Not all smelt of roses in the Aix mission of 1820. From time to time, in past entries, we have come across entries on the stormy relationship between Eugene and some of the priests of the city. His fiery reactions to their animosity did not always help to calm the situation. In this account we see the “dignity” of the Canons of the Cathedral being ruffled and the petty reactions that ensued.

Why do I reproduce the accounts of these incidents here? On one hand, because they give us an insight into the situation Eugene lived and help us to understand him better. On the other hand, the Canons of the Cathedral Chapter were good priests but we see how they were blinded by petty events that ruffled their ecclesiastical dignity. Perhaps it is an invitation to us to try to keep the “dignity” our ego from blinding us to all the good things happening around us.

Eugene’s preaching was drawing the crowds to the Cathedral, and there was not enough room for everyone. A good part of the center of the church was taken up by the stalls for the Canons, which were separated from the rest by a wooden partition. These senior priests, mostly members of the aristocracy, took so much reserved space just for themselves, while the people did not have enough space. These priests had never liked Eugene because he did not live up to his noble origins and his way of life and ministry to the most abandoned was a criticism of their own lifestyle. Uncle Fortuné takes up the story to report to Eugene’s father:

The Bishop who shows him every kindness, even gave him permission to do something that has never been done before and it will surely bring Eugene to grips with the venerable canons, who are forever insisting that their rights be respected. In order to make more comfortable seating space available to the men for whom there were no empty pews and who had been provided with chairs, the Bishop, without consulting the Chapter, gave Eugene permission to remove the partitions, doors and grills which separate the choir from the middle aisle. As soon as he received the Archbishop’s consent, he lost no time setting about the task for fear that someone might change the prelate’s mind. He sent for a large number of helpers and they worked so diligently that everything was removed in the space of two hours. You would have roared laughing if you had seen your son, Father Deblieu and the other missionaries knocking down the partitions and carrying away the debris on their shoulders.

True to Fortune’s prediction, the canons were indignant that their choir was being invaded by simple laymen, but were even more indignant that they had not been consulted regarding the removal of the grills which safeguarded their recollection in prayer. Unfortunately, they took reprisals which were petty at first, but which soon became odious…

For the solemn renewal of the baptismal promises, an inspiring ceremony at which the Founder spoke so beautifully and touchingly that tears filled every eye, the sacristy canon had supplied plain, everyday vestments. Father Tempier went immediately to register a complaint with the Archbishop who at that moment was at the church of the Madeleine, whereupon the prelate sent orders that the sacristan was to furnish the best vestments without delay. The following day, Fathers Rey and Florens were purposely rude to Father Deblieu who then treated them correspondingly. And so, as you can see, the same old tactics are being used against our missionaries.

On that particular occasion, everything was limited to the petty incident regarding the vestments, followed by a private squabble between Deblieu and the two ringleaders of the chapter, Rey and Florens who, since l’affaire Jauffret, had been equally fanatic in their hostility toward Father de Mazenod.

Leflon 2, p. 124-125


“Salt seasons, purifies, preserves. But somebody ought to remind us that salt also irritates. Real living Christianity rubs this world the wrong way.”       Vance Havner

This entry was posted in WRITINGS and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. John Mouck says:

    Interestingly, I see not much has changed in that regard – privilege, elitism among the clergy of today.
    One cannot help but notice the parish priest who has endless time to chat, after mass, with the affluent, influential members of the parish but no time for even a glance of recognition towards we “others.”
    Even amongst Oblates, I notice a resistance, in this province at least, to the whole notion of Oblate Associates from some of the older priests. I suppose it threatens their sense of importance. They don’t want to see those ‘partitions and grills torn down.’

    • Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

      John, I hope you don’t mind but I want to respond to your comments. I don’t think that it always elitism or privilege with the parish priests, perhaps we need to go up and introduce ourselves (even a few times) because that priest may know very well the other people, be they rich or poor. I will not make excuses for them, but I wonder if there is not something that we could be doing to somehow turn this around, even it if is only within ourselves? I know that how I view and approach a situation or person (I always seem to broadcast my attitudes and so they are well out there in front of me) really affects in the other person’s response.

      As for some of the older Oblates that you speak about. I do not think that it is a matter of threatening their sense of importance at all. Some of them are older and things are still changing for them. I know with myself how hard it can be sometimes with so much change and the types of change I struggle with are not necessarily ones that affect a lifetime of living. Change is hard for everyone. I think that love and acceptance and tolerance need to play a big part of our lives. Let them get to know us, slowly. Let’s not try to push any backs to the wall (I know that in me that just sets me up to push back). Again, I know that for me, my attitude affects how I see everything and everybody. I guess I really want to say that by all means persevere but do it with love and gentleness, and let God do what God will do. It does not stop any of us from living as Associates, with or without a name or designation. We are just beginning to accept the invitation given by the Oblates.

  2. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I found a lot here today to think about. Isn’t interesting how ‘we’ manage to find things to hold on to? I am thinking of those Canons of the Cathedral Chapter. They were not bad men, but they were used to having their area for themselves (as I image I would if that is how I’d been raised and trained on what to believe). That sense of ‘entitlement’ that we can all get at one time or another, that sense of “I’ve worked hard for this and deserve it”, or even “this is what I believe and so it is right [making the other way wrong of course]”. And there is always ‘tit-for-tat’. Our humanness! I would love to say that I am above all of that but I won’t even try that game.

    I also can relate in a different way to the idea of “These priests had never liked Eugene because he did not live up to his noble origins and his way of life and ministry to the most abandoned was a criticism of their own lifestyle.” When we go ‘against the grain’, step out of the box and not do what is expected, or do it in another way. When I left home and moved to the other side of the country it was not well understood and accepted by all members of my family. I was not doing as was expected of me, the eldest child and daughter. It didn’t meant that those staying out west were any less in any way, just that we are sometimes called to something different. I have to now ask myself how have I behaved, how do I behave like those priests in the various areas of my life? How many ‘petty squabbles’ do I initiate or take part in – particularly with some people that I seem always to struggle with? Maybe, just maybe it’s me that needs to let go in someways!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *