In 1819, Paulin Castellas, a member of Eugene’s Youth Congregation died. For a while he had lived with other Aix students in the house of the Missionaries. Eugene’s reflection on this young man’s life was written in the Diary of the Youth Congregation:

This young man, very dissipated in his early childhood, had a conversion following the mission which we gave in Grans, his home town. He received his first communion with sentiments that testified to the efficacious working of grace in his soul, and he never reneged on the good resolutions he made then throughout the course of his life.
Very much neglected by his mother, a woman of no judgment, it was he who felt the need in himself of work. The natural good sense with which he was endowed led him to prefer the salutary discipline of a house of formation to the complete freedom he enjoyed at home, and he made use of the dominion his mother had allowed him to have over her to insist that she let him enter the Mission where there was a great willingness to support his good will by supplying him the means to teach himself.
It is beyond telling how this lovable child grew in esteem by his piety, docility, commitment and all the good qualities that he drew on without effort. He grew in virtue before our very eyes and was beginning to hold out wonderful promise when a coughing of blood came to warn us about his health. Remedies of every kind were lavished on him, but in vain. He withered from then on to such a degree as to remove all hope of a cure. His mother wanted to try if his native air would restore his health, but on the contrary his state worsened more rapidly than ever, and it was no longer possible to hide the fact that his end was drawing near. Far from being frightened by this news, he sincerely rejoiced over it and said in this regard some very moving things to his parish priest, to whom we had commended him. Again he received the sacraments that had several times been given him before leaving Aix. His last days were spent wholly in speaking of the good God.
At the moment of death, quite conscious, addressing himself to the Parish Priest who was by his side, he cried out in ecstasy: do you not see heaven open before us? Oh, how beautiful it is! How beautiful it is! Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, oh, how beautiful it is! And stretching his arms towards these objects present to his sight, he breathed his last or rather his beautiful soul flew off to the heaven that had come close to him and of which I have no doubt he took possession at that very instant. What a beautiful death!

Diary of the Youth Congregation, 5 June 1819, O.W. XVI


Life is a path; Death a destination.     Author unknown

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I have read this several times over and each time reflected on something a little different. At first I looked at the young man’s death and thought how good it was that Eugene told his story for in the telling we came to know a little of Paulin and of how he was loved by the community and so how greatly he touched each of them. And even as I write this my thoughts surge out with one of those aha moments as I realise not only how he touched those around him but in the telling and the reading how he / his story touched me and how we are all connected.

    And then I thought of how would I be remembered – but having no real idea and not wanting to waste my time on that old one I again I reread the text. And thought about death – not in how it will come or when it will come, but that when it does I will be glad. For the most of my life I have thought of death as a final “coming home” and that all of my life has been a journey of coming home – perhaps that is the ‘destination’ that the unknown author spoke of. Don’t get me wrong, I do love life, incredibly so, and life just continues to get better and better. And yet there is that part of me that yearns for the final letting go, for that final coming home.

    And lastly I think of how Paulin was not alone, how his community, his Oblate family was with him to journey with him on his way home. What more could anyone ask for than that? It was a beautiful death in more ways than one.

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