A priestly friendship
"It was to get up there that we met and, as you say, if it is for anything else, our friendship is meaningless. "
Letter from Daniel JOËSSEL to Pierre VEUILLOT, 18th October 1933.
Father JOËSSEL radiated: he loved everyone he met and in return "everyone loved him".
Families, the young and the old, the sick... all those who approached him were "hooked".
"He was loved by everyone, even by the indifferent, even by the communists he was able to approach," notes his biographer, who adds: "He was so loved by everyone that everyone wanted to have him."
Daniel JOËSSEL had experienced friendship at least since the seminary, where he had become more closely associated with those who could stimulate his spiritual progress.
Thus he was greatly influenced by Father Raoul DORANGE and he himself influenced others.
Raoul DORANGE (?) and Daniel JOËSSEL
Among those who acknowledge that they owe him a great deal, there is, from the seminary, a student, younger than Daniel by almost five years, who would later become Archbishop of Paris and Cardinal.
With the appropriate discretion, because it was his son, François VEUILLOT tells of the first
meeting between the two future priests.
« I was able to trace the source of one of his most fraternal friendships. It is only a small detail, but one that sheds a great deal of light. A very young man, handicapped by a recent illness, had obtained permission, or rather had been instructed, to begin his ecclesiastical studies as an extern. Now, on a certain day of great ceremony at Notre-Dame, the whole seminary had been summoned to the cathedral and the "boarders" of the Carmelite monastery were going there in groups: Father JOËSSEL, in friendly conversation with the students of his course, suddenly saw his new fellow student, still unknown to him except for his face, who was walking alone, on another pavement. Immediately, with an instantaneous reflex, he detached himself from his company and ran to the loner, whom he approached with an affectionate smile. The two hearts were "hooked" for ever, but mainly because the two souls discovered themselves in perfect communion.
Now, it was precisely to this tenderly cherished 'brother' that Father JOËSSEL, two or three years later, would confide his moving and transcendent conception of priestly friendship. ‘I do not love you with human affection,'' he wrote to him, 'because a priest's heart cannot be shared. I am happy that you have already understood all this, for I am sure that, for your part, you do not love me for myself, but so that Christ may increase in me.'' »
François VEUILLOT, A suburban vicar, Father Daniel Joëssel, p. 31-32
There are encounters in every life that give definitive direction. The Lord gives big brothers as an example, as a friend, as a reference point, as a star...
This is what Daniel JOËSSEL was for Pierre VEUILLOT who did not hide it.
The requirements of Father JOËSSEL never slowed down or diminished the ardor of the young Pierre VEUILLOT who adopted the same point of view. Thus, Daniel JOËSSEL, with a frankness that only intimacy with God allows, wrote to him in a letter of 18 October 1933: « In you, I love the Christ who made you; but allow me to hate with you what remains of yourself. »
After the death of Daniel JOËSSEL, at the Asnières patronage, Pierre VEUILLOT, ordained priest on 26 March 1939, that is to say 5 years after Daniel, considered himself, according to his own words, « as the continuator » of Father JOËSSEL and tried to « prolong the action of the missing one ».
Pierre VEUILLOT, a seminarian and then a young priest, had perceived in Daniel JOËSSEL a « magnificent priestly soul », « one of those privileged souls who leave behind them a trail of light. »
Writing to Daniel JOËSSEL's sister on 25 September 1940, a few days after learning of his death, Father VEUILLOT said:
« You are not unaware of the bonds of deep affection and priestly intimacy which had united me to Dani for many years already. And Providence seemed to want to consecrate this friendship by calling us to work on the same work, with the same heart and soul. God has disposed otherwise, Madam, and this same blow which deprives you of your brother, deprives me of the one who was to be my support, my guide and my living example. You can easily guess, by your own grief, how distraught my poor heart has become! »
No longer able to rely on his "living example", Pierre VEUILLOT will want to live in his memory. With the permission of Father JOËSSEL's family, he kept many souvenirs of him, not hesitating to ask for them, justifying this in a letter to Father JOËSSEL's sister, dated 26 March 1941: « Everything that belonged to him is precious to me in the highest degree, because trying to continue his work, I try to live in his memory. »
The death of Father JOËSSEL did not extinguish this friendship and Pierre VEUILLOT continued to rely on his friend: « I pray Dani who has done so much for his summer camps to get me out of this bad situation, because I no longer have a house for my 80 children!... » Letter of 22 June 1942.
The years passed and yet on 4 June 1946, he wrote again to the same one: « The recent anniversary of 30 May prompts me to tell you again the very faithful memory I have of your brother. His photo is constantly before my eyes, but his example is even more present in my heart! I regret that the events of the last few years and your distance from Paris have not allowed me to express these feelings to you more often, for it seems to me that by uniting me so intimately with Dani, they prevent me from remaining absolutely alienated from everything that concerns your family ».
In 1959 or 1960, on a brief card sent to one of Daniel's brothers, the one who became Bishop VEUILLOT of Angers, did not forget to mention: « Faithful memory of dear "Dani". »
The preservation of the living memory of his friend will continue until the death of Cardinal VEUILLOT. Carried away by illness, he, like Father JOËSSEL, « offered his life as a sacrifice for the diocese, for the Church, and very especially for the priesthood ». Cardinal Pierre VEUILLOT, Christian, bishop, p. 60.
Witness to this priestly friendship, father Michel PLESSIS, who was for a time Pierre VEUILLOT's spiritual father, wrote to him as soon as Daniel's death was announced:
My dearest Pierre,
I cannot help thinking, seeing the beginning of your priesthood so shaken by so many trials, that the good Lord expects a lot from you, since he judges you worthy and capable of suffering so much. What suffering, indeed, for you, that of the loss of such a precious friend as the dear Father JOËSSEL: to have known such a beautiful soul, to rejoice at being able to rely on it to begin the parish ministry, and then to see it leave already to collect its reward, it is a real sensation of falling into the void, it is a feeling of distress. And yet the good Lord wants it that way and we have to bow down and admit that he knows better than we do what we need to do to fully respond to what he expects of us. I cannot help praying to our friend who is becoming powerful to help us usefully: perhaps we can rely on him even more usefully than in the past; it is so obvious that he will not lose interest in those he has known and loved.
(Extract from a letter of 19 September 1940)