The French service of Vatican Radio recently produced this brief program on Fr. Lagrange in the series “Les Amis de Dieu.” Audio, 5 min.
Fr. Marie Joseph Lagrange, O.P. was born on March the 7th, 1855. After obtaining a PhD from the law faculty of Paris and attending the Issy seminary, he entered the Dominican novitiate in Saint Maximin (Var) and chose the name fr. Marie-Joseph. His ordination as a priest took place in Zamora on December the 22nd, 1883.
He taught Church History and Holy Scripture for a while, then was sent to the Vienna University (Austria) to hone his oriental languages skills. There, on February the 5th, 1889, he was ordered to leave for Jerusalem. Right away, he sketched a working programme, and on November the 15th, 1890, in a former Turkish slaughterhouse, in which the rings the animals were to be hung from were still to be seen, he opened what he insisted on calling l’École Pratique d’études Bibliques (Practical School for Biblical Studies).
Father Lagrange was a partisan of the encyclical Providentissimus Deus of Pope Leo XIII, inviting scholars to solve the difficulties created by a rationalist analysis of the Bible through an exegesis that would be at the same time rooted in tradition, but progressive. But some disliked his scientific approach and, as he was working doggedly to refute those who were questioning the essential data of Christian faith, he got censored and had to leave Jerusalem for a year, in 1912. Neither formally condemned nor rehabilitated, the Dominican remained heroically faithful to the Church. Through work and prayer, enlighted by his faith, and wih great scientific rigour, he put his intelligence to the service of the Gospel and the truth.
Marie-Joseph Lagrange died at the age of 83, on March the 10th, 1938, in Saint Maximin, where his poor health had led him in 1935. He was buried there in the Dominican cemetery, and in November, 1967, his remains were then brought to Jerusalem and buried in Saint Stephen’s, where they now rest.
The cause for the Beatification of the Founder of the Ecole Biblique was introduced in 1988, fifty years after his death.
God of light, you inspired in your servant Marie-Joseph LAGRANGE a never ending passion for Scripture, a deep respect for every culture, an unconditional love for your Church; make us feel the same hunger for truth, make us display the same persistence in working, and, by our strength, our intelligence and all our abilities, make us hasten the coming of your reign. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fr. Lagrange, O.P. with his mother in Toulouse in 1888.
«Je dis ma première messe le dimanche 23 à l’autel du Saint-Rosaire, avec la joie ineffable de donner la communion à ma mère et à ma sœur Thérèse. » (Souvenirs personnels)