Interview with Dr Philippe Madre, Doctor of Medicine, Permanent Deacon, Member of the Community of the Beatitudes
Date: July 27, 2005 , Originally published September 25, 2002
Dr. Philippe Madre, is a doctor of medicine and a permanent deacon at the service of the pastoral of health. He has carried out a ministry of teaching and healing at the international level for 15 years. Dr. Madre came to Medjugorje in July 2002. He is member of the Community of the Beatitudes, where he has been the General Moderator for 15 years. He is also the founder of the Catholic Organization, “Mother of Mercy”, which works for the protection of human life.
During his stay at the Shrine of the Queen of Peace, he spoke with Fr. Dario Dodig about his ministry in the Church and his observations on the special grace of Medjugorje.
Fr. Dario Dodig : Dr. Madre, you are married, a father, a doctor of psychiatry, a permanent deacon, member of the Community of the Beatitudes where you were the Moderator General for 15 years. How did your vocation develop?
Dr Philippe Madre: I would first like to start by saying that I was an unbeliever until the age of 23. I grew up in a Christian family, but I had no personal interest in the Christian faith. I began to study medicine and I was preparing for marriage when, unexpectedly, I was present at a miraculous healing in the field of psychiatry. I was so surprised by this psychiatric healing, of which no human explanation was possible, I said to myself: If God exists then it is worthwhile to give Him my whole life! Fortunately, at the same time my wife also had the same experience as I did. We were newlywed and decided to change our lives and to build it upon a Christian foundation, primarily on the basis of regular daily prayer. With other friends who had a similar conversion, we started a prayer group in the city where we were studying.
After two or three years of such a profound change in our lives, we said to ourselves: This is not enough for us to follow the Lord! At the same time when we were asking ourselves this question, Ephraim, the brother of my wife Evelyne, founded the Community of the Beatitudes. It was a community where all states of life were present living together, it is a fraternal life of regular prayer, adoration and service. We decided to enter this community, which was just beginning. I completed my medical studies and very shortly after, the community began to receive people with various types of illnesses who were seeking a special help from within the community.
This is how I was led to view people who are ill with totally different eyes and to try to see what kind of help God could give them through our intercession. Little by little we grew in prayers for healing for people who are suffering from physical or psychological illnesses. Over time we also formed a team of Christian therapists in order to receive - those who had serious psychological problems for a period of time from several weeks to several months. On this same basis, my call to become a permanent deacon developed. After some years, our bishop ordained me a deacon with a special charism for the sick and especially for those whose dignity of life was scorned or despised.
People with special needs come to you asking for prayers for healing. What is prayer for healing?
I receive two different types of requests. Many bishops and priests ask for lectures in their dioceses and in their parishes, lectures to be given during prayer meetings organised for people who have difficulties. In response to these requests, I give one or more lectures, after which I pray for the sick. This is a means of evangelisation, where we proclaim Christ and his love and this is also an opportunity to ask the Lord to reveal His presence. One of the greatest manifestations of the presence of God during a prayer meeting is certainly the sign of a physical or psychological healing.
Some people have serious medical problems; these are people for whom medicine could not do very much. They request personal counselling. During this counselling, we pray with the person and we expect them to open themselves to the grace and presence of God, that the Lord may touch them in the depth of their being and give them health. In this case, prayer for healing is done less within a context of evangelisation and more in the context of a counselling relationship.
When we talk about prayers for healing, are there obstacles to healing? What are they?
All those who are baptised in the Church can pray for healing. It is absolutely normal that the faithful turn to God and expect the grace of healing from His love. Nevertheless, we still observe so much fear and reluctance within the Church in this area, although, at the same time, the Church encourages its’ children to pray for the sick. Of course, this prayer for the sick has to be done in a proper manner, peacefully and without exaggeration, without abuse, without seeking personal power or sensationalism. The fact that we pray for the sick does not mean that God is obliged to accomplish a healing each time! God heals whom He wants. However, sometimes God wants to heal a person but they have difficulty in accepting the healing that God wants to give.
Classically, we observe two great obstacles. The first obstacle is a question of forgiveness. Often, a physical or psychological healing that God wants to give is blocked because people have some experiences from their childhood that filled them with bitterness. They are not able to sufficiently open themselves to God in order to allow Him to heal them, the Lord expects from them to forgive or to ask for forgiveness. The whole question of reconciliation precedes the onset of a healing. If reconciliation has not occurred, it is difficult to come to a healing, although God gives it! The problem is not in God, who, in His mercy, opens His heart to the sick. Rather the problem is with the person who is sick and who is not aware that in the first place, healing is not a relief but an opening to God. Healing comes when the heart of the person who is sick becomes open to the giving or receiving of forgiveness. One of the best ways to pray for healing of the sick is to awaken in the person the frequent need for both forgiving and asking for forgiveness.
There is another obstacle: the fear of the actual healing itself. Often times a sick person who asks the Lord for healing simultaneously has within them a deep fear of being healed. This fear creates a kind of an inner paralysis, so that - in spite of the desire for healing - the person cannot open his heart to the love of God. For God to be able to heal the sick He expects trust from them. It is important that prayers for healing take place in an atmosphere where there is an education for trust, in order to calm the fears of the person who is ill. This enables the person to open their heart to the healing power of Christ.
We are here in Medjugorje. You have spoken about obstacles to healing. Is it true that here, in Medjugorje, these obstacles disappear? Is it true that God is at work here?
To me it seems obvious that Medjugorje is a place where God dwells, where Heaven dwells. When people come here, something special takes place, they seem to be “tamed” by the presence of God and the presence of Mary, even if they are not aware of it. In this way, the two obstacles we are speaking about have a tendency to diminish or perhaps to even disappear. This is why I think that Medjugorje is an important place of healing and that it has to become even more so. In the times to come I think that Medjugorje has to live more and more this grace of healing.
You have been connected to Medjugorje from the very first years of the apparitions. You were expelled from the country by the former communist regime! You have not been intimidated you are coming back. How do you see Medjugorje in relationship to Lourdes and Fatima?
This is a delicate question! It is true that I know Lourdes very well and Fatima a little less so. However, what impresses me the most are the different graces that are given in these three places. Medjugorje has a great grace of simplicity, where the most wounded person or those who are furthest from God find a welcoming atmosphere and a peace that they have never felt before. In Lourdes, for example, Our Lady calls us to repentance. In Medjugorje, she also calls us to repentance, but she primarily calls us to peace. Personally, I had the impression that in Medjugorje the mercy of God is shown in an immense way, in a more simple way, therefore people who are the furthest from God feel accepted by Our Lady. The weight of their burdens, with which they come here, seems lessened because in a very simple way, in the greatest of simplicity, they experience the presence of God and of Heaven. Here in Medjugorje this presence is tangibly and powerfully felt. I believe that many pilgrims feel accepted in their personal poverty. Here they can start on a path of reconciliation with God and also with themselves, to grow in faith. There is also a pedagogy, which is actualised day by day through Our Lady’s messages; in this way people who are attentive to the messages are progressively educated. This is really the school of the Heart of Mary.
Our Lady presented herself here in Medjugorje as the Queen of Peace. In history, she has presented herself as Queen of the Holy Rosary, as the Immaculate Conception, and here she calls herself the Queen of Peace. Is peace the final issue of human life, the foundation of inner healing?
I believe that it is a question of much more than inner peace. It is the peace that Jesus is talking about on the day of the Resurrection, when He appears to His apostles and tells them, “Peace be with you!” This peace is the first gift of the Risen Jesus to his apostles. Peace is the fruit of the resurrection of Christ in our human existence. For me, from this perspective, peace is in fact - a great power of life. In this peace our life finds its’ meaning, all of its’ strength and all of its’ vocation. I believe that this peace is linked to life itself; our world lacks it so much and is seeking so much false peace. God alone can give peace, which is life.
It would be difficult to talk about the events of Medjugorje without mentioning Fr. Slavko…
I had the opportunity to meet him on several occasions and to share with him. I think that he was truly a key individual who facilitated for the grace of Medjugorje to be accepted. The quality of his presence and especially of his pastoral presence with the visionaries, enabled the grace of Medjugorje to develop. I believe that Medjugorje owes him much and that we should not hesitate to invoke him often in prayer.
At the end, is there anything else you would like to add, something you consider as important and that we have not mentioned in this conversation?
There is something that strikes me profoundly in my journeys all over the world and I think that Medjugorje has something to do with that. I meet many desperate people who have lost their trust in life, those who are not even aware of the gift of life or the dignity of human life. Our humanity is full of despair and continually seeks new pleasures, as in an actual attempt to escape that despair. It could be said that many of our societies are depressive. Paradoxically, the greatest grace that God gives to the Church in this our time is actually the grace of hope. The Lord reminds us that there is another life, that our existence on this earth – whatever may be the burden of suffering we carry – is not a goal in itself. Instead, that our true homeland and our true life setting is Heaven. The Virgin Mary opens the door of Heaven to all those who want it, so that we can truly live our lives as if we already had one foot in Heaven. I think that one of the most important elements of the grace of Medjugorje is in that it brings hope and life to so many people. At the same time, this grace of Medjugorje is an image of the grace of the Holy Spirit given in so many places in the world. This grace still has to grow.
May all those who read these words trust in God’s presence here in Medjugorje, may then really believe in the gift of God in Medjugorje. Setting aside all unanswered questions and all of the conflicts between people let us hold on to what is most essential and the gift of God in Medjugorje. We have to hold on to it and personally live from it. In this way God’s presence will be able to grow increasingly in the form of hope and a stronger life for many of our contemporaries who live in despair. Seize the grace of Medjugorje and live from it so that many people in the world can savour this hope that comes from God and savour the life which is God’s gift and which they lack so desperately.
Thank you, Dr. Philippe Madre !