A DELICATE DECISION

A letter from Tempier had brought him disturbing news regarding the health of the old bishop: “You might as well know that all these upheavals have depressed our prelate. There is a great change in him; at the age of 82, one does not bear up under such staggering blows.”

All I ask is that they do not harass my uncle and if it troubles him to accept the resolutions at which I foresee they will arrive, let him leave for Italy. It is not at his age that one can stand up to the struggles of the kind for which preparations are underway.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 19 August 1830, EO VII n 357

Pressure was being applied on the old Bishop to make a decision about whether to recognize the new King or not. Leflon notes: “Father de Mazenod’s family traditions, his ultra-royalism, his Bossuet-inspired belief in the legitimacy of the Bourbon kings, and his ardent love for them, naturally prejudiced him against the son of Philippe Egalité, while the revolution which he considered essentially satanic horrified him instinctively.”  (Leflon 2, p. 344.)

The background to the situation in Marseilles:

“The common people as a whole had remained loyal to the legitimate monarchy and to the Church, and were thoroughly opposed to the revolution. Any acts of aggression against the bishop’s palace, religious houses, mission crosses, even noisy or tumultuous demonstrations, would have provoked an immediate reaction on the part of the dockers, calkers, fishermen and fishwives, etc.; since there were only a few demonstrators who could be recruited, it was far wiser to refrain from such tactics. It would take almost a year before any of these things were attempted and their consequences discouraged their repetition. Bishop Fortuné, therefore, was at odds only with the local authorities, that is, the divisional commander of the military, the prefect, and lastly the mayor who was determined to force recognition of the new king upon the old bishop, and to enforce legislation unfavorable to the clergy. However, these same authorities had to reckon with public sentiment which was mostly antagonistic toward the new government, especially among people living in the port districts. On the other hand, the prelate enjoyed the support of his flock, among whom were those who were quick to use their tongues and fists.” Leflon 2, p.343

I leave everything to Providence but reiterate my concern for my uncle. I think that it will be necessary for him to choose a course that depends on the opinion he will embrace. If he adopts the affirmative on his own initiative, there is no obstacle to his remaining; but if it is in the negative, I think that it would be as well that he leave as soon as possible, for how will he have the strength to bear all the consequences?

Letter to Henri Tempier, 21 August 1830, EO VII n 358

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GOD SAVE THE KING – OR NOT?

The new civil authorities had demanded the singing, at the end of Mass on the feast of August 15th, of the verse Domine salvum fac regem Ludovicum Philippum [ed. God save the King, Louis Philippe]. Bishop Fortuné was faced with a difficult decision in Marseilles. Eugene wrote to Henri Tempier, the other Vicar General of the diocese:

I quite expected the difficulty which would face you on the 15th in regard to singing the “Domine salvum fac.” I prefer the conclusion more than all the reasoning and (views of) authorities which preceded. Your council will certainly derive consequences therefrom which I would certainly not wish to adopt. I see in them the doctrine of the de facto government.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 19 August 1830, EO VII n 357

Leflon gives the background:

Deeply affected by the fall of the Bourbon dynasty, which, in his eyes, presaged the return of 1793 and a new persecution of the Church, Fortune was faced with an added problem of deciding what official position he should adopt toward the new regime, since Lieutenant-General Delort, Commandant of the Eighth Division at Marseilles, suggested that the Bishop order the Domine salvum fac regem to be sung on August 15, for Louis Philippe whose rule had been announced at Marseilles two days earlier. It was a grave matter of conscience for the prelate which he was unable to settle one way or the other without declaring himself for or against the Orleans regime which, through rioting, had replaced what was considered the legitimate dynasty. A diocesan council, held at the bishop’s palace, favored compliance with the General’s orders until someone suggested a way to escape the dilemma: the prayer for the king would be limited to the singing of the Exaudiat without any mention whatever of the head of the government by name. Until the Pope made an official pronouncement, the clergy were to adhere to this formula.

Father de Mazenod was not at all satisfied with this maneuver. Adroit as it may have seemed, this method of avoiding the issue still was tantamount to a first concession which was bound to lead to others far more serious, only to end in complete submission.

Leflon 2, p. 343

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PROVIDENCE MEANT ME TO STAY IN ORDER TO FIND SOME MEANS OF PRESERVING THE FAMILY

Fearing that the anti-religious sentiments of the new regime would lead to further persecution and the danger of violent outbreaks, Eugene started to look for a house in Switzerland to move all the scholastics and novices to. Here they would be safe and would be able to pursue their studies and formation in a calmer atmosphere and become fully equipped for ministry back in France.

I would have been gone quite a while from here had I not believed that Providence meant me to stay in order to find some means of preserving the family.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès , 15 August 1830, EO VII n 356

…There is no other choice than to buy a country house or an old chateau which may not be too expensive. I have two in view; they are both situated at four or five leagues from here in the midst of a Catholic population. I regard it as very important to have a fixed establishment. Providence will guide us thereafter according to his holy designs. In this house there should be some priests who could as need arises bring help to the country priests. They would do in the French region what the Liguorians do in the German area. It is only thus that they could make themselves appreciated. I would establish in the same place our students, for do not imagine that you will be able to keep them together in your sight.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 15 August 1830, EO VII n. 355

With Eugene we can enjoy the beauty of the place which was to be the formation house for future Missionary Oblates for 7 years.

…After many costly trips, for one does not travel gratuitously in this country, I have reached a decision and have concluded a very onerous transaction, but one which had to be undertaken if I did not wish to risk being left with nothing by way of a settlement. They have arrived at an advance agreement, save for my approbation, on one of the most agreeable dwellings of the canton. I have visited it and admit that I find it charming, both in regard to the site and the conveniences that go with it. It is at quite a short distance from a small town and within reach of a village. The view looks over a pretty plain towards foothills which rise to the high mountains of the Gruyere but at a distance far enough not to be oppressed by them. The house has a pretty garden in front; from the ground floor one reaches, by a charming path, a little wood in which a stream meanders. A canopy has been cleared in its shade with benches that invite walkers to sit and contemplate the beauties of nature.
Beyond is a fine stretch of grass where calmly browse the cows of the farm which is situated a short distance from the chateau. Over there is the barn for the cows, and that for horses, hay lofts, threshing floor, repair shop, chicken house, dairy and all the farming equipment.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 20 September 1830, EO VII n 364

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IT IS ESPECIALLY IN CRITICAL MOMENTS THAT ONE MUST BE MORE FERVENT, MORE LIKE MEN OF GOD

The only way for the Oblates to survive the turmoil in the country was to keep themselves focused on what they were and what they were supposed to be doing. It was all contained in their Rule of Life which guided them in personal life and in their ministry:

Let them keep to the Rule more than ever; it is only thus that they will draw down the blessings of God on themselves and on others. Speak strongly on this subject to all. I put it to them as a matter of conscience. I see here only people who are regular and perfectly conformed to their state. Why should we not imitate them? All is good for them. Domini est terra et plenitude ejus. [ed. Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it]

Letter to Henri Tempier, 13 August 1830, EO VII n. 354

 To Fr. Courtès, the superior of the house in Aix, he repeated the same advice.

See to it firmly that each performs his duty punctually. It is especially in critical moments that one must be more fervent, more like men of God, irreproachable in every way. The extraordinary graces that one needs would not be granted to lukewarm souls, to earthly-minded men. This life is nothing for those who count on eternity; the essential is to please God, to accomplish his commandments and his counsels, to do in everything his holy will, however costly that may be to one’s nature. Our vocation is to do good to everybody; when we will no longer be able to do it in one place, we will do it in another.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès , 15 August 1830, EO VII n 356

Being so far away, Eugene worried constantly as his imagination ran away with him and he kept imagining the worst.

…I embrace you and am very vexed to be at such a great distance from you, my uncle and all my brothers; out of three thoughts, two and a half are for all of you.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 13 August 1830, EO VII n. 354

A reminder that the vocation of the members of the Mazenodian Family, especially in difficult times, “is to do good to everybody; when we will no longer be able to do it in one place, we will do it in another.”

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OUR MOTTO IS PRUDENCE AND MODERATION, BUT WITH VIGILANCE, FIRMNESS AND COURAGE

Finally, news came from Fr Tempier. He wrote to Eugene that in the facing the difficult situation: “Our motto is prudence and moderation, but vigilance, firmness and courage” (REY. I. 489). Eugene responded:

I approve your conduct entirely. I did not expect less of you. You have done what must be done. I wish I were able to give the same praise to those of whom you speak to me

The violent behavior of the mobs had affected the Oblates in Nimes, who had been forced to escape with the Bishop and clergy, and Eugene was not impressed.

Guibert, in Laus, had stood firm – but then they had not been violently threatened.

Guibert has written to me and has not imitated them.
 Unless things have happened that you do not mention, I cannot conceive how the chaplain left his post. He did not do his duty in these circumstances; did he not have sick people to care for? That is where I would have remained – beside them. This good example would have done honor to his courage and to his ministry which is wholly one of charity.

We do not know who this chaplain is, but it is an attitude that Eugene would condemn later again during the cholera outbreaks in Marseilles, when some of the priests of his diocese were too frightened to remain with their suffering people.

He then points his Oblates to their lighthouse: the Rule of Life to give them serenity and courage as they fulfilled their ministerial duties.

In the name of God, let none of this turmoil effect adversely the regularity of our people. Let them be concerned with these events only to the extent that is necessary for them not to be aloof from what is happening; but let their piety and the holy practices of their state not suffer the least detriment. On the contrary, may all redouble their fervor and their application to their duties.

Finally, his advice to the scholastics to keep clear-headed about what they were supposed to be doing:

Maintain vigorously their studies; learning is an indispensable condition to be utilized wherever one may be.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 13 August 1830, EO VII n. 354

In the face of seemingly-overwhelming difficulties, all are reminded to redouble our fervor and our application to our duties.

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HENRI TEMPIER: EUGENE’S SON, FRIEND, OLD COMRADE, ADMONITOR, SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR AND CONFESSOR

Eugene was frustrated and wanted to be back where the action was so as to discharge his responsibilities to the Oblates and the Diocese. He was held back by his state of health. Like a chained-up lion, he argued:

I long for the moment when the doctors will decide that I am well enough to resume my ordinary occupations and share your work. Consult my regular doctor. I am at his orders. Those here are not sufficiently aware of my temperament; but force him not to be so concerned with my carcass as to overlook my duties which I cannot discharge here.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 13 August 1830, EO VII n. 354

Why was he so unusually meek and incapable of ignoring his health and forge ahead with his own plans?

It was because he had made a vow of obedience to Henri Tempier in April 1816 (cf http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=639). Tempier never used his privileged position of son, friend, old comrade, admonitor, spiritual director and confessor, to interfere in Eugene’s ministry, but only in the case of his spiritual and physical welfare. Two months before, when Eugene had stubbornly resumed his duties in Marseilles, the alarmed Tempier had written:

“My dearly beloved Father,
I am as grieved as anyone could possibly be. . . . I have done everything, not only as a son, but as a friend, an old comrade, an admonitor, even as a spiritual director and confessor, to induce you not to fast, and God knows how right I was! But all my suggestions and pleadings have been to no avail. I now learn that after fasting for two days and finding it necessary to sit down yesterday before you could go on with your Mass, today, the feast of the Holy Trinity, you are going to celebrate two Masses, one of which will be a High Mass at ten o’clock. Such imprudence is beyond all limits. I can find no words to describe this abuse of your health . . . and I feel conscience- bound to make my sorrow known to you in writing. If this is of no avail, then I shall inform the assistants-general of the Society that, since I cannot prevail upon you to care for your health, they themselves will have to see to it. It pains me, my beloved Father, to speak to you in this way, and yet, although I apologize for it, I feel that I have done nothing more than my duty.” (Quoted in Leflon 2 p.338)

Leflon continues:

“This imperative admonition would have sufficed, but Tempier, ad abundantiam juris, prescribed a physical check-up, as a result of which the doctors ordered a change of climate. Certainly, had he remained in Marseilles, no one could have counted on his relaxing. It was necessary, therefore, that he go away, and a good distance away. His trip was so arranged that it would take him from his regular duties, relax him, and at the same time provide him an opportunity to occupy his mind with family interests. It was decided that he go to Switzerland, an ideal spot for a sojourn. At Fribourg, he could see his nephew, Louis de Boisgelin, whom he had enrolled at the Jesuit College after the decree of the ordinances expelling the Jesuits from the minor seminary at Aix. His mother and his sister would accompany him to look after him.” (Leflon 2 p. 338 – 339)

 

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I AM UTTERLY OUT OF MY ELEMENT HERE, BEING MOREOVER OF NO USE FOR ANYTHING OR TO ANYONE.

Poor Eugene! Frustrated because of his slow convalescence. Disappointed with the behavior of some of the Oblates. Annoyed because he could not be fulfilling his responsibilities as Vicar General in Marseilles. Now came the political crisis and we touch something of his raw state of nerves and anxiety for the Oblates and for his uncle, the 83-year old Bishop Fortuné.

Is it conceivable that you have had the hard-headedness, in such times as we are traversing, to leave me without letters from July 27 to August 4! I told you, in my last letter, to let me know immediately whether my uncle would consider it wise that I return to his side. I repeat the same question; I am utterly out of my element here, being moreover of no use for anything or to anyone.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 9 August 1830, EO VII n. 353

Four days later we find him still suffering from his inability to do anything.

Unless, my dear friend, you may have written letters to me on the 20th, the 27th and August 4th, it is impossible not to be afflicted over your failure to send me news of yourselves of which I have such great need. I am tired of repeating that, in the grave circumstances in which you are, it would not be too much to write three times a week. You can imagine that I think only of you and that I feel here like a fish out of water.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 13 August 1830, EO VII n. 354

We can all identify with the experience of worrying about loved ones who are far away and may be in danger – and we seemingly can do nothing for them because of distance, illness, age or other circumstances. We are encouraged by Eugene:

I will say to you however that I am not discouraged and that I am afflicted without being laid low. It seems to me that Our Lord will help us by his grace to endure all our sorrows.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 23 August 1830, EO VII n 359

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NOW IT REMAINS TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED WHERE YOU ARE

Yesterday at last, the “Constitutionnel” of the 31st informed us of the state of affairs, by what it said and by what it omitted. Some letters, addressed to Swiss families, whose heads are in the service of France, confirmed in part the accounts of the journalist. Now it remains to know what happened where you are. Whatever they may tell me here, if you think at Marseilles that it would be necessary that I return, you are to send for me. My ailment is not one of those that a change of air can cure; my heart left me rather tired during the course of yesterday; I am well otherwise.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 4 August 1830, EO VII n. 352

The news had reached Eugene in Switzerland. There had been riots in Paris, and looting and destruction in the residence of the Archbishop, in the church of St. Germain l’Auxerrois, in the Jesuit novitiate and the destruction of public mission crosses. Was this the signal of a new persecution of the Church as the events of 1789 and the Reign of Terror had been? Was the alliance between the “Throne and the Altar” that the Bourbon kings had restored going to be destroyed again? Were the Oblates going to be persecuted?

The convalescing Eugene’s frustration at being far away is evident. Unrealistically he wanted to return to France yet, realistically, he continued to experience the physical symptoms of a “tired heart.” Like our patron saint, we also often struggle between unrealistic ideals and the realism of our situation. He remained focus on God, and inspires us to do the same.

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THE JULY REVOLUTION: “GLORIOUS” OR “INGLORIOUS”?

What French history has referred to as “The Three Glorious Days” (27-29 July 1830) were anything but “glorious” for Eugene. For the preceding few years government anti-religious sentiments and actions had been increasing. (cf the entry from http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=3415 onwards)

Now these erupted and revolt broke out in Paris, leading to the abdication of King Charles X and the takeover of power by Louis Philippe. He named himself not “King of France”, but “King of the French.” The “Citizen King,” as opposed to the line of Bourbon monarchs, was going to change the relationship between the State and the Church – and we shall see how Eugene was to be affected at great personal cost to himself in the years that followed.

Eugene was in Switzerland, while Henri Tempier was in Marseilles. Rumors of the violence that had been happening in Paris had filtered through to him, and he was anxious:

You can understand, my dear friend, how impatiently I await news from you. You did not write on the 30th, the day, by my calculations, when you ought to have been informed of the events at Paris.
You were at fault, for you can imagine the extent of my anxiety after the rumors, increasingly exaggerated one after the other, during the three days that the post failed to arrive.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 4 August 1830, EO VII n. 352

Eugene’s anxiety was focused on whether the violence had spread to the south of France and the danger to his Oblates and to the diocese of Marseilles. Was this going to be a repetition of 1789?

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I BEG YOU, MY DEAR FRIEND, TO BURN THE PAGE WHICH PRECEDES

Once Eugene had expressed his feelings about the Oblates who were not living up to the lofty ideals of the Rule of Life, he realized that he had been too negative and unrealistic, and so he wrote to Henri Tempier on the next day:

I beg you, my dear friend, to burn the page which precedes. This outpouring is all right for you, from whom I have nothing to hide but were someone else to read it, he could interpret it badly and be persuaded that I little appreciate the brothers that God has given us while, quite certainly, there is a good number of them that I esteem.

Eugene certainly never spared himself in his efforts to help his Oblate sons to grow into zealous missionary achievers, while trusting in God.

Some cannot be in doubt that while loving them, I would wish them to be other than they are since I do not cease to tell them so and I write to them when the occasion presents itself. For the rest, we must bless the good God for the hopes that we have in the future.
The Blessed Alphonse de Liguori was not any more fortunate than we during his lifetime.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 1 August 1830, EO VII n 351

Fr. Tempier wrote in the margin of this letter, probably after the death of the Founder in 1861 “I did not at the time dare to tear up this letter and throw it in the fire, as my venerated Father bid me to do, still less will I do it today”.

“A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”   Abigail Van Buren

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