HE SHOULD NOT GIVE HIMSELF UP TO IDLE DREAMS OF A FUTURE THAT WILL PERHAPS NEVER COME

The student house in Billens was made up of zealous young people with generous dreams. Some of these, however, were not quite practical, as Eugene commented to the superior, Fr Mille.

I urge you to deter Ricard from his plans of going overseas. That is out of the question for him; he should consider himself lucky that he is working ahead of time in the vineyard of the Father of the family. He should walk humbly before Him and not give himself up to idle dreams of a future that will perhaps never come.
It seems that Father Tempier’s words were wasted on you when he addressed you on the subject of the idle desires swarming inside Father Touche’s head.
Busy yourselves with your studies at Billens and let each one strive, with as much effort as possible, to acquire the virtues of his holy state. A man is being formed for every kind of ministry when it is obedience that assigns each one his duties.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille, 25 September 1831, EO VIII n 404

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IN CLOSE UNION WITH GOD, GO AHEAD WITH FULL CONFIDENCE

Father Mille was 33 years old, had been ordained a priest for only fifteen months and he was the superior of the Oblate scholasticate in Switzerland. He was young and inexperienced, but the political crisis in France had forced Eugene to appoint him to this responsibility. He was finding the burden heavy, and Eugene wrote to encourage him:

So if you renounce yourself entirely, together with your tastes and even the reasoning your mind may entertain, you will give a good account of yourself in the delicate task imposed on you. I am not trying to minimize your own estimate of the burden that weighs you down.
On the contrary, I agree that it could not weigh more heavily on your shoulders, but by living in close union with God, pondering frequently on the importance of your tasks and studying how men who have achieved success in this field have acted, you will achieve the same results.

Stay close to the God who has called you, reflect on the importance of what has been entrusted to you, and learn from others who have had more experience in this field. Good advice to all of us when we find the burdens of service heavy.

But you must apply yourself to your task and tell yourself again and again that God, Church and religious family will be demanding an account villicationis tuae [ed. “Give an account of your management” Luke 16:2]
 Go ahead finally with full confidence and quietly correct in the light of experience the small mistakes that come to light as you go on your way.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille, 25 September 1831, EO VIII n 404

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WHILE WE ARE NOTHING, WE CAN ACHIEVE A LOT WITH GOD’S HELP

Words of encouragement that God is close to us whenever we strive to discern God’s will:

If you have rooted yourself in the profound conviction that while we are nothing, we can achieve a lot with God’s help.
We do this when, placing ourselves in a state of complete detachment, we turn for guidance to obedience as making known to us the will of the Master we serve
and who has pledged himself to give us his powerful help by means of his grace in the various ministries that he assigns to us.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille, 25 September 1831, EO VIII n 404

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I SAW YOU IN HIM, AND THUS, ALTHOUGH ALREADY FAR AWAY, WE WERE VERY CLOSE TO ONE ANOTHER

Eugene had spent the summer months in Switzerland with the students preparing themselves to be Missionaries. He was always sad when he had to leave this community and return to Marseilles and the burdens of being Vicar General in difficult times for the Church.

My dear children. I am never going to become such a stoic as not to feel it when taking my leave of a community like yours. It is just as well I don’t experience the need to acquire that pagan brand of virtue, sign as it is of a total lack of charity and complete heartlessness…

Uniting himself with them in the practice of oraison, he expressed his fatherly love for them:

How much I love you! I feel it when I am with you. I feel it when I am far from you, you are always present to my thoughts and you live in my heart.
Yesterday and today I was with you in the spirit at your prayer times. This morning I was at Our Lord’s feet in the church at Geneva at the self-same moment as you were surrounding the divine Master in the course of midday prayer and examen. I saw you in Him, and thus, although already far away, we were very close to one another.

Letter to Father Mille and the novices and scholastics of Billens, 17 September 1831, EO VIII n 403

Through oraison he was able to be in communion with the Oblates through the uniting presence of Jesus the Savior.

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THE CROSS CONTINUES TO BE A CAUSE OF DIVISION

Yvon Beaudoin gives the background to yet another anti-religious incident: “The mayor had requested the suppression of the procession on the feast of the Assumption. Bishop Fortuné went ahead with it all the same. A group of men attacked the young girls who led the procession and momentarily seized possession of the Cross, which was courageously defended by the Catholics who followed the procession.”

… What splendid people we have at Marseilles! You will have to go a long way to find their equals! Yes, that dastardly outrage. Well deserved the punishment meted out to the people responsible, and if they come back another time it will serve them right if you hit them even harder, for it is really too bad when a bunch of hooligans can brag of their immunity and insult religion and all that is dear to the 140,000 who make up the majority of the people here.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 24 August 1831, EO VIII n 492

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THE DAILY LIFE OF THE YOUNG FUTURE OBLATE STUDENTS

Not exactly a profound spiritual thought, but just a glimpse into Eugene’s chatty narrative to his friend, Henri Tempier, about everyday life in the seminary in Billens.

Everyone is very well. And in fact the only thing lacking here is wine, a lack shared by everyone in these parts. They drink it occasionally with visitors. For the rest, it does not enter their heads. The daily fare is very good. Every day they have soup, two helpings, a good piece of beef, a course of cabbage and newly-salted pork, very fine and tasty and very often too some local sausage. That makes three courses, not counting the sausages. At other times they have a plate of creamed turnips and cheese for dessert. At evening they often have veal. The morning and evening soups are made from stock and bread is freely available. You see there is no cause for complaint
With this they do good work, teachers and students, each does his duty. Classes of dogmatic and moral theology, philosophy, sacred elocution, mathematics, literature, history, geography, not to mention singing and liturgy. For the moment German cannot be fitted in, there are not sufficient hours in the day or even in the week. All these different occupations are well distributed, in such a way that not a moment of the day is lost.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 22 August 1831, EO VIII n 401

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I AM SHOWN NOTHING BUT COW-PATS

Writing to Tempier from Billens and the farm that the Oblates now owned as a seminary, Eugene had some frustrated feelings about the Oblates’ lack of success with farming!

I don’t understand a thing of the mess they have got into over their cows: they sold the ones that were giving milk to buy some younger ones that give practically none. I haven’t yet plumbed the depths of this mystery but I suspect that Mille has been duped by the tenant-farmer who has only his own interest in view, and it doesn’t always coincide with ours.
Meanwhile, all the purchases of animals, which belong jointly to the landlord and tenant-farmer and which ought also to have been bought at joint expense, have come out of our bottomless pocket, thus adding to what the tenant farmer owes without in any way augmenting his capacity to pay it off.
However, there is no choice but to buy cows to eat up the hay, practically the only thing produced in these parts, but at the end I would like to see some butter and cheeses for sale and I am shown nothing but cow-pats. In short, I am very dissatisfied without knowing who precisely to blame for the situation.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 22 August 1831, EO VIII n 401

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PRAY THAT I MAY PLACE NO OBSTACLE TO THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF GOD’S WILL

In August Eugene traveled to the scholasticate in Billens to check on the progress of the community and its studies.

We were all so happy to see each other again, after a year’s absence, and a conversation (not foreseen by the Rule) got started, almost in spite of myself, by a kind of bewitchment, and went on until after 11 o’clock ….

Still concerned about the future of the Oblates in the hostile climate of France, he was hoping to establish a missionary community in Switzerland.

On the journey I made the acquaintance of a fine fellow from le Valais who might be useful to me if I decide when I am there to do something in his country.
Please ask the holy Capuchin sisters to pray that I for my part may place no obstacle to the accomplishment of God’s will, and that no-one may put obstacles in the path of goodness if that is the direction it is to take, but I always anticipate a lot of problems when a new enterprise in a foreign country is on the agenda.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 19 August 1831, EO VIII n 400

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BE CAREFUL NEVER TO SACRIFICE PRINCIPLES

The Capitular Vicar of Aix had ordered the priests to celebrate a solemn Mass of Thanksgiving on the anniversary of the July Revolution of July 1830 (“the three glorious days”). Having suffered the persecution of the Church by the government brought in by that revolution, Eugene was outraged! He congratulated Father Courtès for having refused to celebrate.

I approve your attitude of reserve. It is a difficult situation; but with coolness and calculation you will win through in spite of everything, but you must be careful never to sacrifice principles.
Thus it would have been necessary to run the risk of seeing the church closed rather than sing a High Mass in thanksgiving for one of the greatest crimes committed since the world began, whose immediate consequences have been to throw Europe and the entire world into commotion
It would have been an evil act, a sin, a huge scandal, a sacrilege, a profanation, a monstrosity. So I am not surprised that the clergy of Aix did not heed this unjust command, as you are not bound to obey when superiors command a sin.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 27 July 1831, EO VIII n 398

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I HOPE THAT THEY WILL NOT BE DECEIVED IN THEIR EXPECTATIONS

In writing to the superior of the scholasticate about his new Oblates in formation, Eugene makes a statement that equally applies all those entrusted to our care in ministry.

I must not conceal from you that our new students expect to receive from you solid instruction, wise direction and noble example. I hope that they will not be deceived in their expectations

Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille, 24 July 1831, EO VIII n 397

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