SAINT EUGENE, FOUNDER OF A RELIGIOUS CONGREGATION – IN HIS OWN WORDS

1818, November 1. The missionary community becomes a congregation of religious priests and brothers who make vows to live the evangelical counsels.

It is necessary that we understand, now more than ever before, the necessity of being perfect religious in order to be good missionaries. We need to be persuaded that the most efficient means of ensuring abundant harvest in souls is the holiness of our lives and the faithful practice of all the duties of our state.

Opening address to the 1850 General Chapter

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SAINT EUGENE, FOUNDER OF A CONGREGATION OF MISSIONARIES – IN HIS OWN WORDS

1815 : Eugene understands that God was calling him to invite other like-minded men to participate in his missionary dream

It is the second time in my life that I am making a decision of the utmost importance as a result of a strong impulse that comes from outside of me.

When I reflect on it, I am convinced that is how God wants to put an end to my indecisiveness.

Letter to Forbin Janson, 23 October 1815, E.O. VI n.5

1815, 2 October: Eugene bought the former Carmelite convent in Aix. He needed a large place in which to gather the nearly 300 young men who came every Thursday and Sunday to participate in the activities of the Youth Congregation. At the same time he needed a place where he could bring together a permanent community of missionaries.

1816, 25 January: the start of the community life of the Missionaries of Provence (later known as OMI)

The undersigned priests… deeply moved by the deplorable situation of the small towns and villages of Provence that have almost completely lost the faith… Convinced that missions are the only means by which these people who have gone astray can be brought out of their degradation… have the honour of asking your authorization to come together in Aix in the former house of the Carmelites

Request to the Capitular Vicars of Aix, 25 January 1816, E.O. XIII n.2

1816, 11 February to 17 March: mission in the village of Grans. It was the first of some 3000 parish missions preached in France during the lifetime of Eugene.

I prefer no doubt that you employ your zeal in favour of the poor abandoned mountain people rather than waste your time with the proud citizens of disdainful cities..

Letter to Pierre Mie, 7 September

For further details, see Alfred Hubenig and René Motte: “Living in the Spirit’s Fire” pages 53 – 67  https://www.omiworld.org/wp-content/uploads/Living-in-the-Spirits-Fire.pdf

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SAINT EUGENE, MARTYR OF CHARITY – IN HIS OWN WORDS

I encountered among these poor prisoners whom I helped spiritually and materially… only grateful souls, hearts full of affection who responded perfectly to the caring charity that I felt for them

Diary, 31 March, 1839, E.O. XX

I have all my life desired to die a victim of charity. You know that this crown was withheld from me right from the first days of my ministry. The Lord had his designs since He wanted to trust me to give a new family to His Church; but for me it would have been a greater value to have died of the blessed typhus which I had contracted while serving prisoners.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 12 September 1849, E.O. X n.1018

I have entirely got over an illness that brought me to death’s door and from which I recovered only through the countless and very fervent prayers that were made for me to the good God in every quarter of the town…

It was at the barracks where some 2000 Austrian prisoners were held that I contracted what they call jail fever. On the morning of St. Joseph’s feast day I was close to the end…

Letter to his father, 17 June 1814, E.O. XV n. 126

Final perseverance, and even martyrdom or at least death while tending victims of the plague, or any other kind of death for God’s glory or the salvation of souls.

One of the intention for which he offered his first Mass, E.O. XIV n.100

We must help men to be reasonable, then Christians, and then help them to become saints.

Preface

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SAINT EUGENE, MINISTER OF GOD-GIVEN HUMAN DIGNITY

1813: The beginning of Eugene’s preaching to the most abandoned:

Come now and learn from us what you are in the eyes of faith.

Poor of Jesus Christ, afflicted, wretched, suffering, sick, covered with sores, etc., all you whom misery oppresses, my brothers, dear brothers, respected brothers, listen to me.

You are God’s children, the brothers of Jesus Christ, heirs to his eternal kingdom, chosen portion of his inheritance…

…let your eyes see for once beneath the rags that cover you, there is within you an immortal soul made in the image of God whom it is destined to possess one day, a soul ransomed at the price of the blood of Jesus Christ, more precious in the eyes of God than all earth’s riches, than all the kingdoms of the earth, a soul of which he is more jealous than of the government of the entire universe.

Christians, know then your dignity…

Notes for the first instruction in the Church of the Madeleine, E.O. XV n. 114

But called by my vocation to be the servant and priest of the poor to whose service I would like to be able to devote my whole life, I cannot help being touched when I see the eagerness of the poor to hear my voice;

Instruction at the Madeleine on the fourth Sunday of Lent, E.O. XV n. 115

 

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SAINT EUGENE, PRIEST OF THE MOST ABANDONED – IN HIS OWN WORDS

1812 : returned to Aix as a young priest and lived in the house of his mother in the center of the city

My major occupation will be to love Him, my greatest concern will be to make Him loved

Retreat notes, December 1812, E.O. XV n. 109

1813: Beginning of his ministry among the most-abandoned. They were those who were not being touched by the structures of the Church of Aix: the youth, the prisoners, the people of Provence who did not speak French

… my whole ambition was to consecrate myself to the service of the poor and of the youth. I thus started out in the prisons, and my first apprenticeship consisted of gathering around me young boys whom I instructed. I formed a large number in virtue. I saw up to 280 grouped around me, and those who today still remain faithful to the principles that I had the happiness of instilling in their souls and who do honour to their faith in every rank of society or in the sanctuary, will uphold for a long time, either in Aix or in the other places where they are dispersed, the reputation that this congregation had rightly acquired for itself while I was able to care for it.

Diary of 31 March 1839, E.O. XX

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SAINT EUGENE, THE PRIEST WHO AIMED TO LOVE WITH THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST  – IN HIS OWN WORDS

Impelled by a force from outside of himself, Eugene left Aix and followed:

The vocation that called me to dedicate myself to the service and happiness of my neighbour, whom I loved with the love of Jesus Christ for people.

Diary, 31 March 1839, E.O. XX

1808 Seminarian in Saint Sulpice, Paris:

I dedicated myself to the service of the Church because it was persecuted, and because it had been abandoned.

Letter to his father, 7 December 1814, E.O. XV n, 129

21 December 1811, ordination to the priesthood in Amiens:

You, you alone will be the sole object to which will tend all my affections and my every action. To please you, act for your glory, will be my daily task, the task of every moment of my life. I wish to live only for you, I wish to love you alone and all else in you and through you. I despise riches, I trample honours under foot; you are my all, replacing all else. My God, my love and my all: Deus meus et omnia.

Notes made during the retreat in preparation for priestly ordination, December 1-21, E.O. XIV n.95

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SAINT EUGENE, TRANSFORMED BY HIS ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS CHRIST – IN HIS OWN WORDS

Around the age of 24 Eugene entered a period of self-searching, a journey that reached a high-point one Good Friday:

So I had looked for happiness outside of God, and outside him I found but affliction and chagrin. Blessed, a thousand times blessed, that he, this good Father, notwithstanding my unworthiness, lavished on me all the richness of his mercy.

Let me at least make up for lost time by redoubling my love for him. May all my actions, thoughts, etc., be directed to that end.

What more glorious occupation than to act in everything and for everything only for God, to love him above all else, to love him all the more as one who has loved him too late.

Retreat Journal, December 1814, E.O. XV n.130

For further details, see Alfred Hubenig and René Motte: “Living in the Spirit’s Fire” pages 30 – 35 in https://www.omiworld.org/wp-content/uploads/Living-in-the-Spirits-Fire.pdf

 

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SAINT EUGENE, A LOST YOUNG MAN – IN HIS OWN WORDS

1802 – At the insistence of his mother, Eugene returned to France at the age of 20. His mother had divorced his father in order to regain the family wealth from the Revolutionary authorities who had confiscated the properties of the nobility.

Eugene threw himself into the lifestyle of a young nobleman. He had no sense of direction and one finds him alternating between a life of pleasure and a life of boredom with no future prospects.

There is not a single girl who suits me in Aix… And above all, the one I want must be very rich, and that is difficult to find.

Letter to his father, 10 May 1804, Mejanes Library Aix

How can one have enough of the pleasures that the charming city of Aix presents me with?

Letter to his father, 27 January 1804, Mejanes Library Aix

Take all that into account, and you will see that one could die of pleasure in Aix.

Letter to his father, 18 January 1805, Mejanes Library Aix

It has to be said, this repugnance is also due to the fact that it is not in my character to spend my life planting cabbages. I have the feeling that I am not where I should be, and I get angry when I see the best years of my life draining away in idle obscurity. You can judge yourself if I should be bright and cheerful when you know that these thoughts go round and round in my head whenever I am alone..

Letter to his father, 12 April 1804, Mejanes Library Aix

He was ready for God’s intervention in his life!

For further details see: For further details, see Alfred Hubenig and René Motte: “Living in the Spirit’s Fire” pages 25-29 in  https://www.omiworld.org/wp-content/uploads/Living-in-the-Spirits-Fire.pdf

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EUGENE, THE YOUNG NOBLEMAN IN EXILE – IN HIS OWN WORDS

1791 – beginning of 11 years of emigration in Nice, Turin, Venice, Naples and Palermo – years of flight and fear and changing fortunes.

ESCAPE TO NICE

“As he had been declared under arrest by the revolutionaries, on his return from his mission to the Estates General, my father left France and went to Nice and soon from there he sent me his brother to bring me to him …

There really must have been a genuine fear of the threat made to do away with the children of the nobility, for my mother to have consented to let me undertake this journey even before I had quite got over an illness that had taken a lot out of me…

I was not yet nine years old. All I could do was to keep the secret as a grown-up would have done. This was enjoined upon me, and faithfully observed…

VENICE

One day I was amusing myself at the window that gave on to the house of the Zinelli family opposite. D. Bartolo appeared on his side, and addressing me said: “Master Eugene, aren’t you afraid of wasting your time in idleness in this way at the window?” – “Alas, sir, I replied, it is indeed a pity, but what can I do? You know I am a foreigner, and I haven’t any books at my disposition.” That was the opening he wanted: “That’s no problem, my dear child, you see me here actually in my library, where there are many books in Latin, Italian, French even, if you want them.”

“There is nothing I would like better”, I answered. Immediately D. Bartolo undid the bar that held the shutters of the window, and placing on it a book, passed it over to me across the little street that separated us. .. From this time on, every day over a period of four years, I went after Mass to be with these most benevolent teachers …

His mother and sister returned to France, and his parents divorced – all Eugene’s efforts to reunite his parents were in vain

NAPLES

My stay in Naples, was for me an oppressive year of very gloomy monotony…

PALERMO

Providence, which has always watched over me since my youngest years as an infant, gave me entry into a Sicilian family, in which I was accepted from the first as a child of the house. This was the family of the Duke of Cannizzaro… From this time until my return to France, I was one of the family: my place was always set at their table; I followed them to the country in the summer, and everything in the house was at my service as it was for their own children, who considered themselves my brothers.”

Diary of the exile in Italy (1791-1802), E.O. XVI

For further details, see Alfred Hubenig and René Motte: “Living in the Spirit’s Fire” pages 12 – 24 https://www.omiworld.org/wp-content/uploads/Living-in-the-Spirits-Fire.pdf

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