It was high time I thought of extricating myself from that innumerable throng of tasks of every kind that overwhelms me spiritually and physically and came on retreat to apply myself seriously in the matter of my salvation by carefully going over all my actions…
Retreat notes, May 1818, O.W. XV, n. 145
The exhaustion that Eugene was experiencing was not limited just to himself. Two years after their foundation, there were still only five active Missionaries in the Society. They too felt the many demands of the ministry inside and outside of the house. A number of parish missions had been planned for the first part of 1818, but they were forced to cancel all but one.
This was the mission in Puget, a town of 1300 inhabitants. Eugene accompanied the four Missionaries just to start the mission, and then returned to Aix to maintain all the ministries in and around the house.
The Missionaries returned exhausted and the Vicar General of Aix forced them to cancel the two missions scheduled thereafter at Eyguières and Tourves.
Uncle Fortuné de Mazenod takes up the story:
I pride myself that the frightening mission in Eyguières will not take place, because three quarters of the missionaries are worn out and are in a physically impossible state to undertake and even more to complete it. It is a place full of people without morals or principles, whose population of 4000 souls would require ten to twelve of the most robust missionaries – and they are only four, almost all crippled by their previous work.
So I have put heart and soul to ensure that they do not undertake it this year, and I have no doubt that I will succeed. If necessary, I will get the Vicars General to act, as I have done before to get them to moderate the excessive zeal of Eugene and to force him to spare his health … Besides, I have on my side the doctor, who pronounces himself very clearly on this and told them they could not undertake new missions without killing themselves.
Letter of Fortuné de Mazenod to Eugene’s father, 7 March 1818, OMI General Archives F.B. V, 1-7
“Over the years your bodies become walking autobiographies, telling friends and strangers alike of the minor and major stresses of your lives.” Marilyn Ferguson