The life of anyone involved in public service and ministry is always open to criticism. In receiving criticism it is easy to allow it to make us blind to the good that is really being achieved.

The pastor of Brignoles, whose “age and infirmities” had prevented him from taking part fully in the mission, had written a critical letter to Eugene in which he condemned the Missionaries for not having left enduring results after the mission in his parish.

You tell anyone who is willing to listen that: “the fire left only ashes”. If that were the case, you would have succeeded in filling us with deeply felt sadness; and even though we certainly knew that we were not responsible for such defection, we would be nonetheless afflicted by it; but, thanks be to God, I find something in your own letter to reassure me. 

Eugene then pointed out, quoting from the old pastor’s own letter, that some of the “fire” had remained burning in the parish.

First, you told me that no girls went to the feast-day dance; that is already something, that half of the population remembered the principles that we had taught them. Who knows if the young men in great number would not have followed the example of the girls if, supported as they should have been, they would have found the necessary help in a Congregation? That was our view. Moreover, you tell me that the dissipation did not nearly produce the results that I seemed to fear; this is due to good things remembered from the mission.

The pastor had also contradicted himself on the question of attendance at Mass and communion.

There remains only to reject your blaming me for not speaking enough about the Sunday Mass. If your age and infirmities had allowed you to take part in the morning instructions, which gave an explanation of the Commandments, you would be aware that we said everything we ought to about this matter.

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


“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”     Frank Howard Clark

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    This morning as I first read this I though great – another one that has nothing to do with me and my daily life – there’s not much to offer here. And even as I let it sink in and start to ponder there’s no easy ‘feel good’ response but rather there is some discomfort.

    This morning I find myself looking both inward and outward. Looking at myself and at the times that I have been “critical” of another because of fear (so many fears like failure or not being good enough – the list is endless) and how I have ‘reacted’. The images fly past my eyes, incredibly fast, at my own behaviour or being on the receiving end of another’s. What have I got to fear? For I look at all God has given to me, and what do I have to be afraid of? I look at all that God has given me and how can I then strike out at another? I see Eugene standing firm, in his truth and knowledge of what the whole story was and I sort of wonder if he didn’t want to let loose on that poor little pastor. Eugene stayed faithful to what he was called to do and be and to what he knew to be true. He did not back down, although I suspect that because he loved so much he must have felt pain when he received that pastor’s letter and yet chose rise above it.

    In truth I am grateful for today’s sharing and where it is bringing me to. A little chagrinned but with a focus. I wonder if Eugene knew what an inspiration and role model he would become? I am very grateful and that in itself is a small miracle.

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