble can erase the bright red blood of Father Boissel which scars this Laotian land.

 Homily of Father Pierre Douangdi OMI
for the funeral of Blessed Joseph Boissel, 8 July 1969.

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WEEK V — TUESDAY Five Oblate Martyrs (1961-1969)

wauthier-omi-7-mgrloosdregt-coquelet-leroy-a-namlieng-1960I met Fathers Joseph Boissel, Vincent L’Hénoret, Jean Wauthier, and then Fathers Leroy and Coquelet: they were all admirable missionaries, ready for every sacri-fice, living very poorly, with an unlimited dedication.

During those troubled times, all of us, each one more or less, wanted to be a martyr, “to give one’s whole life for Christ.” We were not afraid to risk our lives and to venture into the so-called dangerous areas. The missionary team in Laos was deeply united among themselves and closely united around their bishop.

We were all focused on going to the poorest people, to visit the villages, to care for the sick, and especially to proclaim the Gospel. All of the murdered fathers lived deeply their religious and missionary life:

  • Joseph Boissel was a big-hearted man, quite a character, with his frank speech, deeply religious, a man of prayer, faithful to district meetings, very affable within the community.
  • The same for Jean Wauthier, a man of action, skilled of hand, a good organizer and very generous.
  • Fathers Leroy and Coquelet were very pious and very faithful to their religious exercises.
  • Vincent l’Hénoret was very dedicated and very close to the people, a good religious and very fraternal in community.

I thank the Lord for having been able to live for 24 years in the beautiful Mission of Laos, and for having met, from the North to the South of Laos, some remarkable missionaries: Oblates in the North and the M.E.P. in the south.

 Fr. Joseph Pillain, o.m.i.,
Letter to Fr. Nicola Ferrara, o.m.i., 13.03.1999.

WEEK V — MONDAY Blessed Jean Wauthier, o.m.i. (22.03.1926-16.12.1967)

225“It was while going to visit a handful of catechumens… for he had his knapsack on his back.” That was the Jean Wauthier whom we mourn… His life: it was a Gospel life; in the North of Laos, in a region near the border with Vietnam and its war, he was the only priest. A good part of each month in a village of 800 Christians, he was often on a perilous trek in the mountains. Like Jesus, he went along doing good.

“I want to be like Him,” he said, “because I am a missionary. In telling them of Christ, it means to care for their whole life, according to their needs.” He lived in the midst of his own, joined with them in their very lives.

“We are Christians; we work together; we help everyone,” he said. He knew what was awaiting him in this region of poverty and insecurity. He had already experienced the executioner’s gun when he was saved as if by a miracle. How did that impress him? “Not so terrible,” he told himself. “There it is, the time to offer my life for them.” Last December 17, eight days before Christmas, the sacrifice was offered.

Homily of Bishop Henri Jenny, Archbishop of Cambrai (France),
at the memorial Mass for Jean Wauthier, 27 December 1967.

WEEK V — SUNDAY: Blessed Jean Wauthier, o.m.i. (22.03.1926-16.12.1967)

fuyiFor three years, I have been with the refugees who have gone underground. They fled by the thousands at night, in the rain, in the cold mist of the mountain tops. They hardly brought anything except their children. They prefer to live in the jungle, lacking almost everything, but free. There are times when we need more freedom than we need rice. There are perhaps 30,000 to 40,000 of them.

My family doesn’t say anything. They accept it. “They keep these things in their hearts,” like all the families of missionaries. That’s undoubtedly why their far-off sons can do something. The flowers and the fruits bud forth, but the root is thousands of miles away from there.

As a priest, I am alone. But there are all the people. Because of the war, I live very close to them. It is they who made my house, just like one of theirs: a rectangle of 8 x 6 m (26 x 20 ft.), with a dirt floor, a roof of leaves, walls of bamboo… Often I work with them. They know that I need them for food, for lodging, for protecting me in an emergency. In exchange, when the occasion presents itself, I am the nurse, the teacher, and I try to give them the Lord “always more abundantly.”

 Interview of Blessed Jean Wauthier
for the review
Famille Éducatrice, November 1966

WEEK IV — SATURDAY Blessed Jean Wauthier, o.m.i. (22.03.1926-16.12.1967)

wauthier-omi-namlieng-1960The kingdom of God moves forward, little by little, but it’s a wonder that it does so, in spite of the huge power of the hostile forces who oppose it… What will be its future? God alone knows, but for us missionaries and for all those who support us, it’s consoling to know that the least of our efforts is something positive, even though a road, a bridge, can be destroyed so quickly. That’s what I often tell myself while walking along the paths to visit a family that is more or less fervent: a day or two to see four or five Christians, just happy to have any at all…

The other day, I had to cross a river thirteen times, often with the water up to my stomach. After that, I walked in mud for two or three hundred meters on a trail literally plowed up by buffalos. Sometimes it was up to my knees. It’s wonderful to get out of there… All of that is the beautiful life of the missionary, really beautiful; nothing beats being wet like the joy of putting on dry clothing; or having walked in the rain for hours and then being in the shelter of a roof that leaks a bit, but not much…

 Letter of Blessed Jean Wauthier
to the Poor Clares of Fourmies, 16 August 1959

 

WEEK IV — FRIDAY: Blessed Jean Wauthier, o.m.i. (22.03.1926-16.12.1967)

wLess than a two-day walk from here, the Viet Minh are “catechizing” the people. Humanly speaking, the future is gloomy. Faced with this diabolically relentless deluge, we are 20 Fathers who, conscious of our weakness but strong in the power of God, have decided unanimously at our last retreat to stay, whatever should happen. That’s a very weighty little word. We know perfectly well what is going to happen to us: torture and death, physical or psychological torture (who knows which is to be preferred?), the People’s Court, forced labor, expulsion, being broken and belittled… But because our Leader Jesus triumphed over death by dying on a cross, we disciples of his prefer not to have an easy time of it on earth.

As for the 400 catechumens who are studying: what distress when we think of them! Yet there’s no chaining the Word of God; woe to us if we don’t bring it to those who still languish in darkness… May Jesus and Mary send us Fathers and Sisters; may they give us sufficient health and especially may they not let any of us ever renounce the faith if we enter into the Church of Silence.

 Letter of Blessed Jean Wauthier
to the Poor Clares of Fourmies, 9 December 1954

WEEK IV — THURSDAY: Blessed Jean Wauthier, o.m.i. (22.03.1926-16.12.1967)

wauthier-omi-subra-bannammon-1953The war is in full swing, but here we come and go—sometimes there are impressive encounters. All alone, turning a corner, I come across a dozen armed guys, who immediately take aim at me. A quick act of contrition. With my best smile on my lips, and with a beating heart, I approach them, I speak to them in Phou-teng: they say not a word. Only two answer me in Lao. I tell them that I am visiting everyone to heal them, to tell them of the Good God, etc. Silence… Then I wish them a good journey and without permission I continue on my way. It took me a little will power not to turn around, listening for the rattle of machine guns that I know so well. It happened so quickly, in a forest area where no one will go to look…

You see that the Blessed Virgin protected me. And why be afraid? We are nothing of ourselves, but we are walking Christs; you feel it almost physically in this country where everyone lives in the fear of spirits and we are love, where everyone lives for bodily needs and we are first of all a soul that should be shining, where virginity is unknown and ridiculed and we live without women.

 Letter of Blessed Jean Wauthier
to the Oblates at Solignac, France, 24 March 1954