WHERE WOULD WE BE IF WE ALLOWED OURSELVES TO BE DISHEARTENED BY THE DIFFICULTIES THAT OUR MINISTRY BRINGS US?

“If you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on.” (Lance Armstrong)

As Superior General, Eugene’s responsibility was to accompany his missionaries in their ‘being” and their “doing.” He cared deeply for his missionary sons and for their well-being, encouraging them, and also correcting when necessary. He understood the debilitating effect of anxiety and worry in the missionaries.

Where would we be, my dear Father Bellon, if we allowed ourselves to be disheartened by the difficulties that our ministry brings us? This weakness is only too natural and certainly does not come from God; if we probe deeper into this feeling, we may perhaps discover something even more imperfect. And so I do not approve your worrying about it as you do. Why are you surprised to find the miseries of humanity in people? You must conquer evil with good, pray very much, always distrust yourself, but hope in God, who, precisely on this occasion, has shown you a great proof of his protection. But far from being discouraged, you ought to be full of gratitude to God, that he has enlightened us in time and put us on the track of a devilish scheme which I could luckily prevent. …

We have no idea what this “devilish scheme” was, but it threatened the well-being of Father Bellon, hence the strong words to encourage him to put things into a wider perspective.

We repair the evil, thank God for having discovered it, and continue to work with fresh zeal for the sanctification of souls, precisely because they are being attacked more violently by the enemy of every good. If we acted otherwise, we would be, I say, not only foolish but quite culpable as well.

Letter to Father Charles Bellon at N.D. de Lumières, 21 September 1845, EO X n 881

“Give all your cares to the Lord and He will give you strength. He will never let those who are right with Him be shaken”. (Psalm 55:22)

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RECEIVING THESE REFLECTIONS BY EMAIL

The “Eugene de Mazenod speaks to us” blog began in May 2010 and with it came a free service offered by Google to subscribe to an email version of the daily reflections. Several hundred people did this. Many have been contacting me to find out how to continue this. and hence this response.

Unfortunately Google has since discontinued this service and we are no longer able to avail ourselves of a provider to send out emails. There are commercial services available to do this at a high cost – but as there is no income attached to the blog there is no possibility of availing ourselves of these.

Each day it appears in English, French, Spanish and Polish on the relevant site.  I also publish it on Facebook and Twitter, and the OMIWORLD site carries it each day. In each case you have to go to the site to access it.

Despite the effort involved in accessing “St Eugene Speaks,” A BIG THANK YOU to the readers who do follow it regularly. A lot of work goes into each entry, and I hope that some find it as beneficial as I do.

I also would like to point out that Oblate Associate, Eleanor Rabnett, responds each day with a personal reflection that is always well worth reading. Some have said that they prefer Eleanor’s handling of the topic to mine! I am delighted that we can all participate in making St Eugene better known and loved so as to learn from him how to live our relationship with our Savior as his co-operators in bringing the Gospel to those who need it most.

Frank Santucci OMI

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PUT YOUR CONFIDENCE IN HIM IN WHOSE NAME YOU ARE SENT

“For we are the aroma of Christ for God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2,15)

A wealthy Englishman, Ambrose Phillips owned the mansion of Grace Dieu, in Leicester county, England. He turned it into a Mass-center from which the priests could undertake the evangelization and conversion of the surrounding villages. In 1845 he invited the Oblates to establish a community there. Eugene appointed the 32 year-old Fr. Frédéric Perron as Superior by Eugene. He had only been a priest for 6 years, and Eugene wrote to encourage him in his responsibility of establishing a new mission.

Put your confidence in Him in whose name you are sent and be persuaded that He will bless your obedience and pour most abundant graces upon the work of your ministry…

Constantly in so many of his letters, Eugene repeats that the only source of guidance in any community and mission is to be the Oblate Rule, which is the application of the Gospel according to the charism that he had received.

Above all take great care to be bound by all things prescribed by our Rules and Constitutions. You have in the book wherein they are inscribed a sure and faithful counsellor to guide you on all occasions and advice which will enable you always to do what is most agreeable to God and most useful to yourself and others.

Then we encounter another of Eugene’s favorite expressions for mission: let the beautiful aroma of Jesus permeate from your community to all those whom you are evangelizing.

… Let order and regularity reign in the interior of the house, so that the good aroma of Jesus Christ may spread throughout the places where you dwell.

Letter to Father Frédéric Perron at Grace Dieu, England, 25 August 1845, EO III n 11

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WHEN ONE IS SURE IN HIS CONSCIENCE AND FULFILLING ONE’S DUTY, ONE CAN RISE ABOVE ALL THESE CRITICISMS

“Fire and swords are slow engines of destruction, compared to the tongue of a gossip.”  (Richard Steele)

Eugene writes to Father Courtès, who had been badly affected by some gossip, to implore him not to be disturbed by it.

A man like yourself should not be disturbed to this degree by gossip, which only deserves contempt. When one is sure in his conscience and fulfilling one’s duty, one can rise above all these murmurings  no matter from where they come.

So. I beg you, consider as not relevant anything that can be said or thought by those men and women whom you certainly do not hold in such regard as to want their approval. I would never have believed such an error of judgment. Everything and anything must be expected from poor humanity. On the other hand, the injustices of man do us good by detaching us from creatures.

Letter to Father Hippolyte Courtès in Aix, 17 August 1845, EO X n 879

Criticism, especially if unjust, is hard to live with – but is inevitable and can be an invitation to detachment and personal growth.

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ONE MUST, WE KNOW, LEAVE SOMETHING TO PROVIDENCE

Do I believe that when a door closes, God opens a window?

In 1841 when the Oblates discerned that God was calling them to establish a missionary community in Canada, it seemed like an impossible undertaking for a Congregation of 47 men who could not cope with their many commitments in France. Yet they trusted in divine providence, and we have seen how much was achieved in four years. Requests for more Oblates continued to arrive. Eugene’s exasperation at not being able to do more is evident in this letter to the Bishop of Montreal:

If this keeps up much longer, very dear Monseigneur, there will soon be nothing left in France of our poor little Congregation. Here am I sending you three more men and, in order to make this response to the entreaties of our Fathers in Canada, I have to refrain from founding this year an establishment in the diocese of Viviers considered necessary as a hopeful source of suitable recruits for the service of the Church in the ministries undertaken by our Congregation. So I am doing for Canada more than is possible.

Eugene’s trust in God’s providence made him continue to dare the seemingly impossible:

…. Beginnings are feeble as a rule; the impossible is expected of no one. One must, we know, leave something to Providence. I implore you, Monseigneur, to impress this upon those who are obsessed with ideas of perfection which would discourage anyone from undertaking anything in this world.

Finally he refers to a journey he was undertaking to Rome to officiate at his only niece’s marriage and also to consult with the Pope and other members of the Curia on topical issues regarding the delicate Church-State relationship in France.

On the point of departing for Rome, I am in such a hurry that it is on the run that I scribble these lines while reiterating the assurance of my respectful and most tender sentiments.

+ C. J. Eugene, Bishop of Marseilles.

Letter To Bishop Bourget of Montreal, 9 July 1845, EO I n 58

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A DAY IN THE LIFE OF BISHOP EUGENE DE MAZENOD

“O my God, teach me to be generous,
teach me to serve you as I should,
to give without counting the cost,
to fight without fear of being wounded,
to work without seeking rest,
to labour without expecting any reward,
but the knowledge that I am doing your most holy will.”
(St. Ignatius of Loyola)

Feast of Saint Peter. General ordination, the largest number that I have ever done. I gave the tonsure to [thirteen], minor orders to [twenty-four], I ordained [nine] sub-deacons, eight deacons and three priests. It is true that four Capuchins and one Oblate have since received tonsure inclusively to the diaconate. The ceremony began at 6 o’clock and finished at 10:30 o’clock, enough time so that the Chapter was able to say its office and to sing Solemn Mass.

As if there was nothing, I was obliged to set off again at 3 o’clock for St.-Barnabe where I had to first give the sacrament of confirmation to the children of the parish, then bless the foundation stone of the new church, and finally bless two clocks on the site, all with a dreadful wind which did not prevent the crowd from keeping its footing, but which was very uncomfortable.

I do not know until when I will be made to do these feats of strength to which I give myself as long as I can manage. In fact, I am not fatigued at all, but watch out in several years! I am enjoying my rest.

His last act of the day was to visit the Sisters of Compassion , who had been founded in Marseilles to look after the spiritual needs of domestic workers in a particular way (see https://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=5105)

Before departing, I visited the establishment of the new Sisters of Compassion… It’s essentially for this work that I have adopted this new Order or, to say it better, that I have let it develop under my auspices and my authority.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 29 June 1845, EO XXI

What do my busy days look like? Where do I get the strength to manage?

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WHERE GOD IS, THERE IS MY HOME

Where is home for me? Home is where the heart is – what is God’s place in my heart?

As Superior General, Eugene needed to move Oblates to different places when the need arose. Approaching Father Jean Joseph Magnan about a possible move, Eugene was edified by his response.

Letter from Fr. Magnan. He expresses the sentiments of a perfect religious: Ubi Deus, ibi patria [ed Where God is, there is my country], he says to me, so as to put his will into my hands.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 24 May 1845, EO XXI

Putting these words into practice, Eugene gives him a new mission:

I am obliged to call you to the Major Seminary of Marseilles to be professor of moral theology. I am telling you this under secret. When I get to Lumières, I will spell out for you which treatises you will have to teach at the outset. You will also be responsible for the formation of the seminarians in piety and the knowledge of their duties, that is to say, to assist at the spiritual lectures and to comment during the last eight or ten minutes. Those are the functions of what is called the spiritual director. You may begin your groundwork and to prepare your materials.

Letter to Fr Jean Joseph Magnan, 13 June 1845, EO X n 874

Where there is God, there is my country – the sentiment of a true missionary. In other words, wherever God is present, that is my home.

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FOR ME IT WAS MORE HOLY THAN THE CATACOMBS

Do we consider some of our deceased loved ones as being saints? Are they present to us in the communion of saints?

The bodies of some of the first Oblates to have died, as well as of some of Eugene’s family members, had been buried in the grounds of the “Enclos”, Madame de Mazenod’s property in Aix en Provence. A burial chapel was now constructed in the Aix cemetery and Eugene participated in the exhumation of the remains, which had lain in the earth for some 25 years.

Journey to Aix. I had the bodies exhumed which are still found at l’Enclos. They are those of Fr. Suzanne, of Fr. Arnoux, of Bro. Morandini and of Nathalie de Boisgelin. For me this was a very painful journey, but I acquitted myself of this duty with the meditation inspired in me by the sight of the precious remains of all these predestined saints whose relics I was collecting, penetrated by a religious respect, but also with a type of heartbreak difficult to express. … I will not describe it. It’s too horrible to report. As long as not the least fragment of the holy bones which I came to collect have been able to escape our search.

Eugene knew each of them well and was convinced that each one had lived a holy life and was a saint.

… for me it was more holy than the catacombs, so much did I know the virtues of the blessed souls who had enlivened these bodies reduced to such a deformity. They have been placed, the three missionaries in a three-compartmented box of walnut wood, and my niece in another separate small box. In several days, they will be transported to a tomb which I have had prepared in the grand cemetery, with the other holy bodies of my father, of my grandmother, of Caroline and of Fr. Marcou.

Will we not be able to truthfully inscribe on the tomb containing these holy remains: corpora sanctorum [ed. the bodies of saints]?

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 21 April 1845, EO XXI

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THE CONSOLATION OF CELEBRATING THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION

“The Holy Spirit can be with you always and guide you back to Him, but in order to enjoy the benefits of this holy gift, you must truly receive it, and then you must use it in your life. How sad it would be to be given such a precious gift and then set it aside and never use it.” (Margaret D. Nadauld)

During Eugene’s lifetime, the only person who could give the sacrament of confirmation was the bishop. Bishop Eugene thus went on a regular basis to celebrate this sacrament in the parishes, usually for large numbers of children. Every Monday, however, he celebrated the sacrament in his chapel at his residence, usually for adults. This diary entry gives an idea of his ministry and the consolations it brought him.

It is hard to believe. I am coming again to administer the sacrament of Confirmation to some twenty adults, and it is like this every Monday since I have been bishop. Oh, the fine thought that was inspired in me there!

All the bishops of the large cities ought to do as much of this, they would experience the same consolation as I. Because it is to be taken for granted that this great number of persons of every age and of every condition who present themselves willingly in my private chapel would never have the courage to mix with children in the general Confirmations of children. What astonishes me is that there is such a great number of them every week.

Today, among others I confirmed a father and his son, the son was a good 25 years of age; I confirmed a cripple who has no legs and walks with his hands, dragging himself on his knees, he’s a man of about 35 years of age, very well dressed, in the association of artisans; several other men, and among the women some ladies from the market, etc. This source has been providing a surprise for some time. I confirmed up to a dozen of them at a time.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 14 April 1845, EO XXI

The regular flow of ladies from the market was due to the influence of Babeau’s determination to bring her fellow-workers back to the practice of their faith.

What does the sacrament of confirmation mean to me today?

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I TOOK THE OPPORTUNITY TO BOOST THE COURAGE OF THESE POOR YOUNG PRISONERS

“The message of Jesus is summed up partly in the Sermon on the Mount, and partly when he begins his ministry and quotes the passage from Isaiah: ‘I have come to set free the prisoners and restore sight to the blind.’ And certainly, his mission is also to bring hope. It was to heal people, to befriend the outcast.” (Dan Wakefield)

A priest of the Diocese of Marseilles, Father Fissiaux. had focused his ministry on the youth of the city. With Bishop Eugene’s blessing and encouragement, he had founded the Society of St Peter in Chains for Brothers who dedicated themselves to serving delinquent youth (see https://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=4554). Among their works was the industrial penitentiary where young prisoners were spared the corrupting element of the adult prisons and were trained in industry and agriculture so as to return to the world with skills useful to society.

Bishop Eugene describes one of his visits to this penitentiary.

Visit to the prison. I was customarily received there to the sound of fanfare and by the whole community. I celebrated Holy Mass there at which I distributed Communion to about fifty prisoners and to all the brothers.

After Mass, I administered the sacrament of confirmation to the prisoners who had received Communion, among whom was the son of a Moslem. I took the opportunity of the occasion to boost the courage of these poor young people by remarking to them that divine justice was less rigorous than human justice and that, if they had obtained from God a sentence of absolution, they owe it to the religion which had descended with them into their prisons, etc.

I then went to the infirmary where I again confirmed 13 young men, among them two converted Moslems, one of them a Black man. On the whole, the morning was very consoling and well filled.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 10 April 1845, EO XXI

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