Interview - Fr Daniel-Ange
“Through Medjugorje, Our Lady Educates the Visionaries for the Evangelisation and Helps the Bishops and the Priests in the New Evangelisation”
Date: July 25, 2005 , Originally published December 3, 2002
In August 2002, during the International Youth Festival, among 260 priests from the whole world was also Fr. Daniel-Ange, a priest who regularly attracts many thousands of young people on his prayer meetings all over the world. In his work with youth, it seems that he remains eternally young, because no one would place him at his 70 years.
He was born on October 17, 1932, in Brussels, Belgium. After 30 years of monastic life (1958 to 1970 in Rwanda, then 8 years as a hermit in French Alps, when he started to write his books), deeply touched by the difficult position of young people in today’s world, he felt the call to go closer to them and to bring them life that God gives. This is why, in 1981, he was ordained a priest in Lourdes. From then onwards, in more then 200 pastoral journeys, he visited about 40 countries on all the continents.
In 1984, with the intuition that true apostles for young people are young people themselves, he founded the first French Catholic School of Prayer and Evangelisation under the name “Jeunesse Lumiere” (Youth Light). In this school, young people consecrate a year of their life to prayer, to religious studies and to evangelisation. Up to now, more than 400 young people from 40 countries have gone to this school.
Fr. Daniel-Ange wrote about 40 books of spiritual theology or evangelisation. He works actively on the bond between the Catholic and the Orthodox Church, in the spirit of Pope John-Paul II, who reminds us that lungs of the Church consist in two wings: the Eastern and the Western.
Fr. Daniel-Ange is a great supporter of Our Lady’s apparitions in Medjugorje, because he sees the fruits and believes that, through Medjugorje, Our Lady helps the bishops and the priests in the new evangelisation.
Fr. Dario Dodig, OFM, spoke with him in Medjugorje.
Fr. Daniel-Ange began this interview with a prayer:
“Come Holy Spirit and inspire us, so that Jesus may say through me whatever he wants to say.
Fr. Dario Dodig: Fr. Daniel-Ange, you made your noviciate with the Benedictines in Belgium. You lived as a hermit, and now you lead prayer meetings for evangelisation all over the world. Today, the word “Evangelisation” is being used so often. What is evangelisation?
Fr. Daniel-Ange: Evangelisation means to give Jesus to people, because the Gospel is the person of Jesus. It is neither a message nor a philosophy; it is a true encounter with the person of Jesus.
Today, “evangelisation” and “re-evangelisation” is often underlined.
Yes, it depends on the countries. In many countries that were Christian in the past, the whole society was built on Christian principles: respect of others, respect of sexuality, respect of the family… Now, in these northern and western countries, God and the Church are publicly rejected. When God is rejected from the society, man becomes an enemy to man. When you refuse God, you kill humanity. Re-evangelisation means to give again to people the true meaning of love, of truth, without which society cannot be built. If Europe is only an economical and political reality, without the spiritual dimension, it will not last long. There will again be wars and such, because a long lasting peace is not possible if we reject the source of peace.
When we speak about re-evangelisation, we think about countries. For new generations, it is not a re-evangelisation but evangelisation, because they were not evangelised at all. It is like at the time of communism: the generation of grandmothers and grandfathers believed, then followed a generation of atheists, and then came young people who have a deep sense for real values of life, but there is nobody to transmit these values to them! We work now as if this was the very first generation. We have to start evangelisation with young people.
A half an hour ago, I was with Lebanese group. A Lebanese Scout told me that he spent ten years in a Catholic school, but that he never received such a catechesis as here in Medjugorje. Medjugorje is like a school of truth. This is the reason why Our Lady, for 21 years now, continues to repeat very simple things. Every young person can understand them. These are essential things told in a simple way. Nobody – not even priests sometimes – speaks to young people about these things. Many priests never speak about prayer to young people. This is why Jesus sends the Mother of God to give to this new generation what it does not receive elsewhere. Year after year, she continues, and young people succeed each other, new generations come … Those who were 14 at the beginning of the apparitions are adults now. This is why the Mother of God continues to speak for the teenagers who come. This is why it is so important that she continues to come!
Isn’t Medjugorje a door for evangelisation and re-evangelisation?
More than a door! It is a school, the school of Our Lady. She teaches us and she sends us. Most young people who come to Medjugorje become little John the Baptists. Mary brought Jesus to John the Baptist, who was so consecrated as the precursor, and the same thing happens here. In our school of evangelisation, many young people give a whole year of their life and precisely after a pilgrimage to Medjugorje! But they have not heard about its existence in Medjugorje! They come and feel the need to deepen their faith, to become joyful evangelists.
What about your personal experience of Medjugorje?
I came for the first time during the war, to make 10 days of recollection. There were no pilgrims, there was nobody who knows me, and so I could spend 10 days in silence and solitude. For me, it was a deep experience. Later, I received many young people who shared with me their experience of Medjugorje.
How do you see our Lady’s messages, her call to prayer, fasting, penance, conversion, Eucharist…?
All of this is vital. Without this, we cannot live. Today’s world is in crisis of essential things, a crisis of the infinite. Our Lady gives us the essential food for our life, always in a positive way. What impresses me most in her messages is the word “joy”. It is incredible, almost every month she repeats the word “joy”: I want to give you joy, that you may be witnesses of joy, that prayer becomes a joy… For young people, this is very inspiring. It is neither pessimistic nor threatening, but it helps young people to live in the joy of God. The whole spirituality of Medjugorje is joy, love and light. It is marvellous.
Isn’t this precisely what Our Lady is doing: bringing us back to first Christian sources, the life of the first Christian community?
Of course, but in a way that is possible today. We are not asked to do impossible things. However, what is humanly impossible is possible with God!
We speak about evangelisation and re-evangelisation. How to announce the Word of God today so that it reaches the heart of every person?
I think that we have to announce firstly by our own way of life and by our joy. Young people can feel true joy, joy that comes from God, from heaven, joy that goes together with the cross and suffering, which is not just human joy. This joy radiates. When young people from my school go to give witness in the schools, young people often write to us saying: “We have forgotten the words that you have told us, but we were deeply impressed by your joy, your happiness and the purity of your relationships. We will never forget this.” This is that shining light. At the same time, it is - of course - important to speak and to explain where is the source of our joy: Jesus, our greatest joy. I think that evangelisation is successful when its takes our personal experience for starting point. When my young people go to schools, they do not give talks, but their personal witness: how they came to the Church, to the Eucharist, to Holy Confession, how they have discovered chastity… young people are very impressed by this. Catechesis comes later. The kerygma comes first – the announcement in the power of the Spirit. This is why, in our school, we go on missions only four times a year. This means only 2 or 3 weeks each 3 months. The Bishop sends them out to give what they have received. The most important is to acquire a personal experience of intimacy with the Lord, with the Eucharist, to acquire theological truths, and only then to go out. Then our witness comes from our personal experience. These are not only words. It touches the hearts because it comes from the heart.
Don’t you think that precisely this kind of witness communicates in the best way the true language of God?
This is the best way. Why is John-Paul II such a great prophet for all young people from all over the world? Because they feel that he lives what he says. He speaks out of his personal experience and this is why young people come from everywhere to listen to him. He is a prophet for all young people of our times.
According to you, what is the importance of Medjugorje for the life of the Church?
I think that this is one of the most important places in the whole Church, with a superabundance of spiritual life, especially for young people. Medjugorje is a sign for the whole Church. From the very beginning, it is an international place. It belongs to the common experience of the entire Church of our times. In the beginning of the 20th century, there were apparitions in Fatima. Medjugorje comes at the end of the century and enters into the third millennium. Medjugorje is prophetical. Many bishops and priests understand this. There are more and more of those who are deeply impressed by the fruits of Medjugorje, which they see in their dioceses. They are happy that the mother of God comes to help us. Bishops and priests today have great difficulties to reach young people and they are happy that the Queen of Heaven comes and helps them in their pastoral work.
Millions of Christians stared to fast. No bishop in the world, no pope, ever invited millions to fast. Even if the Pope would write an encyclical about fasting, so many people would not respond! But when the Queen comes, when the Mother of God says something, the little ones of the Kingdom follow her words. It is wonderful to see how the Mother of God comes to help the Pope and the Bishops! In Kibeho, Rwanda, where Our Lady appeared, the Bishop asked me to be a member of the theological commission about these apparitions. The Bishop was so humbly grateful to the Mother of God that she came to visit his diocese! He said: “I am not worthy that the Mother of God comes to my diocese! Since She came, churches are full! Thank you, Mary!” This attitude shows a marvellous harmony between the institutional and the charismatic dimension of the Church. The apparitions belong to the charismatic dimension of the Church, and one does not oppose another. Both work together.
Is Medjugorje the language of witnesses?
Certainly! What I like in Medjugorje is that visionaries are also witnesses. They accept to give witness, they accept to transmit Our Lady’s message. They are missionaries and this is the characteristic of Our Lady’s apparitions in last 30 years. Bernadette entered into a convent, but these visionaries are educated by Our Lady to be evangelisators. It was wonderful when I was in the USA, at the Notre-Dame University, with Ivan. I was giving talks, he was giving talks, and it was wonderful: myself as a catholic priest and he as a child of God in a direct connection with heaven. It is wonderful.
Is there any message you wish to give in conclusion?
I would like to tell to everyone: when you pray with the heart, when you talk to Jesus in simple words, when you talk to Our Lady, you are connected with the whole Church in the whole world.
Thank you, Fr. Daniel-Ange!