Writing from Paris, he speaks about having to buy some cassocks, the garment worn by priests and religious. I quote the letter because it touches on some interesting points.

… In regard to expenses, I believe my uncle will be kind enough to pay for the linen cassock that I have been obliged to have made. I do not have a pressing need of a cassock of wool cloth because I have one. I will not be able to put off, nevertheless, having another of these made in order to spare this one somewhat.
It would perhaps be suitable to take advantage of my stay here, but I believe I should ask your opinion so as not to deviate from poverty. This would be something the Minister should see to. It annoys me to be obliged to rule for myself whenever there is occasion to buy something for my wretched person.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 1 July 1825, EO VI n 190

He refers to the community value of holding all things in common, and the need to ask permission before making any personal expenditure. Eugene was the superior, but still felt the need to check out with someone before he spent money on himself.

Secondly, we see his principle of not spending anything more than necessary on himself. Fifteen years earlier, as a seminarian, he had laid down this principle to his mother, and he remained faithful to it till the end:

Please don’t forget to have sent on the Hebrew books I asked you for in one of my letters; I need them more than I need shirts. My underclothes are in fairly good condition. This doesn’t surprise me so much as my cassock, for although I only have the one for winter and the one for summer, they still don’t have any holes in them, although they are a little threadbare. It is true I chose a good, really heavy cloth. Thanks be to God, I don’t think I can be accused of luxury or being over-particular about myself, and I hope no one will ever be able to find fault with me on that account, as I am firmly resolved never to change. An ordinary cassock, woolen cincture, hair uncurled, this is and always will be the way Father de Mazenod will dress. I really don’t know what people think they are achieving when they are forever adorning and pampering this wretched carcass that is destined to be food for the worms and is never less manageable than when it is treated gently.

Letter to his mother, 6 January 1810, EO XIV n 66

Thirdly there is some humor, as Yvon Beaudoin notes: ”This would seem to be a touch of humor. Faced with this expenditure which seems exorbitant, the Founder wants to jest: ‘This would be something the Minister of Worship should see to!’ In his letter of June 28, he had already both complained and made fun of the Ministers who were centralizing the slightest issue in Paris!” (Footnote to EO VI n 190)

The Spirit prompted the first Christians to share everything. Under the influence of that same Spirit, we hold all things in common. Our members adopt a simple lifestyle, remembering that it is essential for our religious institute to give collective witness to evangelical detachment. We are to avoid all luxury, all appearance of luxury, all immoderate gain and accumulation of possessions.” CC&RR, Constitution 21


“Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires.” Lao Tzu

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    This is one of those times when it would be so very easy to simply point the finger at others I know and judge how they appear to be living. In truth and with shame I must admit that as I read this my thoughts flew immediately to others I know and how judgement began. It thankfully did not take too long for me to see what I was doing, but again I am ashamed to admit how quickly and easily it happened. It is always so much easier to point that finger at others and judge how they are living.

    This morning I have been called to look at myself, what am I surrounding myself with? It may be the latest in technology, it may be new clothes (in excess of what I need), it may be in books or in art work. I am called to look at why, am I trying to make myself feel better, am I trying to distract myself from looking inward, from moving in a specific direction. Do I not already have enough? What are my needs?

    As I reflect I begin to see what are my real needs and they are not something that can be taken care of with things, possessions. What am I truly yearning for, looking for? What would a simple lifestyle mean for me?

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