Eugene’s ideal of forming the youth to live the love of Jesus Christ had to be put into practice in real situations. We have seen how he did this in the question of their relationships with each other. Now Eugene touches on a situation that was common in the lives of nineteenth century youth: that of illness.
ART. 28. This charity, which is caring, affectionate and compassionate, will never be more put into practice than in the illness of any member of the congregation.
Statuts, Chapitre XIII – Obligations spirituelles des congréganistes
To appreciate the force of these words it is important to remember that in the medical knowledge of the early 19th century there were no medicines like antibiotics, for example. Illnesses that we consider part of everyday life today, were often life-threatening. Many young people became ill, and had to be cared for. It was here that the Youth Congregation members had to put their concern for one another into action.
St. Benedict had understood the importance of care for the sick members of the monastery when he wrote in his Rule some a thousand three hundred years earlier:
Before all things and above all things care must be taken of the sick. They must be served in every deed as Christ Himself, because He said, “I was sick and you visited Me” (Mt 25:36). And “As long as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to Me” (Mt 25:40).”