Eugene’s joyful pride in the generosity of the young students and novices is tempered by the

dreadful apostasy of the wretch who could not be brought back to his duty by the example of conduct as edifying as yours

Yvon Beaudoin explains: “He apparently refers to F. M. Dalmas who made his profession on November 1, 1819… The Founder wrote, under this name, in the Register of entries to the Novitiate: “The first to give us the example of the most shameful apostasy.” Father de Mazenod habitually designated as an apostate any Oblate who left, without sufficient motives, after having pronounced his vows.” (Footnote 2 in O.W. VI n. 56)

Eugene, always dazzled by the beauty of the vocation of the oblate and of the total generosity of his act of oblation to God, could not understand how anyone could possibly turn away from it. He thundered against it and feared for the eternal salvation of the person involved who had gone against his solemn promise to God by turning back (“No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62). In encouraging his family, we see the pride of the father of the family and also his deep pain when one of his sons becomes a “prodigal.”

I say nothing of the son of perdition. The Spirit of God has spoken to you better than I could do so and you have understood his language too well for me to add anything of mine. Happy community! Holy family! Keep as precious the gifts that the Lord has shared with you so abundantly, walk in the path into which you have been thrust, so to speak, at the sight of the precipice which has claimed the infidel.

Letter to the students and novices at Notre Dame du Laus, 29 November 1820,
O.W. VI n. 56

“Sometimes we don’t need another chance to express how we feel or to ask someone to understand our situation. Sometimes we just need a firm kick in the pants. An unsmiling expectation that if we mean all these wonderful things we talk about and sing about, then let’s see something to prove it.”      Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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One Response to A FATHER’S CONCERN

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I had to first look up the definition of the word ‘apostasy’ before being able to go too far. Then I was reminded of woman I knew back when I finished high school who was a member of a religous order. When she left the order that she belonged to it was in the dead of night with no communication with her sisters. She was not to communicate with them nor they with her. I remember thinking at the time of how cruelly she was treated and I was so sorrowful for her.

    Within this past year a friend of mine left the church, simply walked away (in great pain). I am ashamed to admit that when it happened one of my thoughts was “well I guess he was just looking for an excuse, couldn’t he have tried harder?” There was fear in me – because that could be me. I was hurt that he was leaving because for all my struggles with it I love the church and my parish community is my family. May God forgive me for my thoughts and how I reacted in pain to a loss.

    So I can understand a little Eugene’s pain and feelings of loss, but it is hard to read of his harshness, which was I guess due to his dissapointment and hurt, of his concern for Dalmas, and perhaps his fear that others might follow him? For sure a father’s concern. What his does show us though is the great mercy of God. Having been a person who left the church for many years (and blood family) and who was thankfully welcomed back with open arms and rejoicing to both I know what it is to be a prodigal daughter. Forgiveness is everything.

    Although I understand Eugene’s pain I still find him really harsh with his “apostasy” and his “son of perdition”. I find this morning that in my own pain I want him to have been a little more perfect and less human.

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