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.