A short life told to children
It is in Audincourt, in the Doubs, that Daniel JOËSSEL was born on 15 july 1908 into a deeply christian family. Eight days later he is baptized in the church of l'Immaculée Conception.
His mother, Marthe, looks after the household which already includes a daughter, Andrée, and two boys, Pierre and Yves. His father, Raymond, director of the town's Forges, is also a passionate fan of Jules VERNE, a skilled violinist and, like his father before him, a brilliant inventor.
Even as a child, Daniel, whom everyone calls "Dani", likes to pray. One day, before starting their lessons, he kneels down with his brother Yves to say the Our Father and Hail Mary.
The teacher in charge of them is so struck by Dani's recollected attitude that she runs to tell his mother so that she can also witness it.
He receives the Body of Christ for the first time on 20 april 1916, a Holy Thursday. He is not yet eight years old.
In October 1918, after a stay in La Baule where he spends his family vacations every year, the family move to Versailles. Dani enters the Saint Jean de Béthune College.
Father RÉGENT prepares him for his solemn Communion which takes place on 22 june 1919, the Feast of Corpus Christi.
A few months later the family moves to Paris where Dani continues his studies brilliantly at the Notre-Dame school in the rue de Madrid, run by the Jesuits.
5th grade class with Mr. PASCAL, Notre-Dame de la rue de Madrid school,1919-1920.
Dani is in the second row, second from the left.
He is also a great sportsman who notably excels in tennis and running.
His love for Christ continues to grow. With one of his friends, Pierre POISSON, as part of the Missionary Childhood, he seeks to win souls to the Lord. When he succeeds in doing so, he announces with joy: "Ah, that one, Mom, I got him! ".
And to his parents who sometimes worry a little about this zeal, a teacher replies: "We love him and we follow him! ".
It is around the age of 15 that the call of God becomes more pressing. And after passing his baccalaureate, he enters the French Seminary in Rome in october 1927, recommended by Father de VAUPLANE, a Jesuit, who writes:"This young man will make a remarkable priest."
Nevertheless, the following autumn, attracted by the contemplative life, Daniel do not return to Rome, but enters the Benedictines, at the abbey of Saint Pierre of Solesmes, which he leaves a few months later, in february 1929.
He then do his military service in Poitiers and then in Orleans. There too, he is quick to win hearts and souls. When he finishes his training eighteen months later, he leaves behind the memory of a young, cheerful and lively apostle.
He brings back with him the mascot of the cadets, a little dog named Dudule, in reference
to a certain warrant officer.
But his desire to answer the Lord's call is always present and at the age of 22 he enters the Carmelite seminary in Paris.
He is ordained a priest on 31 march 1934, on a Holy Saturday, in the chapel of Saint Joseph of the Carmelites. He is almost 27 years old.
He continues his studies for another year while answering the call of the parish priest of Montesson to teach catechism in a poor suburb. He also works with the Dominican nuns of Montmartre who are nursing patients. He celebrates mass daily in their oratory.
Then, in july 1935, he joins the parish of Saint Geneviève in Asnières-sur-Seine. At that time, the parish is expanding rapidly and already has seven priests. The parish priest, Jean MULLER, entrusts responsibility for the young people to the one they will soon affectionately call Father JO.
He endeavors to bring together the various youth movements that exist at the time, those of the Young Christian Workers, the patronage, the scouts, the Valiant Hearts...
He encourages them, guides them spiritually and leads them to follow him in order to lead them to Christ. He gives himself entirely to them, making their souls his constant concern, not shying away from any sacrifice or suffering for that.
Every summer he organises a summer camp. It is an opportunity for him to offer his young people the chance to experience a one hundred percent christian family life. And Father JO's radiant smile lights up every moment. Loving one another is the key word of his camps.
He takes his young people to Savoie, the Vosges or the Auvergne.
He takes advantage of this to entrust responsibilities to the older children, to involve them in the Christian formation of the younger ones.
It is also an opportunity for him to evangelise wherever he goes, simply by taking part in the activities of the villagers or by providing services and setting an example for the children.
Thus, at the end of one summer, while everyone is busy preparing to leave for Asnières, a fire breaks out not far from the summer camp. Without hesitation, Father JO, accompanied by a team of grown-ups, jumps into his old car, named Scarcity, and run to help.
Mass, in summer camps as in Asnières, remains the highlight of each of his days, the center of his life and he wants it to be the same for everyone. So one day he asks one of his young people: "Do you live your Mass? Do you live it intimately? "
His parish priest, Father MULLER, says that his mass, in itself, is a preaching.
And another priest testifies that when one listens to him, when one looks at his face, one feels that he is penetrated by the feeling of God's presence.
He is very careful that the children understand the Mass. He does not want receiving the Body of Christ to become a mere habit for them. " Receive the Body of Christ only if you truly desire it, Communion is a serious matter." he reminds them regularly.
He tries to give them a taste for personal prayer and for visiting the Blessed Sacrament.
And he points out, "At the same time as praying, you must offer yourself !"
Offering everything to God and offering oneself is Father Daniel's life program and what he calls everyone to.
"We cannot live without Jesus, he says, and Jesus is the Cross. It is there that we must follow him.
The Christian life is based on sacrifice. Every little thing in our day is a providential opportunity for sacrifice. What we must do is the will of God. To God, say yes, everywhere and always! All holiness is there. "
Sacrifice, yes, but with joy!
"Have a smile, even when it is difficult! " This is what he himself tries to do and his example that his parishioners try to follow. This is how the young orphans of the Saint Elizabeth Institute, for which Father JO is spiritual director, deprive themselves for a whole month of the few chocolates and sweets they receive in order to offer them to people poorer than themselves at Christmas.
Although Father JO spends a lot of time for "his kids", he does not forget the elderly and the sick.
It is always with impatience that the "grandmothers" of the Saint Elisabeth hospice await the visit of their dear Father JOËSSEL. He listens to them, comforts them and brings them joy.
In addition to home visits, he participates with his parish priest and his confreres in the Sick Days held in the church of Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours.
The year 1937 is marked by the death of his father in March.
Then two of his oldest children die during a summer camp in Savoie. Pierre and Roland, gone to retrieve some forgotten equipment, are caught in the night and fall to their deaths.
Father Daniel's pain is huge. His faith sustains him in this ordeal. He is convinced that their death is not in vain and that they are now interceding for their comrades.
In 1939, he has the pain of losing his mother, the first confidant of his vocation. However, he has the consolation of accompanying her in her last moments.
On 3 september 1939, France goes to war against Germany. Father JOËSSEL is posted to the 30th Artillery Regiment as a lieutenant.
He receives the blessing of his parish priest before leaving for the front.
From the very beginning, his regiment is engaged in the fighting. The first weeks are difficult. He knows fear.
It is not easy for him to reconcile his ministry as a priest with his role as an officer.
It is a new trial, as is the impossibility of being able to celebrate mass daily.
And yet, despite all the difficulties, which he offers to God, he still attracts souls.
In october his regiment is positioned in the second line. The waiting and inaction begin. He uses this time to reflect and pray. He keeps up a lot of correspondence, especially with his young people. He exhorts them to remain united and give them this instruction: "Sacrifice, because we cannot be Christians without it, without daring to look at the cross. For us, this war must be an opportunity to climb higher! "
He celebrates mass, organizes prayer vigils and teaching groups and helps his confreres whenever he can.
In april 1940, he takes advantage of a leave to return to Asnières. Everyone wants to see him, to such an extent that he has difficulty answering the many invitations. He shows himself to be cheerful and full of enthusiasm, but at the time of his departure he is convinced that he will not return. In fact, he tells a colleague about his children, "I did everything I could for them, I gave everything I could give; now I just have to die for them! "
On 10 may 1940, the Battle of France begins. Father JOËSSEL is wounded in battle on 20 may.
On the 27th, he arrives in Ciney, Belgium, in a Brothers of the Christian Schools’ establishment transformed into a hospital by the Germans. His condition deteriorates.
He is assisted in his last days by Father MASSART.
He confesses and dictates a few letters to his sister, his parish priest and his confrere Father FOUQUES-DUPARC.
He dies on 30 may after having received the extreme unction and offered with "great joy" the sacrifice of his life for the Church, souls and the Homeland.
In his letters he shows great humility, asking for forgiveness for his deficiencies and for 300 masses to be celebrated for all those he would have said badly.
He offers his life so that there would be priests after him, especially in his family.
And indeed vocations have been numerous since his death.
On 26 may, a short note informs his family and friends that he is wounded, but it is only three months later that they learn of his death.
From then on, his reputation for sanctity spreads.
In 1941, the story of his life is already written and published in a new collection entitled "Belles vies sacerdotales".
In 1942, he is posthumously made a Knight of the Legion of Honor.
After the end of the war, the parishioners of Asnières-sur-Seine, with the agreement of Father JOËSSEL's family, take steps to have his body repatriated to France and laid to rest in the church of Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours.Notre Dame du Perpétuel The burial takes place on 20 november 1949.
On 11 may 1961, a chapel bearing the name of his patron saint, Saint Daniel, is inaugurated in Asnières.