Working in preparation for his meeting with the Pope, Eugene describes his meeting with the Cardinal Secretary of State (basically the Pope’s second-in-command), whom he had met during the Pope’s imprisonment by Napoleon in Paris. It became an opportunity to recall Eugene’s involvement in that dangerous political situation when he had been a seminarian.

The Cardinal Dean, Secretary of State, sent to inform me that he would receive me at nine o’clock. I was there at the Vatican on time and had the honor of offering him my respects. His Eminence received me very kindly with amiable politeness, but he had completely forgotten me and all that I had done for the cardinals at Paris during their exile. I had to remind him that I had often gone to his house, had sometimes even taken meals there, that I had presented him with the Vie de la vénérable Agnes (bound at my expense). At that time we were catechists at the Major Catechetical Program of Saint Sulpice. I served him when he came to say Mass at the German chapel. I was designated to find out from him, Cardinal Della Somaglia, the needs of the cardinals at the fatal moment of their disgrace. I recalled to him that he had replied that he would need nothing for two years but had pointed out those who would have need of help. So many things have happened since then that a person could easily have forgotten past events.

Eugene is clearly disappointed that the Cardinal did not remember him, but it becomes the opportunity to remind himself that it is God who has to be served in all things

The Cardinal was no less polite; but, on my part, I reflected that it would be very foolish to do good in order to gain a good reputation among men. God alone knows how to reward what we have done for him. So, we must do everything to please him.

Roman Diary, 10 December 1825, EO XVII


“Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”   Galatians 1:10

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    There is much here for reflection this morning. As I read this I keep asking myself if I do good things to be noticed, to be remembered? What are my motives when I love, when I take those extra little steps? Big or small when I do, whatever it is that I am doing (and it is not usually anything as lofty as the part that Eugene played with the Black Cardinals), is it for the good of that moment? I know that there have been times when I have told myself that I was doing whatever it was simply because it was good and the right thing to do, but in the back of my mind I was secretly hoping for one (or more) persons to notice, to recognize me and what a truly ‘good’ thing I was doing. There was/is that need to impress. And there are times when after having done something really good, perhaps over and over again that I do allow myself to fall into the trap of wondering if I have really made a difference, has no one seen, small though it is, what I have done? Does no one notice or care? Have I done this simply out of love or is it that I have done it to be loved?

    There have been more than a couple of times I have put myself on the line, when I have put my job on the line because what I saw being done was wrong and went against everything I believed in. Once when I quit my job and spoke out I ended up having to leave the city I was living in and move to another, start over again with everything. Hard to do and for sure it was not something I did to be noticed. Would anyone remember it now? No I suppose not.

    I know though that both back then and now I do turn to God, sometimes in frustration, with impatience, in pain and struggle and ask Him if he has noticed. I sometimes ask him why (I know that is just plain foolish to ask but I do it anyways). I have been know to point out to God at what is going on [in my life] and that he might like to take a second look. There have been many times when I have figuratively ‘stamped my feet’ and demanded that he pay attention and perhaps do something to right what I believe has been a wrong done to me, even it is only to pick me up and hold me. There have been times when I thought of doing something – so that I would be noticed, but for the most part and truly due only to the grace of God that I managed to hold back [for the most part]. More and more it seems to be simply a matter of loving in a myriad of small ways, day-to-day stuff, not thinking of who will notice and simply doing it. But doing it – out of and with love.

  2. Jack Lau, OMI says:

    This text goes well with last Mondays reading about Jesus telling the Pharisee over a meal that he ought to invite the poor and those on the fringe (ritually unclean-challenging the purity codes). And Jesus end by saying your reward will be at the resurrection of the dead. In reflection I sensed Eugene also saw that reward and acknowledgment only feeds the ego and runs counter to the process of letting go -kenosis.

  3. Anda says:

    Last night I held what is supposed to be an “every Tuesday evening adult faith journey” ie come if interested to chat, explore, and expand one’s faith. The topic was to be “being a saint” whatever that meant to those attending. As I waited for anyone to show up, I had much time to consider the issue and materials I had prepared. One set of questions from an Ignatian site was prepared for a family questionnaire level – and so more simple, and yet therefore more black and white. Unfortunately my time for reflection did make me think about how much I do to get recognized for being a “good person”. Asking myself what would be a one word to describe myself, work I do to make the world a better place, what I do to keep my connection with God healthy, and even a question of what I would be a good patron saint for and why… and I still see myself doing my work less for “the Glory of God” than to show I can do it. Unfortunately God doesn’t come into my equation much at all.

    I can only admire St Eugene in seeing that doing for others to be recognized is less than worthy of God’s love. Instead I am still thinking about why no one has come out two weeks in a row, rather than being happy for the time I had for reflection and using St Eugene as my example to follow.

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