An interview with Father Molinié

From Despair to Adoration

By Luc Adrian, in french magazine Famille Chrétienne N.1161, april 15, 2000  

P.M-D Molinié (Photo : Luc Adrian)
Burning dialogue on the Eve of the Jubilee's Holy Week.

Nice little fellow. Immobile, in his armchair, like a spider in the middle of its web. A concentrate of lightning intelligence and penetrating affectivity, in a dry, nearly contracted and nervous body. His hands are blue-veined, white and frail, like those of a child musician. Behind the square glasses, under the bushy eyebrows, a fire dances in the brown bright eyes and, sometimes, a worry.

After forty years of apostolate in the Dominican convent of Nancy, Marie-Dominique Molinié, an atypical Dominican, retired in an "island" in the Landes, an abbey in the southwest of France, lost in the black ocean of the pines.

During his whole life he has fought against theological tepidness and mawkishness, often blessing with his pungent quips, handling the paradox like a sword and, like Cyrano, making himself many enemies forever. All is excessive in Father Molinié: his obsession for Salvation, his fear of the hell, his desire to please, his need of friendship, the courage to run himself down - and even his humility, "this terrible strength".

He would like to "crush himself" ("put his hand over his mouth"), like Job (Job 40,4), but cannot stop provoking while preaching a "rough Gospel", avoiding any insipidity. Far from trying "to attenuate the mystery of the Gospel", this tormented mystic underlines, as for pleasure, its abrupt and dangerous side by means of incandescent strokes in a flexible, modern and direct language. This predication without concessions, often misunderstood by his peers, finds in the new-born communities and among God's young seekers an eager and enthusiastic public.

Today, this convinced pessimist, this brother-friend of Cioran, forbids himself to despair out of obedience to the Holy Spirit: "It is only in a supernatural way that I have confidence". How could he forget the prayer of his mother, who threw herself down at the feet of a Virgin's statue when he was about to commit suicide ? And she cried out: "That I lose him ! That I lose him ! But be he saved !".

The adoring supplication, that is the antidote of Marie-Dominique Molinié, a hopeful desperate who walks towards the Strand on the troubled waters of the Faith and waits for nothing but "to hide himself in the Love forever".

We celebrate the two thousand years of our Salvation. What do we need to be saved from ?

From pride. There is only a fight in a man's life: the fight between pride and humility. Pride is the refusal of love and of the incredible and unutterable self-lowering that love entails.

Have you always had the Faith ?

No. When I was twelve I listened to a priest preaching about Eternity. The priest spoke so well that I saw the hell. That shocked me: how is it possible that a God who is infinitely good permits such an abomination ? Eventually, I concluded: it is too horrible, I cannot believe it. When I was sixteen I kindly rebelled.

And now, have you understood ?

I do not understand more than once, but now I accept not to understand. The hell, the darkness, the original sin ? Why so much pride ? Why an instrument of torture, called the Cross, if Jesus could save us by means of nothing but a smile ? Why this superabundance of suffering ? Why the infant martyrs, the death of the innocents... ? I cannot answer. In front of these insoluble questions I try to reach the inexpressible groanings of the Holy Spirit. There I take my shelter and I fall silent.

Is it necessary to be "crushed" before trying to understand ?

It is God who is "crushed". He is down on His knees in front of us, supplicating us: "Trust Me". The only infinite act that we can perform is to accept to trust Him.

What helps you to believe ?

The Saints. I would be condemned to agnosticism and to despair without Saint Therese of Lisieux, Father Kolbe, Marthe Robin, Father Pio... they attract me towards Heaven. They resisted the clash without accusing God ? Then, I will not accuse Him. Thanks to them I survive, awkwardly, by means of prayer and adoration.

How did you learn to pray ?

I was a student in Paris and one night, in a crisis of despair I got drunk in a night-club. A sympathetic waitress tried to raise my spirits. We chatted. In the darkness, she told me in a whisper: "For me, Love is like resting my head on my lover's knees and to lie there, saying nothing !". That was the secret of prayer ! It was a revelation.

The Gospel tells the truth. The prostitutes will cross before us the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven. In fact, they have let their hearts speak, at least. We, on the contrary, have shut ours: to avoid the danger of love we protect us against it. That safeguards us from impurity... by preserving us from love itself !

You entitled one of your books "Le Courage d'avoir Peur" ("The courage to fear"). To fear what, if to believe means not to fear ?

The courage to look directly at what should make us be afraid, as the Gospel says: "Be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna". The courage to believe that the hell exists. Christians cannot stand this dogma anymore because they refuse to be confident, they expect to have guarantees and certainties. One should not confuse theological confidence with optimism. The required condition to true confidence is to fear.

Don't you have an unhealthy obsession for hell ?

Maybe... However, I am astonished at the way this problem is getting eliminated in the Church: the Gospel is abrupt. Just open it: it deals with the hell about 60 times. "There will be wailing and grinding of teeth...". Why, it is not an image !

To read the Gospel never coming across the hell is an incredible "tour de force", indeed. We do not have any right to water down this rigour, even if we have to plunge it into the grace of God, Who has prepared all in a way we can bear it.

What can save us from fear ?

Humility. Looking at the Christ, and at nobody else but Him. He told us: "Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, I have conquered the world. If your humility accepts to fear, then I tell you "Do not be afraid" – but if your pride refuses to fear, then be afraid !".

What is the secret of Salvation ?

To ask for help. Pride refuses to ask for help - it is the only fight in a man's life. As soon as you become humble, you are saved. Even if you are unaware of it. The poor is the one who asks for help, the one who does not insist on claiming for guarantees and certainties.

Could pride mix up with everything, even with humility ?

You can measure humility by confidence: in order to be confident you should not look at yourself, you should only look at God and at what He intends to do.

Some speak of the "Joy of Salvation". What joy is there in the Cross ?

That is another mystery ! The Church sings the Magnificat on the Holy Friday evening, and the Virgin does it too. She received beneath the Cross a "tornado" of peace who permitted her to resist. How is it possible ? I do not know. I have confidence. She invites me to follow her: "Come into this Joy you do not understand" - I will not refuse... Peace is the grace of graces, God's gift, a tornado stronger than any storm.

Somebody talked about the "unbearable tenderness" of the Christ and of the Virgin beneath the Cross... The Christ did not try to "control Himself", He let Himself be disarmed, completely. When you turn your eyes on the abyss of this tenderness it makes you tremble more than the Cross Itself... It is an attractive vertigo.

To be a contemplative means to be attracted by this sense of dizziness ?

In some way yes. People too often believe that the Christian contemplation is sort of an ascending dialectic moving from the earth towards Heaven, as in Plato's way. No. It is the contemplation experienced by God Himself, shattered by our misery, and lowering Himself in the unheard-of act of the Incarnation.

There has been an unique contemplative: Jesus Christ. He contemplated the world's darkness in the light of God's glory, our hard heart in the light of God's tenderness, our misery in the light of mercy... and He died of it.

He won the victory on darkness by refusing to defend Himself until the very end, contemplating his torturers with the same look of unbearable tenderness as the one that Father Kolbe offered to his torturers at Auschwitz. So unbearable it was, that they were obliged to ask him not to look at them that way, not to contemplate them with that contemplation that is the victory of God already.

Who do you think unconscious contemplatives are ?

The poor of Yahweh. They are numberless and crushed, without any possibility of understanding, by the cruelty of the powerful and by the load of an hard-hearted world. They live in utter squalor, doing unconsciously what "official" contemplatives should consciously do: to turn to Christ's Cross. Only the Cross gives a sense to our life, immersing us progressively in the mystery of Easter, through the daily exercise - sometimes easy, often hard – of fraternal charity.

Had you only one hour left to live, what would you do ?

I would supplicate, as I usually do. My life consist in accepting to lose my certainties and in letting myself be dragged down by the vortex of the trustful supplication.

To lose certainties ?

It is the necessary condition for confidence. In order to follow Jesus Christ you have to close your eyes, to accept to set off for an adventure, to "lose your soul", to leave everything - we are dragged in by a movement that goes beyond us, where we do not have any support. Now, we refuse this. We eagerly accept to run, but not to fly. We say: "No, not so soon...".

Aren't you too radical ?

God is more radical than me. The flame of the divine life - "I have come to set the earth on fire... Do you accept to go till it, the fire ?" -, if Christians opened their hearts to it, would be violent enough to overcome everything. We want to give God some love, but on condition that it is not too fast, nor too intense or too puzzling.

If we resist this way our life is more difficult and harder: we make gruelling acrobatics to avoid becoming saints !

What to do ?

We must keep asking for the Light, so that the Holy Spirit may show us at what point we reject being taken and guided by God. I like Alphonse Ratisbonne's story very much. He was a Jewish banker's son and was converted by an apparition of the Virgin Mary: he accepted his whole philosophy to be wiped out in a moment.

At the very end that is our tragedy: do we accept our idea of life to be destroyed ? And to re-start from the beginning saying: "I had not understood anything".

We do not like to feel disoriented...

We cling to an ideal of ourselves, to an image of value. We are guiltier not in the things we think we are, but on those we think we are not.

What Saint John says to the Angel of Laodicea in the Revelation book is to us that he wrote it: "You did not see you are poor, wretched and naked, you did not accept to come to me as you are. You did as you were dressed". Why, that is an undelicacy ! We are so deeply miserable that an intervention of God was necessary to make us aware of it. If we do not care, then God cannot do anything: He is shy…

"At the evening of this life we will be judged on love", says Saint John of the Cross – but we will be judged on its delicacy rather than on its intensity, because intensity depends on God, but delicacy depends on us.

What to do to convert ourselves ?

We should let us sink completely. We are drifters who are sinking and trying desperately to make our way up. It is what we must not do: one have to let himself be dragged down to the bottom; only then he will be able to come up again. We never are completely at the bottom. A prayer pouring from deep in our misery is always and immediately fulfilled. For this reason God sometimes puts us under strain, because His desire is to fulfil us.

Like Jacob, we all have our interior wound: through this provisory mean God will fulfil us. But we are incapable of using it. "Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive…".

Prayer digs deep into us producing a real cry that do not manage to get out, but it is going to pour out some day. On that day there is nothing we will not obtain.

Are we afraid of being saved, in reality ?

Yes, we are. Deep in our hearts there is a silent resistance. I think that the deepest form of pride, and the most incurable, consists in rejecting to welcome the infinite because we feel "satisfied" with what is at our hand. Such a pride is ornamented with the appearances of humility: "I do not ask for so much, I do not aim so high ! Such an infinite happiness is wonderful, but it is too for me", and we secretly think: "That goes beyond me, because it does not come from me".

I suspect Satan's sin to have been committed quite correctly and kindly, in the name of moral itself, in some way: "May I say something ?… ". Satan often inspires us this sense of modesty that is the worst kind of presumption, the refusal of feeling lost. We hope not to be devoured neither by the Good nor by the Evil. Satan drives us to be reasonable men who cannot be attracted by anything - neither by the folly of darkness, nor by that of Love.

The man of virtue should not be longing for anything... not even for God. To this sin the malediction of the Revelation book is applied: "I would thou were cold or hot…". It is better to choose the wrong infinite than to give it up !

The devil's strategy is to propose what is "reasonable"...

Exactly: he is the prince of mediocrity, the king of compromise. He does not aim at leading us to clearly defined mistakes. On the contrary, he wants to leave us in the indefinite, to make Truth vague, since it is impossible to risk one's life on vague ideas and, consequently, to become a saint in such conditions.

For example, he casts a shadow on the Eucharist and therefore lessens, waters down, and makes insipid the salt of the earth.

Why are we so afraid of Love ?

God is a devouring fire. One could write wherever there is the Eucharist: "Keep out, danger of death, high voltage !".

The Jews knew it very well, they used to feel it: "I have seen God, I am going to die...". It is dangerous because it is far too intense, far too strong. God Himself cannot avoid it, he cannot lower His thermostat. Then, He takes numberless precautions to get into us.

You are using images of fire, war, high voltage... but the Christ tells us he has come to bring the peace !

Of course, but His peace is not our peace ! I usually make a comparison between our situation and that of a country infested with bandits: our sins, vices and pride, that poison our existence, interfere in communications in the country and prevent us from living in peace.

Now, the people of this country have heard about their neighbour, a marvellous and generous king who commands a powerful army. In their despair they call for the king, so that he crosses the frontier with his army. The brigands are afraid and disperse in the depths of the forest; the country can take a breather, its inhabitants rediscover the harmony and the joy of living together.

This is the fruit of our conversion to Jesus Christ... In reality, there is something wrong here: what we call "peace" is a mediocre compromise, a mix of Good and Evil called "balance", a "peaceful co-existence" between the old and the new man, and between our two hearts, the one made of flesh and the other of stone. "It is not the best, but at the very end one should not ask for too much".

The Christ has come to give us His peace, not that of the world, that drives us to accept the compromises. The Christ wants to give us His peace, eliminating what threatens the diffusion of His Love.

Therefore, one day the king says: "What happened of the bandits ? - Lord, they have hidden themselves, they have been neutralized... - Yes, but we must come to an end with them ! I will persecute and exterminate them. – Oh ! But you will wake them again, there will be war again… - I have not come to bring peace but division: a war whose purpose is to exterminate whatever threatens my Peace". So the king himself, whose presence had neutralized the brigands, rouses them, eventually.

That is the origin of those strange temptations that may arise in us after having already spent many years at the service of God: the awakening of diseases that were already over... or even of unknown ones. It is a good sign, the Holy Spirit is cleaning up !

What passage of the Gospel do you prefer most ?

Mary Magdalene, the woman of the seven devils, who let herself drop in tears at Christ's feet. For me, this sums up the whole Gospel.

I have a deep veneration for the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. They both wept the same tears: Mary Magdalene's contrition did not contemplate her faults, but Christ's heart wounded by her faults: and the Virgin's compassion looked at this Heart too - because the Love is not loved.

I think fraternal charity should be an effort to continue in us the silent dialogue between the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene – therefore, those who have sinned the less, become, eventually, more humble and crushed by the load of Mercy than those who are great sinners.

Solidarity in sin, that is quite depressing !

No, it is wonderful ! As the starets of Dostoevskij's "The brothers Karamazov" says, if everybody understood that, it would be Heaven on earth !

We would be freed from our complexes and scruples, thanks to the joy of love that loads itself with the sin of the others. And it is really true that if everybody were better, the whole world would be better.

The worst sin is to think to be out of sin: this is the very definition of Pharisaism: "I did not come to call the righteous but sinners", says Jesus. When you accept to enter the world of love, you give yourself to the mercy, you let your hold go. And joy will burst in you !


Luc Adrian - Famille Chrétienne N°1161 du 15/04/2000