On the anniversary of Father Marcou’s death, Eugene’s reminiscences led him to recall his dedication and zeal in spite of his illness

Fr. Marcou still had the strength to come back to Marseilles where I found him on my return from Rome. His condition was desperate; his chest was so affected that there was no hope of recovery. He was convinced, however, that he could still work for the salvation of souls and he was certainly not the one who was least pleased about the success of my journey to Rome where I had just obtained approval for the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary to be recognized in the Church on an equal footing with other Congregations. Fr. Marcou, although quite weak, wanted to be present at the general assembly which I had called to give an account of my mission and of all the good God had done for us. This good priest could scarcely contain his joy because he always expressed the feelings of his beautiful soul  in a lively way. He even came down to the church to renew his vows with all the other members of the new Congregation which had been canonically established. His name is inscribed in the register where we all signed the minutes of this memorable meeting. That was the last important act of this life in which he sealed his consecration to God and the offering of his whole being which he had made throughout many years.

Diary of 20 August 1838, E.O. XIX


“It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we’re alive – to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.”   Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

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On the anniversary of Father Marcou’s death, Eugene’s reminiscences led him to recall his priestly ministry

He had scarcely been raised to the priesthood when he launched out on the missions where his love for God and for his neighbour caused him to work wonders. Alas! It must be said that it also caused him to do imprudent things. He soon wore himself out by forcing himself to undertake tasks in the diocese of Nimes where my supervision could not moderate his zeal. In fact that zeal was encouraged rather than moderated by the example of the Superior I had assigned to him, and whose wisdom nevertheless equals his piety and his talents. But the sight the deplorable condition of these poor Catholics in the midst of the seductions of Protestantism, and the blessings which the Lord was pleased to pour on their ministry, caused them to overstep the bounds of moderation. The task was too great and Fr. Marcou’s health suffered as a result. Besides, the lack of attention on the part of the nursing staff in Nimes seminary where he went for treatment, was his undoing. They poisoned his system by giving him milk to drink. This accident of fate worsened his illness and made it incurable.

Diary of 20 August 1838, E.O. XIX

 The Oblate Historical Dictionary gives further details:

Father Courtès wrote a brief obituary for Father Marcou. After giving a few details about the life and the illness of Father Marcou, he concluded with these words: “He was a man of ordinary talents, but full of humility and dedication. He was capable of rendering the most valuable assistance. In a spirit of regularity and obedience that was wholly edifying, he carried out the duties we were then obliged to fulfill at the general hospital at Aix. He took part in several parish missions… Father Marcou’s education was inadequate, but he had the eloquence of the heart. His desire to be useful to the Church and to us drove him to exhaust himself during a retreat that he was giving in Nîmes and the spitting of blood that began at that time, aggravated by a stomach ailment, brought on by a kind of accidental poisoning by people who served him a milk potion in a bowl containing verdigris [a green or greenish blue poisonous pigment resulting from the action of acetic acid on copper] led him to the grave…”

Yvon Beaudoin, “Marcou, Jacques Joseph” in the Historical Dictionary I,


“Never let your zeal outrun your charity. The former is but human, the latter is divine.”   Hosea Ballou

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On the anniversary of Father Marcou’s death, Eugene’s reminiscences led him to recall the origins of Fr Marcou’s Oblate vocation journey.

After several years in the youth congregation and the practice of virtue, he entered the seminary. His piety became well known. He brought to that community the spirit which he had learned in the youth congregation, a holy zeal for spreading good. He succeeded in gathering around him a little group of fervent seminarians.
Beginning in 1812, I had introduced to this seminary where I made my annual retreat, the zealous association which I had known in the seminary in Paris. The association was continued in the house in Aix. Marcou was too fervent not become a member. He performed intelligently and successfully the task which is imposed on each member of the association. He achieved greater results than all the others put together. Several seminarians told me that it was due to his resourceful charity that they did well in the seminary.
The Lord rewarded his zeal by strengthening the resolve which he already had when entering the seminary to be associated with the work of the Missionaries whom I had united in the society while he was still only a member of the youth congregation. He had always kept his intention to do so hidden from me. I got to know about it only on the day when he came to ask me insistently to accept him as a member of our society. Convinced of the excellence of this vocation, he had persuaded one his fellow students whose good qualities he admired, to follow the same road to perfection. [ed. Father Jacques Jeancard – later to be Eugene’s auxiliary bishop in Marseille]. It was after having made this conquest that he came to see me and he was ever so pleased to see my surprise and the happiness which I experienced.
He did his novitiate in the spirit which one would expect from a soul such as his.

Diary of 20 August 1838, E.O. XIX


“I think the only kind of acceptable evangelization is the evangelization of good example.”   Andrew Greeley

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On the anniversary of Father Marcou’s death, Eugene’s reminiscences led him to recall an incident involving him when he was a member of the Aix youth congregation

An incident which recalls the lives of the saints occurred one day when, as was customary for the members, he came to see me. He was beside himself, carried away by a holy anger. He quickly explained to me the reason for his fury. He had just met some depraved creatures who used language to him which he rightly judged to be scandalous. He was more than angry. Not content with having responded by striking them vigorously with his umbrella, he regretted not having struck hard enough. In order to discourage them from returning to the attack, he wanted to return to the place where he had met these miserable wretches and promised to give them a lesson they would not forget. The only way in which I could persuade him not to do so was by pointing out that it would be sinful to give these unfortunate villains occasion to offer further insult to God. At that time Fr. Marcou was about fifteen years old.

Diary of 20 August 1838, E.O. XIX


“My dear brothers and sisters,take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speakand slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”James 1,19-20

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Following Jacques Marcou’s death, Eugene had written: “I weep for a brother so precious to our Society.” Twelve years later, in his diary, Eugene recalled the death and the meaning of the young man’s life for him.

August 20: Mass for our ever beloved Fr. Marcou who died in St-Just on this same day.1 wish I had time to recall the virtues of this excellent priest, but I must hurry. He was one of the first seven who made up the youth congregation which the Lord inspired me to found in Aix in 1813. His ardent zeal which was evident at the time of his first communion made me choose him as the leader of that first special group. He never let me down and he constantly gave the example of scrupulous fidelity to the regulations which I had given to the congregation in which he was responsible to see that they were observed by the other members. As the membership of the youth-movement increased he continued in his watchfulness as leader and his spiritual zeal spread among his companions a great love for the congregation in which they learned to be virtuous.

Diary of 20 August 1838, E.O. XIX

“I did nothing to deserve God’s love; in fact, I was living as an orphan, without hope. Yet God chose to pursue a relationship with me, and through the death of his son Jesus, I was adopted into God’s family.”   Steven Curtis Chapman

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After the death of Father Marcou, Eugene contacted all the Oblates to remind them of their community obligation to pray for the peaceful repose of their deceased brother.

I will give you some day more circumstantial details. You know that besides the Mass of requiem which ought to be sung in all our houses, you have five masses each to say for our holy one who is gone, the office of the dead and all the indulgences, good works, etc., during eight days. Be sure to fulfil all these duties…

Eugene’s strong sense of community shows in his conviction that our deceased Oblates continue to be part of our communities through their intercession and example

We will find it difficult to replace such a member; for the rest, I invoke him in our needs and already I like to be persuaded that he has obtained a grace for me which I asked for through his intercession.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Honorat, 21 August 1826, EO VII n 251

Today this spirit and this obligation continues to apply in our Rule of Life:

“We will keep alive the memory of our deceased and not fail to pray for them, faithfully offering the suffrages prescribed on their behalf (cf. Appendix)” Constitution 43, CC&RR

The Appendix includes the following prescriptions:

Suffrages for the Deceased

1. When an Oblate dies, the Superior General shall be notified at once; he in turn will inform the entire Congregation so that the deceased can be remembered in our community and personal prayer and in the celebration of the Eucharist.
2. Each Oblate priest shall celebrate one Mass and each Brother attend Mass upon the death of the Superior General or of a former Superior General, or of any member, novices included, of the Province to which he belongs. It is recommended that this Mass be a community celebration.
5. Once each month every Oblate priest shall celebrate Mass, and each Brother attend Mass, for all deceased Oblates.


“There is no death, daughter. People die only when we forget them,’ my mother explained shortly before she left me. ‘If you can remember me, I will be with you always.”   Isabel Allende, Eva Luna

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I weep for a brother so precious to our Society, to which he was so attached, but I do reproach myself for my tears in a way, as if I dared regret his happiness. He will be our protector beside God.

Eugene, the man and father of his Oblate family, expresses the sorrow that he experiences at the death of Jacques Marcou.

Let us be resigned. Our Father who is in heaven knows our needs, he will see to it; my heart nevertheless suffers much. I have not enough virtue to place myself wholly above nature, a nature quite raised up however, if it is not of a kind apart, in the love that I have for you, my dear children, whom I love so much in the Lord and who deserve it for many reasons.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Honorat, 21 August 1826, EO VII n 251


“I still miss those I loved who are no longer with me but I find I am grateful for having loved them. The gratitude has finally conquered the loss.”   Rita Mae Brown

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Eugene writes to Fr Honorat, at Notre Dame du Laus, to announce the death of the 26 year-old Oblate, Jacques Marcou.

The good God has just taken from us, my very dear Father, one of our most saintly missionaries. Yesterday at four o’clock in the afternoon our truly blessed brother went to take possession of the glory that our divine Master has promised to the faithful servant who dies in the peace of the Lord.
I would have wished that all the members of our Society might be present at the inspiring departure of a pure soul who is going to be united to his God for all eternity. What a holy death! He kept perfect consciousness until the last sigh which had been preceded immediately by this touching word: “Beautiful heaven!” expressed with the sweetest accents and a celestial smile. I have no doubt that this holy religious, this dear and beloved son, perceived in that moment the place that he was going to occupy at the foot of the throne of our good Mother who has assisted him in a tangible manner in this last passing; also with what tenderness of devotion did he bring to his mouth and over his heart the image that I presented to him five minutes before he expired. He has been miraculously delivered of all anguish and fear. It is evident that heaven was assured to him. He was sure of arriving there by the protection of our Mother and the sovereign mediation of our divine Master.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Honorat, 21 August 1826, EO VII n 251 Continue reading

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Bishop Arbaud of Gap was not happy about men from his diocese joining the Oblates and believed that he still had the power to dispense them from their vows if they had become Oblates and he wanted them back in his diocese. He had not understood the basic principles of religious life, and so Eugene clarified the situation for him.

Our vows are as perpetual as the most solemn vows in the world. When we made the vow of perseverance we intended to oblige ourselves to live and die in the Congregation that has accepted our commitment. It is not up to the individual to operate according to his schemes and whims, much less to foresee a possible case of dispensation. Such a thing would not be permissible before the profession and it is absolutely impossible afterwards (questo poi è anticanonico, – this is not canonical -the Sovereign Pontiff said regarding this matter).
In our Congregation, dispensation is considered so great a disaster that we like to think there will never be any such case, now that we have been approved by the Church and have been placed in the same rank as the Lazarists, Passionists and Redemptorists …

Letter to Bishop Arbaud of Gap, 13 August 1826, EO XIII n 59


“When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.”   Howard Schultz

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Like all mothers, Eugene’s fussed over him. In this letter to his mother, Eugene responds and then refers to a specific situation where she was helping an Oblate. She was generous in using her time, her advice and her considerable wealth to help her son’s family of Oblates, who had become part of her extended family.

A short note, dear mother, will please you; so I am writing in haste, but to ask for news about you, for you have a cold and you are leaving early in the morning. Take care of yourself a little more than you are. Stop worrying about me; I am fine.
Your advice about Father Moreau has been promptly followed, but we are not any richer to furnish abundantly what each one needs.What can one do? They have made profession of poverty; they know how to be content with little.

In a footnote to this letter Yvon Beaudoin explains: “Several Fathers were sick from 1826 to 1829. We don’t know if it is a question here of taking care of Father Moreau or of obtaining clothes for him. He was finishing a long novitiate at that time and spent the autumn preaching in the Cadennes with Father Mie. During the crisis of 1823, Father Moreau left the Congregation for several months… We have his formula of oblation made on July 13, 1826, although he had made vows the first time on November 1, 1818.”

On a personal note, Madame de Mazenod was living at her Aix home in Rue Papassaudi with Eugene’s sister, Eugenie, and her children. The latter usually spent the summer at the Boisgelin summer home at St-Martin des-Pallières, so Eugene invited his mother to spend time in Marseille with him.

Now that you are alone at the house,you could come here to relax a little; we would at least see each other at meal times. Ask Father Courtès for the authentic document of your relic;I left it on the shelves of the library in my room.
Farewell, good mother. I hug you warmly.

Letter to his mother, 22 July 1826, EO XIII n 58


“The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.”   Jessica Lange

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