On 20 November 1949, Father Daniel JOËSSEL, after having rested for some time in the cemetery of Ciney in Belgium, was buried in the church of Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours. The celebration was presided over by Mgr FELTIN, Archbishop of Paris.
Mr PRESSOIR, a Sulpician, who had been the superior of the Carmelite seminary during Daniel JOËSSEL's training, gave the homily to the parishioners and the family present.
This homily is an extraordinary portrait of Father JOËSSEL.
Your Excellency, Brothers,
The parish priest of Saint-Geneviève d'Asnières wanted a priest who had known Father JOËSSEL during his training years at the seminary to address a few words to you during this moving ceremony. I did not want to refuse him my testimony, which no doubt, my brothers, will add little to the admiration and worship that you already have for this admirable priestly figure.
Your Excellency, you who are related to the hero of this day, and better than that, related in soul, which allows us to unite you with him in a common love, please accept the homage of our gratitude for your presence here today, and of our filial obedience to the directives you will want to give us.
When, after 20 years, I see Father JOËSSEL again, I cannot better sum up my overall impression than by applying to him the word of the Gospel: « No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. »
It was, as you know, Bishop FELTIN, Our Lord who said this. It was Our Lord who did this. Having come here to save us, Jesus worked out our salvation by two great means: service, and death on the cross. Service, because He, the Master, did not come to be served but to serve - total service: He did not reserve anything for Himself, He gave everything, His time, His doctrine, His benefits, especially His heart, with all its tenderness and forgiveness.
And He crowned this life of service with the gift of His blood, of His life, in death on the cross…
The disciple is perfect if he is like his master, said Our Lord... This perfect disciple was... Father
in his training for five years at the seminary
in his parish ministry here for four years.
When Daniel JOËSSEL entered the Carmelite seminary in 1930, he was looking for his way. Several attempts at ecclesiastical or religious life had not succeeded. A soul in love with the absolute, he was looking for a total gift to God. I can still see him, a tall, distinguished young man with a broad forehead crowned with abundant blond hair, his good blue eyes, calm and peaceful and always straight, showed a frank and resolute soul; sometimes his eyes would light up and flash when he spoke of Christ, of his love or of the souls to be won.
He immediately adapted to this Carmelite seminary, which we defined at the time as « a monastery attached to a university ». Daniel JOËSSEL was eager to draw from this university the higher culture he felt necessary for the priest to face the problems of the present time, and this culture was given to him by teachers of great value, one of whom, Father LEBRETON, a great scholar, became his spiritual father. And then when the young seminarian left the university and crossed the threshold of the seminary, it was the recollection of the monastery, the holy house of the Carmelites with its three centuries old traditions of prayer, with the memories of the martyrs of 2 september 1792, and of LACORDAIRE and OZANAM, a whole atmosphere of generosity, of nobility of soul, of heroism, an incomparable setting, which the first superior, Monsieur VERDIER, knew how to exploit admirably. He left the seminarians « in the hand of their council » as he said, that is to say, to their conscience, asking them to prepare a loyal, complete and adapted priesthood.
Our dear Daniel flourished in this environment; he spent five of the happiest years of his life there. He soon found a few fellow seekers of God, who were as keen on holiness as he was; they formed a small group - we did not yet speak of a team, but they had the spirit of it - they trained in
generosity with the ardour of their 20s, not always with the necessary prudence, but isn't that how one becomes a saint?
Mortification did not cost them much, especially in the form of a rough life, deliberately sought after, or of a violent sport requiring endurance as well as skill. They took little account of the inclemency of the seasons. They did not make a fire in winter and by these methods, which did not escape the directors, they made a virile and strong soul in a body that knew how to suffer.
And we, the directors of the seminary, admired these generous young people, simply obedient, not at all demanding, nor sparing of their pains, but eager to serve. At times, around these young people, we had the impression that we were bordering on something very similar to sanctity. And not a morose sanctity. Daniel JOËSSEL was the most cheerful of the companions, he liked to laugh frankly and brightly, he liked jokes and humour. How much he was sought after by his comrades from that time on.
The secret of this intense life was a deep piety. Father JOËSSEL was in love with Jesus Christ, with his victorious charms, with his cross. He loved Him with love. Jesus Christ was for him the great, the divine friend with whom one is never bored. How many long stops I saw him take near the Blessed Sacrament, even though he was such an active man that you knew. He did not consider these long moments of spiritual communion with his God to be a waste of time. His gaze was fixed on the tabernacle, as if his faith, piercing all the veils, was contemplating the invisible, and one felt that it was with regret that he left the chapel and the divine friend.
It was in this frequent face-to-face, or rather heart-to-heart, meeting with Our Lord that Daniel JOËSSEL gradually conformed to Jesus Christ; he surrendered his entire being, intelligence, heart, will, sensitivity, to Him; he said: Lord, enter into me, all is yours; and grace, God's goodness, God's serenity, God's peace were poured into this young seminarian, and for him the words of Saint Paul were fulfilled: « Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me. » These people, Bishop FELTIN, are strong, they are invincible, they have the strength of God within them.
The virile soul of Daniel JOËSSEL had another love, another tenderness: it was for the Virgin Mary. Mr. Verdier, who had a magnificent statue of the Blessed Virgin in the Carmelite chapel, the work of Bernin, found a way to make it shine against a golden background in the evening darkness. Every evening, as the last exercise of the day, an exercise which was optional and in no way imposed, the seminarians came to greet their Mother, the clement, pious, gentle Virgin Mary.
And one could see these good children, who, unable to receive the mother's kiss every evening as in a family, compensated themselves by contemplating their sweet Mother in heaven. The nun who came to close the chapel would sometimes tear them away from their vision; and I would see Daniel go back to his room, all collected, to take his rest, a sleep that would certainly be soothed, and pure, and beneficent and happy. Yes, he was happy in the seminary.
But do not believe, Monsignor FELTIN, that this life was a refined and superior egoism. For Daniel JOËSSEL, it was rather a life of self-giving to others, a life of charity. Like Saint Paul, he needed to give himself, to give his treasures. « If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it. » said the great apostle. And we know how, in Athens, while he was waiting for his companions, Paul, all alone, simply undertook to conquer this great city for Christ. Daniel JOËSSEL is of that race. He has to do good, it is a necessity of life for him, as it was for Saint Paul. He lends easily, and sometimes he gives everything he has; he guesses, as if by a superior instinct, the needs of others, needs for material help, needs for intellectual help, needs for consolation and affection; and ingeniously, he intervenes delicately. He, rather energetic and virile by nature, becomes tender like Saint Paul, who would like to be able to counterfeit his voice, to cradle his children like a nurse. This is our Daniel.
For our young foreigners, of whom there were quite a few at the Carmelite seminary, who were so easily nostalgic for their country and their family, especially at Christmas and New Year's, Daniel was there, replacing the absent family. A mother would not have had more delicacy of soul and process.
And if his charity was ingenious for the material needs of his comrades, you can guess what he
was when it came to making them love Christ, duty, the cross, souls.
What a trainer of souls he was.
But, my brothers, I stop and apologise for keeping you so long in the seminary.
Here is our dear Daniel, a priest (Holy Saturday, March 31, 1934); for him the priesthood will be, as LACORDAIRE defined it, « the immolation of man added to that of God ».
He is then sent to you as your vicar, and from now on he will give himself entirely to your service, he will immolate himself entirely, while waiting to give his life for his country.
Here, my brothers, it is your testimony that should arise in this assembly ?
What family, the father, the mother, the young man, the child, who one day, having come into contact with the young vicar, has not received a benefit from him? He has passed among you doing good, like his divine Master; it was his duty, and his wake of goodness remains among you.
I have been told that in many families, his photograph is in the limelight, next to the crucifix, and that when a child in Mr. JOËSSEL's catechism, a young man in Mr. JOËSSEL's patronage, a young girl directed by him and now a mother, looks at this figure of a priest who is so gentle and so demanding at the same time, it is an irresistible call to duty, to honour, to generosity, to sanctity; « In memoria aeterna erit justus » yes, the saints are in eternal memory.
Here, my brothers, recollect yourselves, recall your memories; remember a mass of Father JOËSSEL, one felt him, invested by the divine presence; it seemed that, like Moses on the mountain, he saw the Invisible.
Remember a catechism by Father JOËSSEL where his fiery words captivated the children, a visit to a sick person, a homily on the Gospel, a guidance at the confessional, a conversation that was at first banal and almost ended in prayer.
Or you, young people, remember that sportsman, for he was, that champion, that daring man when he was at the wheel of his car - I confess that I sometimes shuddered, sitting next to him, when I saw that exhilaration of speed. It was him, first everywhere; but above all, dear young people, more than the sportsman, remember the priest who loved you so much, who gave you christian pride, a virile purity, the spirit of the apostolate, the happiness that comes from doing the work of others.
Such a life, my brothers, could not end in banality. God gave him a death worthy of him, as he did for several of his friends of whom I have spoken and who, like him, fell gloriously to save us, like this admirable Father BEAUDOUIN, his emulator of dedication here and his emulator of glory in death.
Read again, my brothers, in the beautiful book dedicated to him by Mr François VEUILLOT, the last letters of Father JOËSSEL, the account of his campaign and his last days, the last ascent of this magnificent soul in the complete renunciation of himself, in the conscious and willed march to death, and then you will come back to this word of the Gospel, with which we began and which best sums up the life of Monsieur JOËSSEL: « No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. »
And so today the glorious mortal remains of the much loved priest are returned to you, my brothers, and will now rest in your church: a great favour and source of many graces.
Today, my brothers, let us pray for him. No doubt our well-founded hope will seek him in heaven in the assembly of the saints, but his humility would ask us to pray for him, let us not fail to do so.
Let us not forget either to pray for his dear earthly family, whom I respectfully greet here. It is a debt of gratitude for us: is it not this family, so deeply christian, which formed the soul of our dear Daniel, and offered it so generously to God in the priesthood ?
But also, my brothers, let us all come to seek lessons of faith and generosity of sacrifice from this tomb. Fathers and mothers, continue to interest Father JOËSSEL in the future of your children, in your concerns which are often so distressing at the present time.
Young people whom he loved so much, come and ask him for the uprightness, the strength, the courage, the pride of being christians in all the environments where providence has placed you.
Young women, come and ask him for the secret of the virtues that give you honour and confer on you the only true christian beauty that does not pass away.
And all of us, my brothers, will often come as if on pilgrimage to this tomb, so that through his powerful intercession, the good Father JOËSSEL may obtain for us from God something of his generosity, his serenity, his unchanging peace.
Let it be so.
Abbé Jean PRESSOIR