PAUSE FOR SUMMER

There will be a pause in these reflections until August 13.

A reminder that all the 1880 entries on the writings of Saint Eugene are available for you to consult on the site http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/.

In addition, should you wish to research a word or concept you can do so by using the search engine on the homepage of the site.

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REMIND ME OF THIS EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE

Eugene charges his friend, Henri Tempier, to remind him every day, if necessary, of the necessity to remain humbly in the will of God and not to let his position as a bishop go to his head and inflate him with self-importance.

In other words in this last phase of my life I think I can say that I am firmly resolved, through the overflowing abundance of graces that I will receive, to try, by diligent application, so to conform myself to God’s will that not a single fibre of my being will knowingly swerve from it.
I am telling you this quite frankly as you are my director and also for you as my admonitor to remind me of it, if needs be, every day of my life;
for you know me too well not to understand that the greatness of the dignity to which I am going to be elevated, all unworthy as I am, will change nothing of my interior dispositions nor in my bonds of trust and of religious simplicity, with you in the first place and also with everyone else, due proportion being observed. That is enough on that topic.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 10 October 1832, EO VIII n 436

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THE IMMENSITY OF GOD’S GOODNESS THAT HAS ACCOMPANIED ME FROM CHILDHOOD

Just days before his episcopal consecration, Eugene gives a glimpse of the close relationship he enjoys with God – and with each Person of the Trinity – something he had experienced since his childhood.

I invoke that Spirit as you can imagine in my present situation, with diligence and persistence, I dare not say with fervour.
Thus, whether my thoughts go to the immensity of God’s goodness that he has accompanied me from childhood and led me to perform the various tasks that he has confided to me in the course of my life,
or whether I meditate on the interior workings of grace, all of a kind to arouse my gratitude and love,
or whether I reflect on my sins, my innumerable infidelities, which would make the very stones cry out against me and make me the first of my accusers,
I know all the time that it is my Father who is in heaven I am dealing with, who has at his right hand his Son Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who is our advocate, our mediator, who never ceases to make intercession for us, with that powerful prayer which has the right to be heard and which is in actual fact always heard if we put no obstacle in its way. It is precisely on this point that the power of the Holy Spirit draws me to dwell and it is the fruit that I want and hope for from my retreat.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 10 October 1832, EO VIII n 436

How can we describe the pattern of our relationship with God?

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I AM HAPPY IN GOD’S PRESENCE

Sharing the spirit of his retreat with Father Tempier, Eugene gives us a glimpse of his usual relationship with God

It is enough for you to know that God in his goodness is helping me as usual, that is to say, he is revealing himself as he is, infinitely good, infinitely merciful, every time I approach him; that he is purifying my heart, illuminating my feeble understanding, stirring up my will and bringing it to perfection; that I am happy in his presence, whatever my feelings may be like when he communicates his divine Spirit to me.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 10 October 1832, EO VIII n 436

How wonderful it would be if each of us were able to say the same after our times of prayer and during the day. I am happy in God’s presence…

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THE BLESSING OF FRIENDSHIP

Towards the end of his retreat the future bishop, Eugene, wrote of his state of spirit to Fr. Tempier, his companion, spiritual director and admonitor.

He debates with himself whether it would be a distraction to write this letter during his retreat, instead of praying:

My dear friend, I continued to be undecided for some time whether I ought to allow myself to interrupt my retreat to write to you. I have come down on the side of doing so by applying the method I use which you are familiar with, that it is good to mortify oneself but better still not to impose sacrifices or privations on others that they have not asked you for. I know with what anxiety you must be waiting for my news; it would be cruel to leave you in that state. So I believe I am making the right decision in spending some free moments of my retreat to converse with you.

Because their relationship was based on their mutual self-giving to God and to their joint mission as disciples, everything that they shared was in this light.

Besides, what we have to say to one another could not be a distraction. It is not that I wish to enter into the details of my spiritual exercises, we are too far apart and there is too little space in a letter to broach such a topic.
It is enough for you to know that God in his goodness is helping me as usual…

Letter to Henri Tempier, 10 October 1832, EO VIII n 436

What a gift this level of friendship is! Eugene had written ten years earlier:

First companion of mine, you have from the first day we came together grasped the spirit which must animate us and which we must communicate to others; you have not deviated in the slightest from the path we resolved to follow; everyone knows this in the Society and they count on you as they count on myself.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 15 August 1822, EO VI n 86

That close relationship focused on God lasted for 45 years until Eugene’s death. What a blessing!

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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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