From 14 January to 25 February 1821 Eugene and the Missionaries had preached a demanding mission in the town of Brignoles. As was their custom, the Missionaries wanted to arrange the dates for a return visit during the following year. The pastor of this town had responded negatively and had written a defamatory letter to Eugene, who now responded in strong terms to the accusations.

What strikes me is the centrality of the concern of the Missionaries for the welfare of the people of the town. They had spent six weeks evangelizing them and for their spiritual welfare wanted to consolidate the good that they had begun.

Dear Pastor, possibly I have been too sensitive in regard to your behavior; it may be that I have expressed too honestly a reaction that is too strong. If that is the case, I do not intend to justify myself.
What man, however, would not feel badly wounded when he saw you apply as much care to keep us away from your parishioners (at the time of the return mission), as everyone else in like circumstances would have applied to bring us close to them. Do not think that the righteous dissatisfaction I express has any other motive than the duty our [ed. missionary] character lays on us.
If we consider the matter from a human point of view, it is of little importance to us to reappear at your place for a return mission; we wanted merely to consolidate by renewed effort a work so happily begun. If I asked you for it, it was for a greater good and contrary to my own inclination and needs which rather have led me to take a rest.
If you had some good reason for putting off these exercises which are considered everywhere as necessary after a mission, it was easy for you to tell me so politely without having recourse to an out-and-out defamation. After all, wasn’t it at your insistent demand that we went and sacrificed our rest and health for two whole months in order to be of some use to your people?

Letter to the Pastor of Brignoles, 23 August 1821, EO XIII n. 39


“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.”    Maya Angelou

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I don’t know the details around the accusations made by the pastor in Brignoles, nor do I know really anything about him. I have to wonder what he was afraid of and how he felt about the job he was doing as a Pastor. Having read through this a couple of times now I find myself coming to a clearer or deeper understanding of the depth of Eugene’s (and his missionaries then and now) love. I truly believe that they were returning a year later so that the people would have had time to ‘live’ what they had been given, what they had received. This is how we learn, how we’re renewed, each time going a little deeper. I have never been on the receiving (or giving) end of a ‘mission’ but I have received retreats and know what I am like, with the first one and then maybe a year later with the next. It is how we learn. I see the same pattern in our liturgical year.

    But I think the biggest thing is to understand how ‘we’ love. I see Eugene, and others, filled with love (a gift from God rather than it being on their own) and wanting/needing to share that love – that was of the primary importance in their lives, what they were about. It was so important to them that they knew they needed to return, to remind and renew. This love was not to receive glory for themselves, to receive the praise – it truly was for love of God, all for God. To give themselves totally to God – with everything revolving around God in a real and everyday way. That was/is their passion and way of being. And having given themselves in love to the people of the town is was not then taken back when they left the town – it was there for them to go back to a year later. Then they could say ‘so great to see you, to share in this love we have together. Do you still have it, how’s it going. The flame is burning low, lets trim that wick and we’ll show you how it can burn brighter.’ They loved.

    I find myself today again thanking God for the gifts received, through others, through this love that fills us. How shall I go out today, to be a reminder, to be a channel of love and renewal and to keep in view why I am living as I do. Whose glory am I really working for here?

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