Having agreed to send some of his Missionaries to Marseille to do youth ministry with the orphans, Eugene was surprised when the Archbishop began to insist that they also had to take over the responsibility for the ministry of the Calvaire (which was the name referring to the hill of Calvary on which the mission cross had been placed).

It was wonderful for Eugene to have generous mission dreams, but when he looked at the personnel available to look after three missions (Aix, Laus and Marseille) and the demanding ministry of preaching prolonged parish missions, reality dawned on him: they were only eight priests!

The historian Leflon takes up the story:

Two weeks later, with a haste that cannot but surprise us, just as it surprised Father de Mazenod himself, the Bishop authorized the latter to go immediately to Marseilles to take possession of the Calvaire which had been erected there to commemorate the mission of 1820. Guigou, the vicar-general, was the one assigned by the Archbishop to notify the interested party of this formal order which was to be carried out immediately. Astonished by such prompt and unexpected resoluteness, the Founder hesitated, doubtful of the message he had received. He was then summoned to the Archbishop’s palace and went there accompanied by the scholastic brother Suzanne who gave the following eye-witness report:

The bishop urged Father de Mazenod, even pleaded with him, and the Superior kept repeating the same answer:

 ‘I shall obey if I am ordered, but I am sure it will be detrimental to my community.’ …

Again he urged the Superior, and seeing that he was still hesitant, the prelate went over to Brother Suzanne, took the hands of the subdeacon and said to him, ‘Come now, Brother; persuade your Superior to go and take possession of the Calvaire.’ Finally yielding to such earnest entreaties, the Superior then declared he was ready to obey, and the archbishop, embracing him, said, ‘Good, then; make ready to leave today. Father Guigou will give you a letter to take with you.’

Leflon Volume 2, p. 181

Eugene confided to Henri Tempier:

I have come from Marseilles to conclude the matter of our establishment there… But how will our community live there? I have no idea.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 26 April 1821, EO VI n. 67

 Humanly, it called for a big act of faith because he had recognized the call of God in this situation thru the voice of the Archbishop. It was the “call of Jesus Christ, heard within the Church through people’s need for salvation” (CC&RR, Constitution 1).


“We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking only to learn that it is God shaking them.”      Charles West

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1 Response to A DOSE OF REALISM

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Poor Eugene. He had put himself under obedience to the Church. And he was used to simply pushing forward and getting it done. With all of his love of God, and his giving his all to God he still was human and must have been shaking in his boots. How many times in our lives have we had a dream, a vision that we needed to follow and so we struck out full of passion and life? And how many times has it all sort of “snowballed” with us wondering where were we going and how would we ever get there. We become divided because we want to move forward in whatever way we feel called and yet at the same time are uncertain, even perhaps a little afraid. God is shaking us just as God was shaking Eugene.

    Trust. Faith is sometimes such huge leaps of trust. Figuratively speaking its like jumping off of a cliff and trusting God to catch us. Its been my experience that going through that turmoil and fear is the worst part. Because God does provide what we need, God does show us the way to get what we need. I don’t know what the Archbishop felt as he made the request/demand of Eugene. And Eugene said yes, not knowing how it would be at all possible. I am reminded of Mary’s “how can this be?” and yet saying yes, as did he.

    I have only to look at the turmoil in my life for the past few days. Instead of running as my ground around me started to shake I managed somehow to remain there, to sit there in the middle of it (only through the grace of God). God was shaking me. I needed to look within myself. At the time I thought that God was somehow testing me in a way (not a good word to use but it is the only one I have at the moment). The image of forging something comes to mind. I look and realise that it wasn’t a testing but somehow a forging of me. That putting into the fire so that it is softened with all the impurities being burned away, again and again until it comes out stronger and more defined, new, shining, ready for whatever. No clear nicely defined answer yet (that’s the kind that I like to have the most and the very kind that don’t seem to be forthcoming right now). The shaking is still there a little and I continue to say little ‘yeses’ – one little step at a time, inspite of my fears, and believe that God will give me somehow all that I need. I am grateful that God does not let go of me. I can and do learn much from Eugene’s bold huge leap of faith, of his allowing God to forge him, to hone him.

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