So convinced was Eugene that the vocation of the Oblate and the living of the Rule were sure means of gaining eternal life, that he could not understand how anyone would ever even consider wanting to leave this way of life. Once someone had pronounced the vows of oblation, Eugene saw it as an apostasy if he left the Society and ceased to live his commitment. To make this reality even more painful, it was Sébastien Deblieu who was in the process of leaving. This 34-year old had been one of the foundation members of the Missionaries in 1816, and his wanting to leave would have been a shock to everyone in the Society.

Added to all that in itself is bitter in the agonizing thought of this new betrayal is the fear of the suffering that you feel as a result, you who are so keenly sensitive and the suffering of whose soul can overwhelm a body so frail.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 27 May 1823, EO VI n.105

The announcement of this apostasy has sensibly affected me more than the death of Father Jourdan… To be obliged to turn over as it were to Satan the one whom we placed and the guided along the ways that lead to heaven, how frightful that is!
One is struck by blows like this as by lightning and one finds oneself in the state of mind of these rulers of our days who, after a new defection, look once more about them to see who will be the next to leave.

At the same time, the first person who had come forward to be an Oblate Brother, Claude Ignace Voitot, had decided to leave the novitiate before making his vows. The novice Joseph Guibert was also going through a crisis and wondering whether he should persevere.

It would perhaps be as well if we were to compare ourselves, in this circumstance, with our divine Master who asked the disciples who still remained beside him, after the shameful defection of the people of Capharnaum: “and you also, would you wish to abandon me?” [ed. John 6, 67].
However sorrowful our position, I pity infinitely more the traitors who, not having been stopped by the infallible word of him who said that anyone who turned back after having put his hand to the plough, is not worthy of the kingdom of heaven,[ed. Luke 9, 62] secretly meditate, consent interiorly and finally commit an execrable perjury… A crime like this is so alien to my mind that I truly do not know how to prevent its execution. I could only implore the Lord during the whole course of the procession today to avert this calamity from us and still more from him who thinks of doing it and by the fact itself is not innocent of it.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 1 June 1823, EO VI n.106

 Paul had experienced similar sufferings when his companions abandoned their way of life:

For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” 2 Timothy 4:10

“Barnabas suggested taking John Mark, but Paul was not in favor of taking along the man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had refused to share in their work.” Acts 15:37-38


Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life.’ Gospel of John 6:67-68.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I find in this today a lot of pain and suffering, on everybody’s part. For those who entered the society, became or were becoming a member of the family it had to have been equally a hard and painful decision to arrive at, as it was for the members of the family who maybe felt betrayed, abandonned. At first reading I found Eugene’s words rather strong [a nice way of putting it] and yet Eugene lived and loved with everything he was, so the hurt would have been so strong. I do not even want to think about judging any of them, those who felt the need to leave the society or those who were left behind hurting and perhaps feeling betrayed.

    We see this daily in our lives, not just those in religious communities, but also in our parish communities, our families, our workplaces. Married couples who separate and divorce – no matter the reason(s) there are always feelings of betrayal and loss. It plain hurts! We tend to wonder if perhaps we [and it can become very personal here], if perhaps we could have done something differently, something more, perhaps we did not support and nourish that person enough. There can even be that self questioning – what if they, that person, is right, does that make me wrong?

    When we find a way of living that is so right for us (I mean doesn’t it feel like God has designed this life for each one of us personally?) it is so incredibly painful to see others with whom you share that way of life, leaving it no matter what the reason.

    For me, I tend to feel a little like Peter, ‘to whom shall I turn?’, ‘where shall I go?’ But I must be honest about the times when I have questioned, the times when I have cried out to God in doubt, in sorrow “Lord why am I continuing to stay here? Lord why am I continuing to work with this person? Lord why do I suffer from all these doubts?” The list of whys could be endless. And in truth it is only the grace of God that keeps me planted where I am. In the moments of being within a tender embrace it is easy to know why I remain where I am and not give up, but it is in those moments and times of darkness that it becomes a little hard to say; Lord I trust that you are with me.

    I loved this posting today, simply because it showed the humanness and realness of Eugene and all those who joined the society. Impossible to simply dismiss any of them a being simply parts of a nice history lesson, impossible to dismiss them and keep them somehow removed from our lives today.

  2. Jack Lau, OMI says:

    As I read these words, though the sentiments of lose are the same our way of process and seeing the hand of God is different. Sometime folks leave because they hear another call. They hear a pitch/a voice-a mature voice that they were unable to hear when they were young. And yes, they must follow. And it is difficult for all. But love does not waver, in fact it deepens because of the truth and vulnerability that this response calls forth.
    Also, the charism of the Founder does not vanish, rather it just in time calls forth new fruit/mission in place and areas of life that often as Vows members we don’t/and can’t go. So in the end, God’s will be done and don’t ask me for clarifications. All will be well and if it is not, wait, sit and God then has more work to do with us.

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