The first months of the year 1820 were taken up with two important missions to the cities of Marseille and Aix en Provence. Together with the group of the Missionaries of France they were to work at the renewal of the whole city. The mission in Marseille was from January 2 to February 27 and that of Aix from March 12 to April 24. They were extremely demanding and time-consuming missions and unfortunately Eugene did not have time to write letters. Consequently I will have to rely on some of the eyewitness accounts to give an idea of some of the activities.

Because of the size of the two cities, preparations had begun 15 months before the mission was due to start. The superior of the Missionaries of France wrote to invite Eugene’s participation. The reply shows the fundamental option which was part of the spirit of the vocation of Eugene and his Missionaries: their reason for existence was to reach out to the poorest part of the population:

We are so happy to be able to lend a hand to your work in our area that we will not hesitate to leave everything and follow you to Marseilles. Because of that we will have to go back on our word to the parish priest where we were to go at the time set for your mission…
You can therefore count on us, but we must not hide the fact that we shall be of very feeble help; fortunately, your zeal and talents will supply for our insufficiency. If you are willing, we shall take charge, as we did at Arles, of that part of the city inhabited by the poorer people; thus we will not be going against the Rules of our Institute which require us to devote ourselves to that portion of the flock of Jesus Christ.

 Letter to M. Rauzan, Superior General of the Missionaries of France,
30 0ctober 1818, O.W. XIII n.19


“In teaching us charity, the Gospel instructs us in the preferential respect due the poor and the special situation they have in society.”      Pope Paul VI

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I must admit to being a little confused with this one. I feel like Eugene is writing one thing and saying another, tongue-in-cheek really. He writes about going back on his word to a parish priest, which I find unsettling, more because I am not sure of the history and story there, but also because he seems to have made a commitment and is now appearing to back out of it.

    But I do love what he says about working as they did in Arles and even of that my knowledge is sketchy at best save for a wonderful interpretive(?) story that I heard of Eugene and his men and the differences they made there. There in Arles their (the poor) lives were transformed, as were I image those serving them (Eugene and his men) (somehow those evangelizing were in turn evangelized). I may be projecting here with my own experiences and I feel like I am getting into deep water here for putting it into words. It begs me to reflect on that ‘preferential option for the poor’ and what that means and has meant in my life. I am drawn, called to that and as I reflect back over my life it has been thus. Awesome to look and see God so very alive in my past, of the ongoing molding and shaping, the pursuit – sometimes inspite of me!

  2. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    This morning has called me to look at how do I remain true to where God has called me to be in spite of the difficulties that seem to lie there. Firstly has God called me or has Eleanor called me? Do I quit and walk away while waiting for others to get their acts together, do I wait for them to decide if and how I will walk, with them, behind them, across the street from them?

    God in his mercy did not wait until I had my act together before calling my name. Nor do parents and family members put away the children until they have their own acts together before loving and raising those children. I think we are called to love each other in the midst of our struggles and pain. It is only together that we are able to arrive on our journey. It is in the coming together, the sharing of our weaknesses and strengths that we find salvation. To have something to offer to the other, I receive a lot, but I also have this desire to give and share what I have been given.

    The Missionaries of France asked for, invited Eugene and his missionaries to work with them in such a way that they all remained true to their calling. I keep thinking of what St. Paul wrote about the different parts of the body, each having it’s role to play in being a part of. No one part was better than the other, indeed it was only as all parts came together that the whole could be recognized. That has certainly been the case with me and my life in God. It does not mean a ‘watering down’ of any part of life, a lessening. On the contrary there is so much to be gained by being open to the other and walking with them, that way we each have something to offer the other – that is the secret of relationships, of partnerships. We gift to each other, we are each of us our brother and sister’s salvation, with God being in and a part of each of us.

    How do we live that? How do I live that now?

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