51. Jahrgang Nr. 3 / Mai 2021
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1. The Autobiography of Mgr. Pierre Martin Ngô-dinh-Thuc - Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo
2. The Autobiography of Mgr. Ngô-dinh-Thuc - Part 2
3. The Autobiography of Mgr. Ngô-dinh-Thuc - Part 3
4. The Autobiography of Mgr. Ngô-dinh-Thuc - Part 4
The Autobiography of Mgr. Ngô-dinh-Thuc - Part 4
 
***

    The building that served the Hué mission as commissary was modernized by installing showers and toilets in each room.  Rooms were constructed to take on ill or retired ones so that they could take pleasure in a visit from their brothers who went to the Procurator or to the Bishop. An office building for Action Catholique was built, with a room for the priest entrusted with this action.

    After all the events at that time I considered building a new cathedral, because the old one, which had been built more than 25 years earlier by a former priest, was decrepit. After its construction the former priest became apostolic vicar of Hué. The roof and the frame had been damaged by white mice (termites) and were in danger of collapsing during the next typhoon.

    The construction plan, mild modernistic, for the new cathedral, was made by a non-Catholic Vietnamese, a laureate of the French school of Rome. Made out of steel concrete and therefore resistant to typhoons and termites, it would offer a becoming place for religious ceremonies and would be large enough for more than 5.000 people. I had a sum to purchase the materials and the manpower would be provided by the parish children of Phû-cam, (the parish of the cathedral and my birth parish).  Free labour was managed by paid experts. I could not pursue this construction to completion and my successor Mgr. Diên had the honour of initiating the new cathedral in a concelebration with the majority of the priests from the archdiocese.  At my departure, the interior of the cathedral was finished; only the construction of the facade remained. As I said earlier, I had to expand Hue's major seminary, which turned into the regional seminary for Hué and the suffragan dioceses of this capital.  The chapel was enlarged so that it seat more than 100 major seminarians - the old one had only approximately 30 seats. The refectory, the classrooms, the professors' housing had to be furnished for their new use. God wanted that I be present at the completion of this regional seminary.

    Since the minor seminary was in territory occupied by the Communists from the north, I found a place in the middle of the city of Hué.  I could build a minor seminary for 300 students out of steel concrete, with a beautiful chapel, a kitchen and apartments for the kitchen sisters, and add a soccer field. All of this occurred, the major and minor seminary, with my brother's money, the president.

***

    I describe everything in fine detail so that the ones who will come after me remember the great benefactor of the archdiocese of Hué. It is due to his generosity that I could accomplish this whole modernization program during my brief stay in Hué. My brother never has mentioned a single word to anyone of his unselfish help, just as during the construction of the Vietnamese parish of Paris.  Unfortunately his discretion was misused by Father Gríân, who announced, urbi et orbi, which he had paid for his parish buildings with his own money. Where should he have gotten it, he, who out of fear, had fled from the Communists to Paris penniless? My brother did not tell me one single word about this help. I only found out about it thanks to a woman, Nhu, the witness of the conversation between the President and Father Gríân.

    Father Gríân's claims regarding ownership of the chapel and the ministration in this Vietnamese parish in Paris is therefore essentially a theft, exactly like all the advantages he got that resulted from it, for example the use of the restaurant  that is situated beneath the chapel and is visited by many Vietnamese and foreign customers. That is the source of this priest's wealth, who has become a multimillionaire and owns villas and other restaurants.  Unfortunately, this priest, who converted to the Catholic faith and was once so devout, could not resist the enticements of gold. He turned into a racketeer, succeeded in getting all of his siblings from Vietnam to Paris and at present the entire family rides around in luxury cars! Let the dear Lord grant him remorse and the return to the piety of his youth.

    During the few years as the archbishop of Hué my life was full. I went to bed in the evening about 9 o'clock and got up early for meditation and Mass; afterwards, correspondence. Everything was finished by 7 o'clock. I then went to Phû-cam to take communion to my mother, who lay in bed paralyzed by arthritis.  After that I went to the building sites to supervise the construction work.

    At about 9 o'clock I was in the Bishop’s palace to receive priests and people from the diocese, who wished to see me.  Regarding the priests:  They introduced themselves with a document on which their requests or questions were written.  Then I could answer them with a few words and would write them if the questions required extended consideration.  Therefore the brothers did not need to eternally stay in Hué but could go back to their parishes, one day at the latest after their arrival in the Bishop's palace.

    Every month I summoned the Bishop's council, which consisted of Pro-vicars and District officials, so that they completely informed me about their districts.

    One matter was very important to me: My archdiocese should be self sufficient—therefore economically independently. The same problem and the same worry as in Vinhlong. Rome, i.e. the Holy Congregation for spreading the faith must pay for the needs of the missions. The money comes from the faithful: Members from the effort for spreading the faith, the works of the Holy Childhood, and the works of the Holy Apostle Peter.  The first two charities were donated by a French Christian woman.  Vietnam had therefore an hierarchy that no longer consists of Apostolic Vicars but of Archbishops and Bishops although it was still dependent upon the Holy Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. Therefore, in principle, Catholic Vietnam had to stand on its own feet and had to leave the papal mission works alms to the actual missions. But how should one make this concept comprehensible to our Christians? How should one teach them this? 

    At first the offerings made our parishes autonomous. And one had to involve our faithful in the planning of our parish budget. The priest might gather his parish children and tell them how much money the parish needs: School, school sisters, church service etc.... and each adult person's participation in it, everyone according to his abilities.  The budget submitted by the priest must be approved by parish members. The collected amount would be publicly announced. Therefore, even the smallest donation is known to all and the entire parish is aware of the expenses as well. Normally, it should suffice if our parish members abstain from one pack of cigarettes every week to get their parish back on its feet!

    Usually the priests do not like this course of the action; they rather would get the money without having to extensively publicize their expenses, while the Christians want to know what was done with their contributions. The parish must have one single soul. Little by little, one gets used to it and everyone is proud to be able to stand on their own feet.  I do not know, whether my successor still encourages our believers and our priests to do their duty and to share their worries with their sheep.  It is more comfortable not to give any accounting about the administration, not to discuss, and to get parish members to consent to this, but rather use the contributions according  to their own their discretion,.... a dialogue is more arduous than to decide everything per ukas (commanding representatives).

    In Vinhlong I always had to urge my priest on to have a dialogue with the believers. This however, is not submissiveness but plain and simple justice when using other people's money only with their approval.  One also gets quickly used to it because the human being is - of course a very pale - nevertheless a reflection of God! God, his creator, who is the perfect justice.

***

    My priests from Hué (my dear home) are either older than I and knew me as their student in seminary, were fellow students or were my students in the major seminary or - finally - were my younger brothers in the priesthood. They know my weaknesses, but however, are also grateful for my respect and affection toward them.  They know, that  I, as each human being, can err, but they are also confident  that I have tried have to make the archdiocese of Hué at least equal to the two other archdioceses (Saigon and Hanoi).
Spiritually and with regard to apostolic eagerness, Hué is equivalent to the other dioceses or better. The clergy may be economically poor and may have only the Mass offerings to live from but the clergy do very well in converting the heathens.

    They know that the burden I impose on them is absolutely necessary for their welfare and that of their diocese. Therefore, despite my ouster from my archdiocese without a convincing reason, Hué has never previously experienced such a blossoming as during the few short years of my administration. My priests remained loyal to me, except a few who comprised the circle around my successor Mgr. Diên.  He noticed this situation quickly and complained to the Holy See about this lack of affection and he believed that I stirred up a latent opposition.  I had to defend myself and requested evidence of my secret activities from the Holy Congregation for the Propagation of the faith.  I have never written anything else to my former diocesan seat, and that only to my few correspondence partners, other than: You should obey your Bishop, and the obedience is more valuable than all sacrifices. That was the size if it. I do not need to regret my behaviour toward Mgr. Diên, because the members of my clergy, who fled to America or to Europe, still demonstrate their affection for me despite my long absence from Vietnam.

***

    Perhaps one might ask why I placed such a value on having a primary seminary in Hué that was capable of serving 300 students. It was because our Christians in Hué are poor and there is only a course of lectures at secondary level.  I was the director of this school where tuition had to be paid and was therefore inaccessible for the vast majority of Catholics.  The seminarians, who continue up to the priesthood, are not very numerous but those who leave the seminary earn a good living as a civil servant. They provide many services for us there; they also act as leaders of Action Catholique, which is even better.

    But I have not forgotten the question of the late callings: I gave the following instructions to our priests in the seminary:  Accept these young people lovingly and advise them that they should conclude their studies where they had begun them after the acquisition of the high school diploma maturity examination. According to these continuing studies they were accepted into the seminary to allow them to learn Latin for two years.  Afterwards they entered the major seminary. In the meantime however, measures were taken so that they maintained their decision for priesthood:  To gather them on the off days in the minor seminary and let them take part in the lives of the seminarians and to talk to them about their calling.

    This regular and frequent contact is imperative, because the world lures them and the spiritual position in Hué is not particularly brilliant from an economic point of view.  Can one say that the late callings are more resistant and produce better priests than the ones that come to the priesthood in the normal way through the seminaries?  Nothing proves that.  I have seen late callings that failed and others that persevered, as is also the case with the ones educated in our seminaries.

    One of my administration's goals in Hué was to make real nuns out of our Sisters of the Cross with the three Religious vows.  Hué had 5 cloisters (monasteries): in Dilsan, a large Christian community in the Quâng-tri province; in Cov ˙n, the capital of Quâng-tri: in D ˙oDg-Son, in the Hué province: Phû-cam, also in Hué; and Kebang in the Quâng-Binh province.  Every monastery has its assets, its noviciate, its area of apostolic work and his school. Common to all of them was the absence of the Religious vows, and that since their foundation at the beginning of the Vietnam's evangelization.  Vietnam's first Apostolic Vicar found that some communal female organizations existed, but without any spiritual bond. He gave them a guide for the communal life without Religious vows.  That was certainly comfortable for their employers, i.e. the Bishop and the priests:  One could use them for everything:  to teach the Catechumens, to cook for the seminaries and the hospitals, to harvest the mission's rice paddies, etc.!  They are at the priests' disposal, workers with a very low wage, who work day and night if they are needed.  A minimum of piety exercises, one month of vacation per year and until they can no longer work; the mother house then takes them in again and buries them. No rights, no defence, and a minimum of religious training.

    The devotion, skilfulness and bravery of the Vietnamese woman are admirable. Perhaps she is superior to the Vietnamese man. The first rioters against Vietnam's invaders—the Chinese—were the two sisters Trung-trûc and Trung-Nhi. They raised the revolt's flag, and beat the Chinese in several battles; and then, as they were surrounded by the superior forces, they committed suicide by drowning themselves in a river.  But our compatriots followed their example and succeeded in expelling the Chinese from Vietnam after a thousand years of occupation.  

    When I was a Bishop in Vinhlong, our two orders of the Sisters of the Cross in Caimon and Cáínhum had recently sworn their vows, but their use by the parish clergy was improper. The nuns were always in pairs, an old one and a young one, therefore a difficult companionship.  Theoretically, they always had to be to in pairs. Practically, they were often alone: for example if the priest sent one into the parsonage to get something or to church to bring him something.   A sly priest could be "solus cum sola" with a young woman of the order, court her or could abuse her.  This occurred, not often, but on some occasions. To whom should one complain? The nun's program lasts 10 months and then she returns to the order for only the two months of June and July to recover.

    Make your own judgement about my dumbfoundedness when the nun told me during confession that she seldom received mass and communion each month because she had to stay with her Catechumens in their small parish.  The priest however, holds mass only once on Sundays and holidays in the main parish, where his residence is.  A lot of work and not very much food, since it is quickly prepared by the young nun and also quickly eaten.  They visit the catechumens, not only women and children, but adult and young strong men, with very meagre spiritual food. If these nuns could resist temptation, it was heroism.  I therefore insisted that my priests pay for the nuns' trips so that they could go to Mass, to confession and to the communion at least once every week.  Otherwise, I took the nuns away from them.  I sent them (the young ones) to school in Saigon to the French Nuns of St. Paul of Chartres so that they acquired the "diplôme élémentaire" and the more gifted ones obtained the "brevet élémentaire" and became school nuns (teachers) during the postulate and noviciate. With these paltry diplomas, they were like academics to our priests, who did not have any state diplomas other than Latin. Consequently, they were gradually respected.  And as I established the Catholic university in Dalat, some went there and could acquire a licentiate, because the Vietnamese woman is very intelligent.

    In Hué, I therefore selected two nuns from each order and sent them to Dalat to the Canonesses of St. Augustine who have a junior college there. These Sisters of the Cross completed a noviciate like real nuns there and then they returned to Hué.  And since this time all sisters, old and young, had to complete their noviciate and become real nuns.  The noviciate and the secondary school are both in the Apostolic Delegate's old palace in Hué.  

    This palace of the Apostolic delegate from Hué had been made available to me because the Delegate acquired a seat in Saigon in order to be near the civil government, since Saigon was the political capital.  There is a common Mother Superior for all orders now. She resides in the house and has my family’s property, where I was born, at her disposal and is advised by one of my own nieces, who acquired a licentiate in Rome and also lives there.  The orders protect their possessions; yet they also pay for the maintenance of the common noviciate and the secondary school. These congregations, therefore, are a success and a true comfort for me.  

    A bitter wind of persecution blows in Vietnam, but the Sisters are well prepared to hold up against it, as did their predecessors during the 200 years of persecution. No Sister of the Cross renounced Jesus by stepping on the cross with her feet, although a priest and a seminarian did so. The latter, in contrast to the priest, regretted his cowardice and was trampled by an elephant led by the persecutors. The priest’s name was Duyêt. The seminarian’s name: the blessed messenger. This justifies my opinion about the value of a Vietnamese woman, unique in the world.

    All of this was realized in a relatively short time span, between 1960 and 1968.  Eight years, half of which I spent in Rome, The half was first to prepare for the council and then to participate in the second Vatican council.  That was the last high point of my priestly and Episcopal activity. The rest of my life is a series of failures, on whose course I will report, after I have described my modest role at the pastoral council.

***

    The second Vatican Council was due to John XXIII's initiative. His epithet was "the good", but in my insignificant opinion, this very devout, very saintly Pope was a weakling. He admitted this fault. One could apply this saying to him: "Video meliora, deteriora sequor." "I wanted the best but did the worse."

    John XXIII wanted a renaissance of the church and had a wonderful plan for it. But oh, he could not withstand the pressure of the men of the Church.  These men wanted to modernize Christ's Church with the help of the modern world, "in malo positus", which has turned evil. Because we are the generation at the "end of time ", where Satan's last battle against God will occur: the decisive battle, which after some turns of fate, ends with Lucifer's defeat and Christ’s final triumph and the Final Judgement.

    Satan had the atheistic communism as an army. On the surface, the Jew Marx’s communism is tempting. He desires the welfare of the people and wants a greater justice in distribution.  He wants to destroy capitalism without God.  The single goal of capitalism is the profit of the individual through the exploitation of the worker.  The goal of Marxism may be worthy of praise, happiness and a paradise on earth, but his goal does not go further. For him, religion is only opium for the people to become numb.  The people that the capitalists let work to fill their vaults are like hunting dogs that are kept in order to obtain game. Marx, therefore, is the direct descendant of the philosophers of the enlightenment with Voltaire at the forefront….

    The Church of Christ certainly, as personified in some of its leaders, in some Popes, depended on the mighty and rich in faith to find help for the triumph of the Church.  Vatican II should have begun by remembering this principle: To triumph through the cross is to triumph through martyrdom.

    The consequence is that Communism rises up without God or rather, against God! The paradise of Communism is the same as that of Capitalism: an earthly paradise.  The effort that God the Creator imposed on man is to develop, to perfect his intellectual, supernatural and physical abilities and not the single goal of filling his belly. Vatican II seems to have the same goal as Communism: temporal human bliss. The following scandal therefore occurred: Prohibition of the least attack against Communism.  Therefore the dogma:  "the natural goodness of all types of beliefs". Therefore the triumph of the Protestant axiom:  Freedom of thought and the equality of all religious opinions.  Therefore the effort to make the Catholic religion easier, in that "not guilty" is issued for the one who does not pray the Breviary or meditate any longer and the writing of a patent Mass acceptable for Catholics and Protestants.  The first (Catholics) may be supporters of the teachings of transubstantiation, but the second ones (Protestants) do not believe it. They claim that Mass is only in memory of the Last Supper and not a "Mysterium fidei".

    Vatican II did not dare to forbid Mass in Latin, Christianity's common language, particularly in the central part of Mass, the canon, but allowed the use of vernacular for the other parts; supposedly, so that the faithful could hear and understand Mass better.  On that occasion they forgot that the faithful could very well follow Mass read by the ministrants in Latin with a bilingual missal.  In the "New Bugnini-Mass", in agreement with the Protestants, especially the Protestant monks of Taize, the fathers of the modern church, Latin has been abolished as the official language of the Latin-Catholic Church, which is also the language of diplomacy in Europe. (Translator’s comment: French was the language of Diplomacy after the Westphalian Peace of 1648).

    One believed that this approach of Vatican II toward our separated brothers would lead the Protestants to us. Now, no return to Catholicism takes place, but rather has resulted in the shortening of the prayers and meditative spirit of the Mass. The preference of this action has led to many priests resigning from the priesthood. How many marriages of priests and people from the Religious Orders? How many nuns leaving the convents! No more vocations! Neither for the seminary nor for the Religious Orders. Only the strict Orders that have remained loyal to their regimen have new entrants.

    The churches are empty. The new Mass, where the priest is only the chairperson of the meeting—and no longer the only one who sacrifices, always has less and less visitors. Each country has its own Mass which is suited to the mentality of its people: The Japanese sit on their heels around a mat as altar. Instead of the monumental crucifix that dominates our old churches, a little cross lies on a small table that serves as an altar, - without altar stone. The Mass is bungled through in twenty minutes. The rare communion recipients communes standing and no longer kneels.  They receive the wafer in the hand and chew on it like candy instead of receiving it on the tongue.  The oral confession is no longer fashionable; one is content with the Confiteor of Mass despite the reminder from the Holy Congregation for the Defence of the Faith. The priest reads Mass with his back to the tabernacle!

    One now comprehends Mgr. Lefebvre’s rebellion, the success of his Ecône seminaries and the increase of his priories in France and elsewhere; and the uneasiness in all Christian countries of Europe and America.  The future of the church is threatened by the lack of vocations. Marxism triumphs everywhere. Africa is attacked by Castro’s Cubans.  South America, where the Catholic religion formerly prevailed without dispute, is divided by the struggle between traditionalists and supporters of the Vatican II. Soviet Russia is active everywhere, its fleet is the strongest in the world and its military budget exceeds that of the United States.  It interferes in Africa, in South America, everywhere—even in the Vatican, where Paul VI, despite so many disappointments with his politics, insists on offering Communism a hand.

    The former statements allow one to understand my role on the council: My few interventions had the goal of defending Christ’s church against the modernistic attacks, against the disparagement of the church by a well organized modernistic party under the leadership of Suenens and other prelates like Marty, the current Cardinal Archbishop of Paris.  I must also add that the majority of the council fathers, particularly those from North America, did not understand Latin well, the official and binding language of the council. They spent the bulk of the council debates in both cafes set up in St. Peter, where they drank coffee or Coca Cola. They only returned at the time of the vote in the council auditorium without properly knowing what they were voting about.

    They voted randomly, once with YES, once with NO (for a change they said), and these votes were officially "inspired by the Holy Spirit" and were counted up to make up the "majority." I saw other Fathers—very few—, that did the call on the Holy Spirit—not in the cafes but rather prayed the rosary at their seats and asked their neighbours for advice about the vote!  

    The innovation of simultaneous interpretations had to be introduced at the Council, especially into English or French.  This was done so that everyone knew what was going on and could vote according to his conscience and knowledgeably fulfil a Council Father's role.  Everyone saw how an American Cardinal left the council after a few sessions and went back to America. He said that his presence at the council is less useful for the Holy See’s Council than his return to the home of the almighty Dollar to collect more money.  It was very expensive due to having to rent facilities near St. Peter’s Basilica for the entire duration of the council and eating at the well frequented taverns!

    One saw many changes of opinion at the council; Prelates, who were initially confirmed traditionalists, turned into modernists after some sessions when they noticed that Paul VI was for the modernists. (He was not present at the council, supposedly to demonstrate that he did not want to influence the opinions of the Fathers; but he followed the debates on a radio).  Therefore they changed their opinion as not to mess up receiving their high church offices and above all the red hat of the Cardinal's dignity. This is what the secretary of the Holy Congregation of the Index, the Congregation for the Defence of the Faith today. He betrayed his superior, the admired Cardinal Ottaviani, in order to follow Suenens.

    An examination of the votes and interventions of the Council Fathers that are stored in the archives of the Vatican, would confirm my claims. We should be surprised about this situation. The following Councils displayed the same phenomena.  An Athanasius fought almost alone for the righteous belief and he had to exert immense energy and patience in order to get a majority. At his time there were a few hundred council Fathers.  Vatican II had more than 2.000 participants.  The Bishops are selected less because of their theological knowledge but rather because of their skill and their good relationships to the Nuncios and Apostolic Delegates, who suggest the successors for vacant Bishoprics to the Roman die casters.

    My presence at the council far away from Vietnam saved my life. Otherwise, I would have been murdered like my three brothers, the president Diêm, Nhu and Cân.  While my colleagues from South Vietnam returned to Vietnam after the council’s conclusion, the Americans forced the South Vietnamese into refusing my return visa.  Frankly said, there was no reason to refuse this return:  The Vietnamese Embassy asked me to be patient while it conferred with the government in Saigon. I waited some months and turned to the Holy Father for help that permission would be granted so that I could return.

    I do not know what the Holy Father Paul VI did, but he used the situation that I could not return to my diocese in Hué, to force me into abdication and appoint his favourite, Mgr. Dién, in my place.

    In order not to wallow in the idleness, I asked to do service in Italy as a vicar in a parish, which was not difficult for me, because I spoke Italian fluently and love the Italians. At first, I went into the Abbey Casamari.  The Reverend Abbot met me and Mgr I. Lê-hûû-Tu, who accompanied me there.  He was a Cistercian and belonged to the same order as Casamari.  This is a very old Abbey that had been established by St. Bernhard of Clairvaux.  He suggested that I take an apartment there.  I spent months there and was glad that I could be the monks` confessor in the monastery and for the parish faithful who were dependent on the abbey. Due to no fault of my own I had to leave them a little over a year later. That was the beginning of the last portion of my life that would be marked only by failures. Providential failures.

***

    Since the nationalistic government in Saigon was incited by the Americans to deny me the entry visa to Vietnam, I needed to look for a not too expensive apartment in Rome. I made the rounds at all the accommodations for clergy.  I was definitely rejected everywhere, although politely.  I believe that the reason was my bishop's title. One was certain that I would take liberties and provide a bad example for the students. "Et sui eum non receperunt" which means: "And his own received him not."  

    Fortunately, a former Apostolic Delegate in Vietnam showed me some quarters.  Mgr. Caprio was indebted to me and to the government of Saigon that was previously under my brother Diêm's leadership.  Mgr. Caprio had been a guest of the Franciscan Sisters during his stays in Rome and I immediately took advantage of the opportunity.  The Mother Superior, a Luxemburger, took me in and even granted me a rent discount. For 50.000 Lire monthly, I had rights to a small room and three meals per day. I also found apostolic work with the priest of the adjoining parish: to read Holy Mass at 11:00 a.m., to hear the confessions of the faithful, and to visit about 100 ill people each month who could not attend church, since they were unable to walk.  Twice a month at about 3:00 p.m., I did my rounds and brought them Holy Communion. I did this after I heard their confessions, if they had asked me to do so.

    The priest gave me the princely sum of 30.000 Liras per month for this service. Therefore I still had to find the 20.000 Liras for the service in this rather rich parish.  This was necessary to fully pay for room and board with the Sisters. The priest explained to me that he gave this salary to his former Vicar, who had left him.  I informed him that this Vicar lived in a room for free and in addition to this salary, partook of the priest's brotherly meals.  He replied that he needed the Vicar's former room for his guests and that it would be an honour for him to receive me for dinner at the main holidays of the year.

    I accepted these rather draconian conditions, because I was happy to do this Apostolate, and I believe that the parish children were content with my services. They told me this several times, and I was confident that I had found no source of wealth, but had found an opportunity to modestly practice my priestly Apostolate.

    After more than a year, a thunderstorm suddenly broke out. We were in the middle of the “dog's days” (hot and muggy). Rome was as hot as an oven. After visiting the ill, I was soaked with perspiration and wished to take a shower. However, the Nuns did not have a shower there, but used Sundays to take a hot bath with water from their kitchen.  Therefore I went into the parsonage where there was always hot water for the bathtub that was reserved for the Vicars. But the priest forbade me this and literally said, "Since you live with the Nuns, you must bath with them and not in the parsonage." However the Sisters only had a bath on Sundays. Angered by the priest's refusal, "I threw the towel in". This was how my first Apostolate in Italy ended, to the great sorrow of the parish faithful and especially my ill (faithful).  Because the priest's refusal was not the consequence of his stinginess but a certain jealousy since he noticed that my confessional was visited by his parish children and that a number of his lambs had left him in order to make me their Father Confessor.

    How should one prove this? I had the habit of going to the church to meditate and to pray my Breviary so I could perhaps be available for my penitent. Otherwise, the people had to find the Sexton, who was not always in the church in order to confess. And if he was there, he had to get the priest, who was not always in the parsonage. I, however, was constantly in the church and could immediately hear the penitent's confession and they could return home afterward.

    During the summer the priest took one month of vacation and allowed me to use his confessional. Outside of this month I had to use my own confessional.  It was located at the church entrance and the priest's confessional was near the main altar.  The priest held Holy Mass one morning. He was praying the Lord's Prayer. I listened to this Mass as a lady spoke to me and asked me to hear her confession, since it was the first anniversary of a relative's death.  Since the time for communion was pressing, I believed it was more practical to hear her confession in the priest's confessional. The confession had hardly begun, and then I heard screams. I limited myself to saying: "Whoever you are, be quiet, because I am listening to a confession."

    The confession hardly finished, I saw the priest while exiting, red with fury. He told me: "you do not have the right to use my confessional!" I answered: "Father, I will explain it to you after Mass, in the Sacristy".  In the sacristy, I told him the story of this woman, who had to confess, in order to take communion at Mass, but he had been busy with the Lord's Prayer. Therefore she would not have received any communion if I had had to go to the rear of the church. The priest replied: "Bad luck for her, she should have had to come to church earlier.  In any case, you do not have the right to use my confessional."

    I had never previously seen a priest with so little charity. The Lord ran after the lost sheep, but for the shepherd of the parish "The Heart of Jesus and Mary" it was rather insignificant. The possession of his confessional was important to him, even if he was absent from his church.  However, the reason for this intransigence was: His lambs informed him of the parish gossip before the confession of their sins. A fact: As I was in this confessional during the priest's vacation, his penitents very often began their reports since they believed that the priest was in the confessional.  I reprimanded them immediately and told them that the confessional is there for their sins to be confessed and not for reporting his neighbour’s sins. I was then chased out of this parish and consequently had to find other quarters, since the Nun’s paid hospitality was only suitable for one with a job.

    Where should I go now?  After I had carefully thought about it, I remembered an invitation extended to me by the Reverend Father Cistercian Abbot of Casamari to come stay with him in central Italy, where I could do a little good without spending any money.  The large abbey only had about 30 monks for the 100 cells and the additional 30 cell for the novices.  At that time there was only one single novice.

    I wrote, and Abbot Buttarazzi replied immediately; he repeated his invitation.  I got underway with a bus from Rome to Casamari in the Frosinone province. This is how I became the guest of the very old abbey that had been established in the Middle Ages by the students of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Almost all of the priories scattered around Italy are dependent upon it.

    Once, the Casamari Cistercian congregation consisted of hundreds of monks, but the number of the monks from this Congregation is rather reduced currently. The most fertile branch is in Vietnam with an abbot who lives in Thíu-dûé near Saigon.  His jurisdiction includes two monasteries that had to retreat to Cochin-china to flee the Communist advance in Central Vietnam.

    The Vietnamese Cistercian congregation was founded by a former missionary from the Foreign Missions of Paris, Father Denis, who was once my professor in the minor seminary of Anninh.  He founded it because he could not convince the French Trappist Fathers to emigrate to Vietnam.  This is why the Cistercians in Vietnam are usually inaccurately called Trappists, because they adopted the penitent life of the Trappists which is connected with the Cistercians, who allow great freedom in the organization of monastery discipline in each monastery.  

    The Casamari monastery, lead by Reverend Dom Nivardo Buttarazzi, owns much land: hundreds of hectares of fields and forests. The monastic life is no longer as when founded by the great Bernard of Clairvaux.  That is the consequence of the material affluence that undermines the orders. The meals in Casamari are simple, yet extensive and well prepared.  The days of fasting are very far apart.  Outside the main prayers such as Matins, followed by the convent Mass, the monks only go into the abbey church in the evening to sing the Compline before they go to bed and for a few minutes of collection after lunch and dinner.  As to the meals, I experienced better in France

    The Father Abbot had accommodations for me in the guest house, in a rather spacious room. There were also two parlours in this home, one for the Abbot's visitors and the other for those of the monks.  In addition to the toilets, there were bathrooms with warm water and showers. The laundry is collected every Saturday by the Nuns for cleaning. They also take care of the kitchen and live in an apartment near the entrance of the abbey.  The store where the monks sell the famous liqueurs of the abbey is in this area, near the main entrance. The distilled products from various plants are harvested in several areas throughout Italy and are all deemed invigorating. The abbey also owns a boarding school that is associated with a theological college.  The school is visited by the sons of families that pay an appropriate upkeep, but is also open to the minor Cistercian Postulants who have free room, board and instruction. A large number of families around of Casamari profit from it, but the majority of their children leave the postulate after secondary training.  This is why the noviciate had only one novice!

    The Cistercian order, which includes more than 10 Congregation worldwide, is lead by Abbot Sighard Kleiner.  He has the title of General Abbot and is assisted by the Father Abbot Gregorio, Procurator and General Postulator, a former Casamari monk with Roman residence.
A rather moderate leadership, particularly after Vatican II reduced the monastic obligations to a minimum. This is why vocations are so rare. For vocations are directed at the orders that could remain loyal to their old strictness.

    The service in Casamari that I found myself, through the silent consent of the Reverend Father Abbot, was the hearing of confessions of the monks.  They found it more pleasant to confess to a stranger than to their confessor with whom they had lived together since the postulate.  Saturday and in the morning Mass my confessional was open for the Casamari parish children, a parish of almost 5000 souls. Therefore I had sufficient work.  The time outside of my cell I spent visiting the abandoned abbey church. I prayed the way of the cross and to our Lord there, in his tabernacle, most of the time solus cum solo.  I spent more than 15 months in Casamari as in paradise, but it was written that this wonderful time would also darken and a sudden vehement storm awaited me.

    After I had travelled to Rome due to personal issues, upon my return I immediately noticed that something had changed. The Reverend Father Abbot was absent.  I was hardly in my rooms when I saw the Prior coming with a very sad face—he was my penitent. He told me that I must leave Casamari as soon as possible and find another place to stay.  Why did they throw me out? The Prior told me: "The Father Abbot was informed that you reported to the Vatican, that a nude exhibition was opened in the abbey's library. The Abbot was censured by Reverend Abbot Sighard, the highest authority of the Cistercian order."  I remembered the letter that I sent, under the seal of the reticence, to Abbot Sighard.    In this letter, I asked this Abbot to inform the Vatican that a Casamari monk, accompanied by an Italian priest, a Postulant of this monastery had taken offence to the opening of the nude exhibition and particularly to the brochure that displayed these things.  The brochure had been printed in the monastery’s printing office and given free of charge to the parish children and had been sent to visitors.  The Abbot’s name and then my name appeared on the cover page as if we were the honorary chairpersons of this rather unique exhibit.  The two informed me of this unique exhibition that could cause displeasure at the Vatican.  

    In my letter to Abbot Sighard, I wrote that I knew nothing at all about this exhibition and that no one had asked me for my consent to appear there as honorary co-chairperson.  I therefore asked the Abbot to put things straight in the Vatican again, but not to let this correspondence become known in Casamari, however.  Abbot Sighard had possessed the thoughtlessness, to reveal the content of my letter to Abbot Buttarazzi.  Therefore Buttarazzis's anger and his decision to throw me out of the abbey immediately.  There were no sanctions against the sponsors of the scandalous exhibition but punishment for me, the alleged informer against the monks.  The Prior granted me a period of one day to pack my things and to find refuge.

    After long consideration, I remembered the sympathy of this region's Bishop toward me. I went to the Bishop's palace and asked him if there was any chapel with a sacristy where I could put a desk, a bed to sleep on and could establish myself. The Bishop responded that there was a beautiful church with a parsonage about 20 kilometres away from Casamari. The priest did not live there and he would inform the priest of his decision to lend me these quarters and tell him that he was still the pastor of the parish. He should view me as an assistant priest and allow me to live in the empty parsonage and read Mass in church.

    I thanked the bishop and rented a small truck that took me and my belongings to the parish’s parsonage. The priest was overjoyed about his Bishop's decision and reserved only the paid liturgical services for himself, such as: baptisms, weddings, burials. The other services fell to me: Catechism, visiting the ill, Sundays Mass, etc.  This small parish, named Arpino, consisted of only about 10 families.  They owned wheat fields and fruit plantations. It was farmers who only owned some beasts of burden, a chicken coop and a rabbit stall, but prosperous people. Arpino has a small restaurant. The church has an old Sexton, who seems very nice. Certainly I had to pay for my needs, but I was given gifts: Eggs, milk, etc!

    I spent happy days with the small flock there. I was their second shepherd and I believed that Arpino would be my last residence in this world. However, the future that providence provided for me, approached with fast steps! One year and a few months had passed: During this pause, I had met many people, and my parsonage overflowed with gifts: a very new kitchen, a refrigerator that kept the purchases cool that I took care to purchase each week in the city. It was also named Arpino, half an hour away on foot; but the time was decreased to a few minutes if my parish children drove to the city by car and invited me to ride along.

    I made friends with people from the Religious Orders and also the Archpriest in this city. He invited me to perform the main celebrations, particularly the celebration of the Holy Virgin's Assumption into heaven.  A religious celebration followed with an extensive banquet.  I also returned home with the payment for a Pontifical Mass in my pocket.  I was invited quite often by the Bishop. Every Sunday people were keen on inviting me for lunch. These friendships seemed always loyal to me. But the thunderstorm approached on the vigil of Christmas. It was around midday, while I was preparing the manger for the feast—the first manger in Arpino. I placed great value on the nativity scene and had sacrificed several thousand Liras to purchase it because I knew it would be a unique attraction for my children in catechism instruction. These children’s eyes bulged as they stood around me, their mouths gaping open as I showed them the small Jesus, His mother Mary and St. Joseph.  I showed them a corner in the caravan of the Holy Three Kings and they stood on their tiptoes and observed the wonderful star. It was simple to make God's inexhaustible love comprehensible for them, who out of love for us turned into a small child.  It was unnecessary to prove the existence of the angels to them who sang "Gloria in excelsis" with wide opened mouths.  These farm children knew the shepherds, who were similar to their brothers and the sheep that formed their small herds. The very white haired St. Joseph resembled our old Sexton. The manger, a splendid invention by Frances of Assisi, is real experience and appropriate catechism for children.  I was not sorry about my small fortune that was used for the purchase of this beautiful manger.  Then a priest came to me, one I had met before in Ecône, Switzerland. He told me outright: "Excellency, the Holy Virgin sends me in order for me to send you to central Spain immediately to render her a service.  My car is ready for you at the parsonage's door and we will depart immediately depart in order to be there for Christmas."  

    Stunned by this invitation, I said to him: "If it is a service that the Holy Virgin required, I am ready to follow you to the end of the world, but I must inform the priest because of the Christmas Mass and must pack my bag.  Meanwhile, since it was soon midday, go to the village restaurant and get something to eat."  He replied to me: "There are three of us in the car and we do not even have a cent with which to buy a cup of coffee."  I told him:  "All three of you go; I will pay for your lunch."  A lunch that cost me 3,000 Liras.

    In order to reach Palmar de Troya, I would have spent 50,000 Liras for gas and meals. While I nibbled on a piece of bread, they ate well. I called the Sexton and asked him to inform the priest about Christmas Mass. I told him that I would immediately go to France because of urgent family matters and would return promptly in two weeks...

 
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