SYMBOLS WITH WHICH TO GO AND PREACH THE GOOD NEWS OF SALVATION TO THE PEOPLE

Eugene concluded his retreat by meditating on the symbols he would receive at his consecration.

This cross, this crozier is given me as the sign of spiritual power for me to chase out vice with a severity tempered with gentleness, to judge with equity, rousing this man’s virtues and reprimanding that one s trespasses.
This ring is placed on my finger as the seal of the faith I must profess and the fidelity I must observe towards the Church, Jesus Christ’s holy Spouse.
This book of the holy Gospels is confided to me so that in conformity with my vocation or rather with the mission given me, I go out and preach the good news of salvation to the people with whom I am charged.
This mitre is placed on my head as a helmet of salvation, so that with my face adorned with this ornament, and my head armed with the power of the two Testaments, I may become terrible and formidable in the eyes of the adversaries of truth, and that by the help of grace I may always give them battle with both strength and success.
Lastly my hands are clothed with these gloves, image of the purity of the new man who has come down from heaven that the gifts, oblations and sacrifices which will be offered by me, may find favour and acceptance with God and that I may draw down on myself and the Church the most abundant blessings through the virtues of Jesus Christ Our Lord who, having taken the form of sin, offered himself for us to his heavenly Father.
How can I have got to the end of these lines, without the pen dropping from my fingers a thousand times. My God, who could everattain just the virtues one ought to possess to respond worthily to the Church’s designs?

Retreat before being consecrated bishop, 7-14 October 1832, EO XV n 166

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POOR, ROUGH, IGNORANT PEOPLE, THAT MY CARE WILL EMBRACE

Episcopal consecration would give Eugene a particular relationship with the Church:

No, may I never be dominated by an individualistic, proud or opinionated attitude, always simple in my faith, always united in doctrine, even opinion, and teaching with the Church and her visible Head the Vicar of Jesus Christ.

Then his Oblate heart shines through: the importance of always being close to his people. As a titular (“auxiliary”) bishop he would not have a diocese, but he committed himself to love whoever was entrusted to his care.

Poor, rough, ignorant people, dear children, object of my first concern in my priestly ministry, the Church commends you to me now I am a pontiff. Ah! you will by no means be forgotten, you will always be the most precious portion, I do not say of my flock, I do not have one as such, but that my care will embrace in every place where I may be summoned to exercise my ministry.

Retreat before being consecrated bishop, 7-14 October 1832, EO XV n 166

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THE BEST THING IS TO ABANDON MYSELF TO GOD

That is enough reflecting on the past. The best thing is to abandon myself to God to apply myself specially to consider what is going to be done in me by virtue of the Most High, and the obligations I am going to contract on receiving the plenitude of the priesthood of J.C.

The future bishop then spent the rest of the retreat meditating on the prayers of the rite of consecration and what tey highlight about the meaning of being a bishop. A successor of the Apostles:

Dust and ashes as I am, I am really going to be lifted up among the Princes of God’s People, as I am going to be aggregated to the apostolic College, re-clothed with the character they were clothed with, succeed to and participate in a share of their power… to enter into participation in the solicitude for all the Churches, to pass on in my turn the Holy Spirit to work towards the perpetuation of the priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ, to judge, interpret, conserve, ordain, offer, baptize, and confirm.

Prostrate on the ground during the singing of the Litany of the Saints:

As for me is it excessive to abase myself with the thought of my own nothingness, prostrate myself face downwards to the ground, send up groans towards the Lord, implore his mercy, his almighty grace, the help of his right-hand, to invoke, hands joined, tears in the eyes, the Blessed Virgin my Mother, the holy Angels, my holy Patrons and all the saints of paradise and all the just on earth and even the holy souls in purgatory, for I am sure that even though they cannot merit, they can obtain by intercession…
All-Holy God, grant me the grace to penetrate this great mystery …

Retreat before being consecrated bishop, 7-14 October 1832, EO XV n 166

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THE FEELING THAT PREDOMINATES IN MY SOUL: AN UNLIMITED TRUST IN THE GOODNESS OF MY GOD

As I read Eugene’s retreat reflections, I constantly hear echoes of his Good Friday experience of his brokenness and his awareness of God’s healing love. It was a conviction that never left him and that was at the basis of all his ministry: to lead others to his same experience of being loved by and of loving God, despite their sinfulness.

That is where things stand, it is the feeling that predominates in my soul, an unlimited trust in the goodness of my God. I am a sinner, a very great sinner. After 21 years of ministry preceded by three years’ preparation, after working more than many another, both myself and through a great number of co-operators whom I have set in motion, after succeeding in many undertakings conceived and carried out for God and the Church, I acknowledge myself to be without virtues and merits, and notwithstanding that I do not despair of my God’s goodness, and I count always on his mercy, and I hope that I will finish by becoming better, that is, with the supernatural help and habitual assistance of grace, I will acquit myself better of my duties and cooperate with the plans of the heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ, my most lovable Saviour, and the Holy Spirit who hovers over my soul prior to entering it again in a few days time. Amen, Amen, Amen.

Retreat journal before being consecrated bishop, 7-14 October 1832, EO XV n 166

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IT IS YOU WHO SINCE THE MOST FRAGILE DAYS OF MY INFANCY HAVE LED ME AS IF BY THE HAND

Eugene’s retreat led him to look at his impending episcopacy with discomfort but with gentle trust in God.

And even so it is in this state of affairs I am called suddenly to receive the plenitude of the priesthood, elevated to the sublime episcopal dignity. My good God! If you had not accustomed me to the qualities of your infinite mercy, if already you had not inspired in my heart a gentle trust, there would be every reason to draw back with horror.

In moving sentiments, he recalls God’s gracious care for him throughout his life and entrusts himself to doing God’s will.

But no, you are my Father, it is you who since the most fragile days of my infancy have led me as if by the hand. Everything you have done for me in the course of my life is too present to my memory, I feel again still today too vividly the effects not to count on your infinite goodness, not to throw myself with total abandon into your paternal bosom, fully resolved to do this time and always everything you demand of me, were it to cost me my life.
Too happy to devote the few days left me to spend on earth to do your holy Will in bad times as in good, with the world’s approval or condemnation, amidst consolations or overwhelmed with griefs. For I do not know what is awaiting me in the new ministry I am about to begin.
As always, nothing happens to me that you have not willed, and my happiness and my joy will be always to do your Will.

Retreat journal before being consecrated bishop, 7-14 October 1832, EO XV n 166

With boundless confidence in the God who has never abandoned him, he will continue to find his happiness and his joy in always doing the will of God for him.

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SO HERE I AM ARRIVED AT MY FIFTIETH YEAR WITH EMPTY HANDS

Eugene’s retreat meditation led him to reflect on his stewardship – using the parable of the head of the household who entrusted talents to his stewards. Although he had managed well and efficiently, Eugene feels sad because he had not achieved as much grace as he should have.

I have achieved a lot, it is true, overcome big obstacles, conquered insurmountable difficulties, good and very much good came of it. Yes, I cannot deny it, but it is at my own expense. I was better, or to phrase it better, incomparably less evil at the beginning of my ministry when I had still achieved practically nothing, than now when I have achieved much. What to conclude fromthis reasoning? That not only am I an unprofitable servant, but an unfaithful servant, that I may have done what I was obliged to do, but did not do it as I ought, since certainly the first condition of the work the Head of the Household imposed on me was that in carrying out His work I should pursue my own sanctification which one does not attain in our holy state otherwise than by advancing in perfection. So here I am arrived at my fiftieth year with empty hands, since I have been unable to enrich myself in my regular management of the treasures, even as I increased their value to the head of the household, but not with good interest as it should have been since, once again, as I look closely at myself, I find myself poorer today than the first day of my administration, “villicationis meae” [ed. my account of stewardship].

Retreat journal before being consecrated bishop, 7-14 October 1832, EO XV n 166

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I HAVE ACHIEVED A LOT AND MUCH GOOD CAME FROM IT

I have been a priest for 21 years. I cannot presume that there is as much time left me to live as I have spent in the priesthood. I must look and see what the grace communicated me by the imposition of hands has yielded. The cooperation I have brought to it, the duration of the blessed consolations of the Holy Spirit, the cause of my infidelities and their baneful effects.

Eugene recalls and prays about his life as a priest because as a bishop he will receive the fullness of this priesthood which will build on the foundations of his 21 years of priesthood.

What beautiful years were those first years of my holy ministry.

He recalls the major steps of his life. The first was when Napoleon had expelled the seminary faculty, and the newly-ordained Eugene had become one of those to fill in for them.

One year spent in the seminary as a priest, charged with inspiring in the others love for the clerical virtues and called to cooperate with holy collaborators to conserve and maintain the good traditions of our former Directors, the Emerys, Duclaux, Garniers, Montagnes, expelled from their house, that we had to keep going in their absence.

Them the excitement of his first years of priestly ministry in Aix:

What beautiful years were those first two years I spent in Aix in the exercise of a ministry that was all charity, living within my house, with the help of my servant the good Trappist Brother Maur, in recollection, prayer and study; every moment I stole from external ministry, and the attention I gave to the youth and prisoners.

Catching typhus from the Austrian prisoners of war:

If I had died then, the very death I had asked God to grant me from the time I became a priest, every day at the elevation of the chalice, I would have died a martyr of charity, and I would not have to reproach myself with so many faults, infidelities, I would not have to weep over this state of lukewarmness into which I have been thrown by the innumerable occupations with which I have been overburdened, whether in the ministry of the holy missions, the foundation and direction of our Congregation, or in the administration of the diocese of Marseilles, in such difficult times and in the midst of such opposition.
I have achieved a lot, it is true, overcome big obstacles, conquered insurmountable difficulties, good and very much good came of it.

Retreat journal before being consecrated bishop, 7-14 October 1832, EO XV n 166

An invitation for us to look back on our lives and give thanks – despite the difficulties.

 

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THE GRACE OF OUR LORD HAS BEEN ABUNDANT

Eugene recalls his personal salvation history:

As I make myself more familiar with the idea of what I already am by my election and what I am to become by my consecration, it will be advantageous to examine attentively the Holy Spirit’s way of acting towards me both at the time of my ordination and during the course of my priestly ministry, and my cooperation on the one hand and my infidelities on the other hand, with the abundant communications of his grace.

Learning from those times when he had not cooperated with God’s grace in the past, he prays for forgiveness and for the ability to allow the Holy Spirit to mak up for his weaknesses and failings.

Thus I will ascertain the loss attributable to my fault, shed bitter tears before God, and full of trust in his mercy, I will dare hope that this living Spirit who is to come down into my soul will restore all I have let deteriorate, strengthen, consolidate, bring to perfection everything in me for me to become truly his right-hand man, the Elias of the Church, the anointed of the Lord, the priest according to the order of Melchisedech who has nothing else in view but to please God by fulfilling all the duties of my ministry for the building up of the Church, the salvation of souls and my own sanctification.
So may I be able to say with the apostle St. Paul: “I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. I was once a blasphemer… The grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus… . To the king of ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Tim. 1:12-17)

Retreat journal before being consecrated bishop, 7-14 October 1832, EO XV n 166

Like Paul and Eugene, each of us has been called by God in the ordinariness of our lives – and given the strength to be God’s instruments in and through our everyday occupations.

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FEAST OF BLESSED JOSEPH CEBULA OMI

Father Józef Cebula was born into a modest family of Polish origin on March 23, 1902, at Malnia in southern Poland. He suffered tuberculosis as a youth. After an unexpected recovery, he visited an Oblate shrine where he shared his story with an Oblate priest. The priest advised Józef to study with the Oblates at the newly-established Oblate minor seminary.

At the age of 19 he entered the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Following ordination to the Oblate priesthood in 1927, Fr. Cebula spent much of his ministry teaching Oblate seminarians (1927-1937). From 1931 on, he was the director of the minor seminary in Lubliniec. In 1937, he became novice master at Markowice (1937-1941), where his humility and gentleness were noteworthy. During this time he was also active in the preaching ministry and was much sought after as a confessor.

When the Nazis occupied Poland during the Second World War, they declared loyalty to the Church illegal. All Church associations were forbidden, and many priests were arrested. On May 4, 1940, the Oblate novices at Markowice were arrested by the Nazis and sent to the concentration camp at Dachau, Germany. Fr. Cebula was forbidden to exercise his priestly ministry and obliged to work in the fields. But at night, the zealous priest celebrated the Eucharist and administered the sacraments in the surrounding villages, until he was arrested on April 2, 1941. He was taken to a concentration camp at Mauthausen in Austria.

Known for his humility, Fr. Cebula was a man of quiet prayer with a deep spiritual life. He radiated peace in the very middle of the death camp, even when tormented by the Nazis. In Mauthausen he was harassed and forced to work hard, to break rocks in the quarry, simply because he was a Roman Catholic priest. Father Cebula was forced to carry 60-pound rocks from the quarry to a camp two miles away. He had to climb a 144-step staircase called the Death Stairs, while being beaten and insulted by his tormentors. The guards humiliated and mocked him by ordering him to sing the texts of the Mass while he worked. Three weeks later, Fr. Cebula suddenly summoned up his strength and said, “It is not you who are in charge. God will judge you.” The Nazis ordered him to run, with a rock on his back, towards the camp’s barbed wire fence, where a guard shot him with a submachine gun and declared that Fr. Cebula “was shot while trying to escape”. He died a martyr on May 9, 1941, in this volley of bullets. His body was taken to a crematorium and burned. (https://www.omiworld.org/our-charism/our-saints/oblate-causes/blessed-jozef-cebula-1902-1941/biography/)

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IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING TO ME?

In these first moments of my retreat, I come up against an altogether singular obstacle to devoting myself seriously before God to the great topic that calls for my complete attention, namely, an involuntary mental state that persists in seeing as a dream everything that has happened up to now with regard to my election to the episcopate, and all the preparation that has gone into accomplishing this great work of the Holy Spirit in me. I have in my hands the Apostolic Briefs of my canonical institution, I have before my eyes the various dress items of my new estate, I devote myself seriously to the consideration of the lofty dignity to which, all unworthy as I am, I am elevated, the duties this dignity imposes on me, etc., but even so, it still seems as if it were all happening to someone else.

Retreat journal before being consecrated bishop, 7-14 October 1832, EO XV n 166

The words of the writer, Nikos Kazantzakis: “Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality” is what times of prayer and meditation do.

Eugene’s retreat was a time of prayerfully allowing his eyes to be transformed into the eyes of Jesus the Savior.

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