Eugene, whose life was totally dedicated to serving others, now came to an important realization: he could only serve others well if he looked after his own welfare. Otherwise he would have nothing to offer to others:

The need was pressing as my spirit is so confined, my heart so empty of God that the exterior cares of my ministry, which throw me into continual dependence on others, preoccupy me to such an extent that I have come to the point of no longer having any of that interiority which previously constituted my consolation and happiness…

Eugene had spent his energy and resources in being selfless towards others, but had ignored his own personal spiritual and physical welfare.

I function as a mere machine in everything that concerns me personally. It seems I am no longer capable of thinking once it touches me personally. In that case what good can I do for others? This way a thousand imperfections creep into my regular relations with my neighbour and make me lose perhaps all the merit of a life entirely consecrated to his service.

At 36 years of age he was learning that he could not be a “young enthusiast” all the time jumping from one project to another. He needed to take care of himself so as to render more effective service to others.

I have good reason to be alarmed at this state of affairs; I’ve been aware of it for some time without being able yet to do anything about it. Today with God’s help I am going to work carefully at it and put such order into my actions that each item may reassume its place and love of neighbour may not be a reason for me to fail in the love I owe myself, all the more since the best means of being really useful to one’s neighbour is without doubt to work much on oneself.

Retreat notes, May 1818, O.W. XV, n. 145

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Sometimes, in our excitement and zeal, and in our very humaness, we tend to forget to ensure that we are being nourished. I know this can be the case for me. We need to learn to take care of ourselves. In AA I learned that in order to be able to help anyone else stay sober that I needed first of all take care of myself so that I would be able to walk with others. It is not just “me”, but it is certainly something that I must do myself. It is not selfishness, just plain ordinary respect for the gift of life that God has given to us. Sometimes that stepping back and letting others nourish us, or taking the time to ensure that we take care of ourselves is exactly where God would have us be. For someone like Eugene who was so filled with life and the strength of the vision of where God was calling him to be, this must have been difficult for sure.

  2. John Mouck says:

    It’s interesting that you made that connection, Eleanor.
    In AA we are told to describe what “worked” for us. That is all well and good but our disease is not a thing of the past; recovery / salvation is an ongoing thing. I think it is important to share what works (present tense) for us – for me. Well, if I stop looking after me, I soon have nothing to share that may help others. And so as Eugene says, “Today with God’s help I am going to work carefully at it….all the more since the best means of being really useful to one’s neighbour is without doubt to work much on oneself.”

  3. Jack Lau, OMI says:

    Well, in reading my sister’s and brother’s reply I think this text has touch a reality that so many of us have encountered. We have lived with and in the illusion that our service (as good as it is) is not pure and is filled with string and expectation. These works only continue to feed the ego, not with sustainable food that is nourish but fast food that leads to ill health and imbalance. (Been there/done that). That being the case we can see Eugene’s fault as being like the “original sin” for us in the Oblate family. We see it so often in each other and yet we continue the doing and neglect the prayer / contemplation / reflection / honest community sharing /presence and study. Father General spoke of that in the summer when he said not all good things are the will of God.
    So maybe we need as a family to look at this foundational fault with out judgment or guilt and see how Eugene addressed it in 1818 and how we are call to do the same in 2012.

  4. This speaks to me to remember to take time and ‘Be Still’. That we must take the time to know, and fully recognize, our True Self – not the self built by deflection/reflection of the illusion we make for ourselves – BUT, also to remember that we are the co-creator.

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