top of page

32 years ! ...

      This is the length of Daniel JOËSSEL's short life, from 1908 to 1940, begun in the bosom of a bourgeois catholic family, cultured, hard-working, loving and joyful, whose unalterable imprint he will keep all his life. In the home of Marthe and Raymond JOËSSEL were born Andrée, Pierre, Yves and Daniel, a sibling group of four children, plus cousins, two of whom became monks. From his parents and grandparents, Daniel inherits a lively intelligence, a strong-willed and wholehearted temperament and a pronounced taste for total commitment. A double baccalaureate in science and literature, a year of mathematics... he follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, an ingenious and brilliant
inventor. A somewhat fragile health slows him down in his momentum.

DJ Vie 1.PNG

      If one had to keep a few features of his childhood, in order to summarise the climate of culture and love which emanated from the JOËSSEL family, one could mention the little musical moments of the spouses, he on the violin, she on the piano, which preceded the readings of Jules VERNE in the evening, which the children took turns doing, the games in the garden filled with the father's mechanical inventions and the daily evening prayer led by Marthe who would remain Daniel's confidante throughout his life.
     His early youth is not free of many little faults which his brothers and sister often made fun of: a bit of a grump, a "whiner", his brother Pierre will even say, very coquettish, liking to check his hair. The older children never fail to tease him with some humorous poem addressed to their father.
Daniel is a sporty and intrepid young boy. He likes running and competing, swimming and paddling in the bay of La Baule. Very good tennis player, very skilled at ping-pong, whose memorable games took place in the middle of the Parisian flat, on the dining room table!

Father JOËSSEL at La Boissière du Doré in 1934

      He has strength, he has enthusiasm, he has joy and he has so much faith .... and he communicates it! Many said that he was impossible to resist to; everyone loved him and followed him as soon as they were "hooked". No one could ever forget his broad, welcoming smile, the same broad smile that hid, at the cost of much self-effort, personal misery, including "that unbearable pride that made him set himself apart" and the desire to make reparation for the offences committed against his God: "Jesus, all pure, all divine ... I, mud!" For this God received by education was more than a tradition with him: very early on Jesus was the guest of his heart, the intimate friend whom he would later advise his young people to love more than anything else.

      Therein lies the key to the mystery of this radiant young boy: it was not to himself that he sought to attract, well aware of his own worthlessness, it was souls to his God that he sought to win. He is baptized eight days after his birth, on 23 July 1908, in Audincourt where he was born. When he was just 7 years old, his teacher catches him in such a state of recollection at the time of prayer before work that she run to fetch Ms JOËSSEL in order to make her witness the scene. After his First Communion in Audincourt, the family leave the town for Versailles, where he’ll make his Solemn Communion at the Eudist college of Saint Jean de Béthune: he is almost 11 years old. Then in Paris, at the Jesuit school Notre-Dame de la rue de Madrid, he’ll let his desire for evangelisation develop, always seeking to lead his fellow students to a fervent faith and to missionary action. He also becomes involved in the "Work of the Holy Childhood and the Propagation of the Faith"... quite a program! From his time of intimacy with Jesus, a place of free and familiar exchanges with Him, Daniel will draw his strength as a youth trainer.

Oeuvre pontificale de la Sainte Enfance.png

Puis à Paris, à l’École Notre-Dame des Jésuites de la rue de Madrid, il laissera se développer son désir d’évangélisation, cherchant toujours à amener ses camarades à une foi fervente et à l’action missionnaire. Il s’engage d’ailleurs dans « L’Œuvre de la Sainte-Enfance et de la Propagation de la Foi » … tout un programme ! De ses temps d’intimité avec Jésus, lieu d’échanges libres et familiers avec Lui, Daniel tirera ses forces d’entraîneur de la jeunesse.

After his baccalaureate and a year of mathematics, he enters the French Seminary in Rome in 1927, at the age of 19: a very short letter of recommendation from Father VAUPLANE, director of the Notre-

Dame School, sums up perfectly the young man he already was as a child: "Intelligence, distinction, and above all piety and devotion...". There he meets his cousin Paul NAU from the diocese of Nantes, who will enter Solesmes in 1941. Daniel will spend only a short year in Rome, although his teachers, there as elsewhere, would be very satisfied with him. In the Eternal City, he’ll learn the beautiful liturgy, even though he prefers intimate masses to large solemn celebrations.

DJ vie 2.PNG

Several stays in Solesmes, from the age of 18, made him hesitate to choose the monastic life. It is at the age of 20 that he enters the Abbey of Saint Pierre de Solesmes on 10 November 1928; on 14 December he takes the clothing under the name of Brother Marie-Daniel and on 26 February he leaves! It is in working with young people that the Lord wants him and that he will blossom the most, without anything of the monastic experience of Solesmes ever really leaving him. He then does his military service, where again he is appreciated by his comrades for his enthusiasm and his joy: he stimulates, galvanises and even takes them on pilgrimage to Lourdes. In the autumn of 1930, at the age of 22, he enters the Carmelite Seminary to complete the bulk of his priestly training and prepare a degree in theology at the Catholic Institute of Paris.

A seemingly hesitant path, which is in fact only a preparation for the blossoming of his vocation, because from then on he will advance in "giant steps"; perhaps he was aware that his time was short, so that he had the great desire to follow Jesus without delay.

     In the two seminaries where he will study, Rome and Paris, the professors emphasize his excellent work, his regularity, and in the case of the Carmelite seminary, they note a small team of young men like him, who strive to live an energetic life while spending a long time before the tabernacle.
Daniel watches over the youngest, the most fragile, those for whom the distance from the family weighs heavily or those who are deprived of it. One sees him running to a new one to welcome him with a smiling and disarming simplicity. He also knows how to surround himself with those who will support his path, which is difficult and anxious at the beginning. It is at the Paris Seminary that, enlightened by one of his comrades, he will emerge, somewhat as Saint Therese did at Christmas 1886, from a period of anxiety to enter into abandonment.

    At the Carmelite Seminary, his burning faith deepens further and the recurring themes of his aspirations are already emerging: the desire to give himself totally to Jesus and to others, abandonment to the divine will, love of neighbour in action, Jesus loved above all and everyone, and first served... From 31 to 34 these are the steps foreseen by the liturgy towards the priesthood:


tonsure, sub-diaconate, diaconate and priesthood, on 31 March 1934, he is not yet 27 years old. Before joining the parish of Saint Geneviève of Asnières as curate, he serves his confreres by celebrating Sunday Mass in the area of Montesson and goes to the Dominican sisters caretakers in Montmartre to celebrate daily Mass. All, including Mother Marie CESLAS, testify to his goodness, his gentle and luminous smile, but above all, to the priest who above all radiates from him: the inspired celebration of his Mass, from which emanates a particular fervour, and the firm goodness of his homilies leave their mark on minds and hearts. Everyone gives thanks for having been able to experience Mass with him. A fellow seminarian who used to serve him at mass notes with emotion his rhythm, neither slow nor hurried, and notices his closed eyes from the Sanctus to the Pater...

       There is nothing useless in this short preparatory period, a preamble to what is to follow until his death. A priest he is, a priest he will remain, even as a soldier, never forgetting any of those entrusted to him. He who had been so attracted to the contemplative life was to find himself, by the humor of providence, occupied from morning to night in a ceaseless and exhausting activity, which called him to all fronts, even that of war. But, he says to himself to give himself courage: "The world needs apostles".

DJ vie 3.PNG

     The mission entrusted to him by Canon MULLER, his parish priest in Asnières, is to accompany young people, that is to say, for him, all young people: Valiant Hearts, YCW, YCS, the altar servers, the Asniéroise Sports Youth, the Patronage and, in the end, the scouts, all are up for grabs and that will be his only concern. He listens to them, gets to know them and in one sentence, he captures them! He asks them to be united and for this unity to be effective, his monthly magazine, Notre Vie, collects his personal articles as well as those written by the young people, giving news of the groups and announcing family events. It teaches them and speaks to them about Jesus, about righteousness in life, about their families to be built, about their country to be loved and defended to the end. Those of the YCW leave to "reclaim the world of work for Christ"!

      High points for all these young people: the Father Daniel camps, every summer. First in Dol de Bretagne, then in Longebonne in Savoie in 1936 and 1937, with a much larger number of students. In 1938 he goes to the Hautes-Vosges, at the foot of Notre-Dame des Neiges, and then the last one to Laps, in the Puy-de-Dôme, where he will be forced to leave because of mobilization. He has confidence in the

great ones he chose, he gives them responsibilities and missions; he says mass to them and asks them to live it well, that is to say, to really offer themselves to God with Christ. From these masses with Father Daniel, all will keep an indelible memory, he makes them "rise" by his enthusiastic demands and advises them, to the point of transforming their lives durably...

DJ vie 4.PNG

He is the big brother that many needed, but above all he remains the priest, the father, anxious to recreate in his summer camps the christian family spirit in which his entire childhood had been bathed and which had borne so much fruit. He knows how to punish, always with justice and with a secretly pained heart; he wages war on feelings and made them prefer faith to consolation. For a teacher of today, a catechist, a chaplain, apart from an even more dechristianised context, he is a model, combining firm authority and ambitious ideals with infinite goodness, always vigilant in bringing out the best in the child. "We love him and we follow him" because he believes in them and finds, between demands and benevolence, "a perfect balance", as the woman who accompanied many of
his colonies would say. How could he recover, if not thanks to his faith, from that terrible accident at the second colony of Longebonne which cost the lives of two of his oldest young people?
     It is September 1939, he is 31 years old; he had lost his father two years earlier, and he has just lost his mother on 3 May, the friend of his life and his ministry. Daniel is mobilized and has to leave his youth to go to the front as a lieutenant. The line is continuous, there is no break in the journey: the same with his young people, the same with his men and, among his soldiers, he is still thinking of his young people, writing to them regularly so that he does not lose any of them and so that they remain strong in faith and prayer. They love him so much that on his first leave, they surprise him by coming to wait for him at the station, but when he has to leave again, on the last leave, he does not stand at the window to say goodbye to them until the end of the vision... he knew.

      On the front his men venerate him, the testimonies are poignant. He still renders many services to the parish priests in the area, organizes prayer vigils and creates small study circles. As with his "kids", he looks after them in all human ways as a good superior, but above all he is concerned every day with saying his mass, where he takes in all the trials of each and every one. His homilies often deal with sacrifice to the point of moving some listeners to tears. He is so free and abandoned that he even manages to reflect on the quality of his ministry to realise how much his life in Asnières, which was very dense, had distracted him from the contemplation that is so necessary and essential.
      On 10 May 1940, the Battle of France offensive began. Daniel leaves for the fight conscious that he may not come back, confessed and blessed. Lieutenant JOËSSEL leads the 7th Battery on the Dutch border then with General GIRAUD, further south, it is the battle around Landrecies: it is necessary to blow up the artillery pieces so that they do not fall in the hands of the Germans, it is necessary to support another regiment, to defend the position valiantly; Daniel wants to fight until the end rather than to be taken prisoner or to try to withdraw beyond the German lines which encircle them. He is wounded in the chest on 20 May, on the 26th he writes a reassuring letter to his sister Andrée, on the 27th he is welcomed by Father MASSART in Ciney, Belgium, in a College transformed into a hospital.
His death as a sacrifice, for all and especially for priestly vocations, is the image of his whole life here below.

      As he lay dying, is it not overwhelming to note that he is still thinking of everyone: of his confreres whom he thanks, of his family through his sister Andrée to whom he asks to watch over and pray for priests among the children, and of his parish priest to show his gratitude. Father MASSART helps him to offer himself to the end in the image of his Lord, receives his confession, gives him the holy viaticum and sheds a few tears which Father JOËSSEL wipes away with a last broad smile. It is 30 May 1940, the eve of the Sacred Heart.
      From Belgium, where he is buried, his body is brought back in 1949 to Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours in Asnières, at the request of the parishioners. In 1961, the Saint Daniel chapel was inaugurated in Asnières. Very quickly, many vocations arise among the young people of Asnières and then in his family; generations of parishioners still remember him and the parish regularly remembers him, as Bishop TOUVET did again very recently in 2020, for the 80th anniversary of his death.

                                                                                                          Marie-Claire (May 2021)

bottom of page