The remedy to the tragic situation of the Church – and specifically to the harm done by the “laziness, indifference and corruption among the priests” – proposed by Eugene is that of the good example of the priests. “Example is leadership,” said Albert Schweitzer – and it was difficult to find anyone more convinced of this than Eugene himself.
We recognize the familiar foundational themes that he constantly came back to: in the footsteps of the apostles, “be” in order to “do”, “all for God” etc.:
The achieving of this end will require the forming of apostles, who, after having become convinced of the necessity of their own reform: “take care about what you do,” should work with all their strength to convert others:
“Take great care about what you do and what you teach and thus you will save both yourself and those who listen to you” (I Timothy 4:16).
And as we have seen that the real source of the evil is the indifference, the avarice and corruption of the priests, once these abuses will have been reformed, the others will cease as well.
See to it that you have zealous, altruistic and solidly virtuous priests and soon you will bring back to the fold the people who have wandered away from their duties.
1818 Rule, Part One, Chapter One. The ends of the Institute, §3. Nota Bene.
Missions, 78 (1951) p. 15
In 1818 he was writing this for his own Missionary priests. In 1826 this text was modified into what today we know as the “Preface” addressed to all the members of the Mazenodian family. If we want to make a difference to the 21st century, the same principles still apply: people must be able to recognize in the quality of our lives that which we preach to others.
“Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.” Abraham Lincoln