Feast of Henri Perrin (April 13)   Leave a comment

HENRI PERRIN (APRIL 13, 1914-OCTOBER 25, 1954)

French Roman Catholic Worker Priest


Father Henri Perrin identified with the poor and members of the industrial working class.  He, born at Comimont, France (in the Vosges Mountains), on April 13, 1914, became a Jesuit priest before World War II.  In 1943 he became a pioneer in the worker-priest movement when he volunteered to accompany French workers going to Germany, which occupied the country at the time.  He maintained his cover as an industrial worker and functioned covertly as a chaplain for less than a year before authorities discovered who and what he really was.  A brief period of incarceration ensued, as did his repatriation in 1945.

Perrin understood that the Roman Catholic Church–in France, in particular–had identified with the wealthy and powerful so long that it had alienated itself from the poor and the industrial workers.  So it was that, in Paris, in 1947, the former Jesuit and other priests, with the support of some bishops, applied for industrial jobs and became outwardly indistinguishable from industrial workers.  This entailed joining Communist-dominated labor unions, a fact that brought the Vatican’s disapproval upon the worker priests.  In 1949 the Church condemned all Roman Catholics who became or collaborated with Communists.  Four years later the Church banned the worker-priest movement.

Perrin had a difficult decision to make, as did all worker priests.  Most of them obeyed Rome.  Perrin, however, remained disobedient, even though he knew he might have to resign from the priesthood.  Before he had to make that decision, however, Perrin died in a motorcycle accident on October 25, 1954.  He was 40 years old.

The Bible has much to say regarding economic injustice.  Among the most documented Biblical motifs is that sacred anthology is the divine preference for the poor, people often exploited by wealthier individuals.  In the Hebrew Bible, for example, one needs to look no further than the prophets for this motif.  One can also find it in the public ministry of Jesus.

Perrin, I conclude, read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested the Bible, with its mandate for social justice, well.  I also conclude that any ecclesiastical institution that does not identify with the poor and the downtrodden has gone astray, assuming, of course, that it was ever on the right path.





O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), age 60



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