BE FLEXIBLE AS TO FORMALITIES BUT RIGID REGARDING THE OBLATE RULE AND SPIRIT

The Oblate community at Notre Dame de l’Osier ranged in age from 27 to 32 years of age and with minimal years of experience of priestly ministry. For this reason, Eugene kept a watchful eye over them and guided them to establish firm foundations. It is important to remember this as we read these extracts from the letters of Eugene to the community.

I recommend you to be very flexible as to formalities but to be rigid when it comes to what is basic regarding everything that concerns to the Rule or the spirit of the Congregation.
Eliminate anything that hints of childishness from amongst you.

Letter to Bruno Guigues, 8 October 1835, EO VIII n 547

The only way that Bruno Guigues, the young community superior, could animate his community of peers was through observing the Oblate Rule. he had to learn to rigidly adhere to the prescriptions of the Rule and to the Spirit which this Rule of Life enshrined, but flexible in non-essentials.

Sometimes it is difficult to discern the difference and we fall into the trap of focusing only on the trivial and we forget the big picture.

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AT THE SERVICE OF THIS SANCTUARY SO AS TO GIVE A BETTER DIRECTION TO PEOPLE’S DEVOTION

The missionaries in charge of the Shrine of Our Lady of Osier are reminded:

As to matters outside the house, remember that Providence has put you at the service of this sanctuary so as to give a better direction to people’s devotion. I pray that their devotion to the Holy Virgin will bring them to conversion through your ministry.

Letter to Bruno Guigues, 3 September 1835, EO VIII n 541

People came to the shrine because of their devotion to Mary – the mission of the Oblates as co-operators of the Savior, was to direct that devotion to the Savior and not to stop at Mary. The aim of the sanctuary was not directed at Mary, but to her example and intercession that led people to conversion to her Son.

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THE MOST EFFECTIVE MEANS OF BEING HEARD IS FOR US TO BE EVERYTHING WE ARE CALLED TO BE

Writing to the superior of this Marian shrine that had been in the care of a group of young Oblates for a short time, Eugene referred to one of the aims of the Oblates when we were founded: to work for the formation and the renewal of the clergy. Our houses were always to be open to welcome priests for retreats or for spiritual guidance.

You tell me that priests are beginning to come. I hope they will be edified by what they see in your house. No amount of politeness counts as much as scrupulous fidelity to all our observances.

It was the quality of the lives of the Oblates that would lead to conversions, not their words. In a similar way new recruits would come to the community not through prayers, but through the attractive witness given by those in the community.

We do need to pray the Dominum messis [ed “Send laborers into the vineyard”] for him to send us workers. The most effective mea ns of being heard is for us to be everything we are called to be.

Letter to Bruno Guigues, 3 September 1835, EO VIII n 541

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NOW I AM PROPERLY AND LEGALLY A FRENCH PRELATE AND NO LONGER NEED TO FEAR EXPULSION FROM THE BORDERS OF FRANCE

Five days later, on  January 25, Eugene came to the Tuilleries to take the oath to the king, which would officially prove his reconciliation with the July regime. He wrote to Father Courtès.

My dear Father Courtès, although Tempier is charged with the duty of passing on my news to those entitled. I don’t want my stay here to be prolonged any further without writing to you directly myself. I have completed the business which dragged me to this capital city. Now I am properly and legally a French prelate. No longer need I fear expulsion from the borders of France, to return no more, at the hands of some moody minister suffering an attack of ill-temper.
I have been twice to the Palace. In the first audience [the King] had me sit down beside him and kept me for a full three-quarters of an hour. He spoke to me very ably on all the topics he broached and took pains to give me reasons that I wouldn’t have dreamed or dared to ask for. The Queen and Madame Adelaide were also very gracious to me, but the King’s affection during the second audience passed imagination: for ten minutes he held my hands in his, and when I had to leave he again took my hands and told me yet again….

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 31 January 1836, EO VIII n 558

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IT IS WITH EVERY CONFIDENCE THAT I WILL RECEIVE YOUR OATH

The Icosia saga was brought to an end with Eugene’s reconciliation with the King in January 1836 in Paris. Eugene describes the audience.

At midday the door of the King’s chambers opened and my name was called. The King came to meet me, paying me a small and very gracious compliment, then he had me sit down opposite him, and after I had expressed a few words of thanks to him, he told me that he was enchanted that I had gone to him, and he went on from there to recount, very ably, the story of the events that had forced him, against his will, to accept the crown so as to save France from the anarchy into which it was on the point of falling. Every time the name of Charles X came up in his narrative, it was always in the acceptable way. Every now and then I interjected some words, more to avoid seeming dumb than to interrupt.

Since the 1830 Revolution, Eugene had made no secret that he considered Louis-Phillipe to be a usurper to the throne of Charles X through his coup d’état. This explains why the King’s justified himself and his action.

I also brought the conversation around to the terrible incident that put the King’s life in grave peril: he spoke very strongly on that; he had a lot to say on his good intentions to do all he could for the advancement of religion; he hadn’t always done all he would have wished, but there were grave obstacles. He wishes to increase the bishops’ stipend, as he acknowledges it is inadequate.

The King had been in charge of an anti-religious government since 1830, and thus took pains to stress that his position had changed regarding religious tolerance.

In a word, how can I tell you everything he said to me in the course of a conversation that lasted three-quarters of an hour. I forgot that, at the outset of the audience, he asked me news of my uncle and reminded me of Palermo.
We talked a little about Marseilles, and he didn’t conceal the fact that the clergy had been represented as hostile to the Government. I told him the truth about that. I finished by asking permission to pay my homage to the Queen. So he loudly summoned his Chamberlain, and in such a way that all who were awaiting an audience could hear, he commanded that the Queen be advised of my visit, and when on taking my leave I reminded him that it was on Monday that I was to return to him to take the oath, he very graciously replied: “Yes, my Lord Bishop, it is on Monday that I will have the pleasure of seeing you again, and it is with every confidence that I will receive your oath. I went to the Queen’s apartments who had me sit beside her; we spoke about my uncle, the Queen of Naples, the welcome the King had just given me, and several other matters, and I withdrew.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 20 January 1836, EO VIII n 556

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IT’S AN ACT OF JUSTICE THAT HAS BEEN RENDERED ME AND I’M STILL OWED SOME REPARATION

Grudgingly, Eugene had written the required letter to the King, but a sense of bitterness remained at the way he had been treated for so many years.

I have the feeling that there is an expectation that I thank the King; and there’s the rub; for when all is said and done, it’s an act of justice that has been rendered me and I’m still owed some reparation. What’s there in that to get excited about? Perhaps you’ll find the tone of my remarks shocking. I am waiting.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 1 September 1835, EO VIII n 540

This tone made for a very cold letter to the King and the Minister of Worship, which was not judged in Paris as being suitable (Tempier and Guibert agreed on this too), so Eugene was asked to rewrite it! “A sentence or two more would have done wonders,” wrote Father Guibert on September 4, as he requested a fresh letter for the Minister of Worship

Eugene finally responded:

My dear Tempier, my letter of yesterday will have caused you pain; and so I’m hastening to write again today to let you know my second thoughts; believe me that you and my other friends are the main reason for this resolution for it isn’t right that you should be saddened through your affection towards me and the desire it inspires in you.
Very well, then, I have decided to write to the Minister, as if I ought not to be shocked by all his suspicions, injurious to my character.
Without further ado I am copying you out my letter, which has already left. I hope it will make you happy.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 15 September 1835, EO VIII n 543

Thus the Icosia affair was finally settled and Eugene could return to Marseilles in October and await the invitation to come to Paris to make his oath to the King and have his citizenship restored and his episcopal status recognized. This happened three months later in January 1836.

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IT CAN’T BE DENIED THAT THE KING HAS BEEN GRACIOUS IN THE MATTER

On August 25, King Louis Philippe had written to Bishop Fortuné to thank him for his prayers on the occasion of his having been spared the assassination attempt. The letter concluded, “The King has not forgotten, my Lord, the circumstances of your stay in Sicily, that you now remind him of. His favour remains undiminished: His Majesty wishes to give proof of this and so restore to His Lordship the Bishop of Icosia the French citizenship rights that you have asked for on his behalf.” (Leflon II p 499)

Your letter of the 30th informs me of the conclusion of my affair. It can’t be denied that the King has been gracious in the matter; for he didn’t wait for the letter that he must have been told he could expect from me.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 1 September 1835, EO VIII n 540

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I AGREE TO BEING COADJUTOR AND DO NOT WANT A DIOCESE.

Tempier’s letter and Jeancard’s persuasion eventually did the trick and Eugene succumbed to the pressure and wrote the required letter to the King.

My dear Tempier.
This letter will be brought you by Jeancard who will tell you orally everything we discussed together. Even so I’m giving him a letter for you, though it isn’t my intention to scold you for the bad humour you were unable to hide in the last two items of our correspondence. I understand that you could be upset at finding me resistant to certain plans you have set your heart on; however, the motives I adduced were sufficiently well-founded in reason and especially in religion to turn aside any annoyance at my resistance.
I see in the letter I got today that your anger hasn’t cooled down yet… However, you must have received my letter, sent on the 27th from Gap, in which I wrote out for you what I was proposing to write to the King. It has been dispatched and in all probability will be in his hands the day after tomorrow; I hope he will find it satisfactory and the first stage of our business will soon reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Eugene underlines the important point:

Jeancard will tell you in what sense I agree to the matter of being coadjutor and do not want a diocese. It is that if I have misfortune to lose my uncle, no-one would force me to accept the succession.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 31 August 1835, EO VIII n 539

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YOU MUSTN’T BE SURPRISED THAT I AM HESITANT WHEN CONSCIENCE, HONOR AND THE PEACE OF MY WHOLE LIFE ARE AT STAKE

Apart from all the reasons stated above which Eugene gave for not cooperating with the wishes of the government, he kept on insisting that he wanted to spend the remaining years of his life in the restful peace of an Oblate community. Henri Tempier, usually introverted and deferential reveals his own frustration and his own personal desires which he has always subdued for the sake of Eugene.

I think this is the last time that I shall speak to you about all this, for I am sick and tired of it. I can tell you that if a rest is so pleasing to you, I also call and desire a rest at least as much as you. Why is it that I have to be here and let my blood run dry for twelve years, forever harnessed to the cart, in most difficult situations!

Providence has always arranged things in such a way that, whatever be the crisis we have had to undergo, no matter what its nature, I have ended up all alone to taste its sweetness. All the difficult moments that I have had to experience in diocesan business and for you especially in countless instances, have worn me out, have wearied me to the point that business annoys me to no end: I am fed up with it.

Why shouldn’t I enjoy a bit of rest? It seems to me that I would be asking for only what is justly due to me.

Letter of Henri Tempier to Eugene de Mazenod, 23 August 1835, EO2 Tempier n 83

Eugene’s reaction:

Your last two letters are too harsh; you mustn’t be surprised that I am hesitant when conscience, honour and the peace of my whole life are at stake.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 25 August 1836, EO VIII n 538

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AN ULTIMATUM

We have been following Eugene’s struggle with the situation of being reconciled with the King and the government, and how he had many objections to what was being asked of him in order to achieve this.

Henri Tempier was justifiably frustrated with Eugene for not cooperating with those who were trying to help to extract him from his situation as an exile from Marseilles, to restore his French citizenship, and to have official recognition that he was in fact a Bishop. Tempier sent Father Jeancard to Laus to speak directly to Eugene and to help him to write the letter required by the King.

Jeancard brought this letter from Tempier. It is direct and an ultimatum to stop making conditions and to make up his mind one way or the other.

My dear Lordship and beloved Father,

Do you or do you not want to extract yourself from the grim situation in which you are placed? If not, well and good! But in that case you really shouldn’t let us incur all the expenses of the proceedings, you ought to forbid Guibert categorically to speak a word about you; you will have to put up with all the injuries they heap on you; you must say amen to all the harassment, past, present and future, whether coming from ill-disposed members of the Society or from the Government. If that is what you want, I have nothing to say.

He needs to listen to his friends who have his welfare at heart and who have spared no effort to redeem him from his wretched situation.

But if, on the contrary, you do wish to extract yourself from this situation, that I am justified in describing as wretched, you will have to submit to some extent and yield to the opinion of your friends, who also have some concern for your honor. They have done nothing unworthy of you up to now and would never ever suggest that you take a debasing and improper step.

It is absolutely necessary that you co-operate with the measures we are taking on your behalf. We consider this so indispensable that, so as not to lose yet another week in negotiations by letters, we have decided to send Jeancard to you; everything that he will tell you has been thoroughly discussed in committee in the presence of his Lordship [ed. Bishop Fortuné].

Fr Jeancard, a former Oblate, was a respected collaborator of Eugene, who would eventually make him his auxiliary bishop in Marseilles, and Tempier and Bishop Fortuné hoped that he would bring some sense into Eugene’s head, even if this were to mean accepting the responsibility of  diocese.

Another difficulty is accepting a diocese, should they offer you one. Now why would you not be willing to follow the way that Providence is opening for you? I am speaking to you as a friend and as the confidant of your most secret thoughts: you would act badly were you to refuse a bishop’s see, should they want you to take one. I would only hope, for your own peace of mind and many other considerations, that you will be bishop elsewhere than in Marseilles, for elsewhere you would be able to do more good.

Letter of Henri Tempier to Eugene de Mazenod, 23 August 1835, EO2 Tempier n 83

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