The approach of the Oblates was always to be close to the people, especially the poorest and most abandoned. In Provence these were the people who did not understand much French, so the Oblates preached in the Provencal language. Father Honorat had been intidiated by some of the wealthier parishioners, and broke this rule. Eugene wrote in his diary:
Letter from Father Honorat from the Maussane mission. It is beginning under auspices as promising as those of Fontvieille. Attendance at the exercises is such that the church is too small although they have made provision for letting in at least 200 people more than usually entered previously. Father Honorat tells me that the parish priest was highly delighted that our Fathers give the instructions in Provençal, although with his consent and to yield to the desire of five or six bourgeois who demand some conferences in French, he has allowed himself be persuaded to preach in the evening alternatively in the two languages.
I could not sufficiently reprimand this weakness; I never agreed to it, when I gave missions, to satisfy that stupid vanity of a number of bourgeois whom you find in every village you evangelise. It is tantamount to sacrificing the instruction that would attract the people through sermons in the language they speak. It is acknowledged that they are unable to follow reasoning made in French. The poor people hear just words that do not tie up with any of ideas when one preaches in French. It is something beyond doubt, it has been tried, and it is to go directly against the end of our institute to imitate the example of only too many priests who have delusions about this.
Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 26 February 1837, EO XVIII
To Father Honorat he wrote:
I worry little about the infinitely small number of bourgeois people who have not yet shown any sign of good will. The majority of them, if not all, will surrender like the others. In any case, their souls are not worth more or less than those of the least peasants, if we consider them in terms of the price the Lord has paid for them.
Thus it is foolish to be more concerned about these gentlemen than about the other good people of the area.
Letter to Jean Baptiste Honorat, 28 February 1837, EO IX n 606