Finally Eugene was received by Pope Leo XII, and he described the meeting to Henri Tempier – and through him to all the Oblates in France, who were anxiously awaiting news of this meeting that would affect each one.

You must indeed feel very impatient, my very dear friend, to receive this letter which, to all appearances, should inform you that I have had the happiness of seeing our Holy Father the Pope and should contain, in consequence, the details of this memorable audience. Eh bien! my dear friend, yes! I have seen the Pope, not at a great distance, as the other day at St Peter’s, nor for a few moments, but close enough to touch and for more than a good half hour; that says little, for when I recapitulate all that was said on both sides, I am tempted to believe that it took nearly an hour to cover everything. 
It is impossible for me to render you a detailed account of what happened; you will have to be satisfied with the substance… 
The Pope receives in his small bedroom. He was seated on a settee, with a desk before him on which he leaned. I made as I entered the first customary genuflection but there was not enough room between the door and the place where he sat to make a second; I found myself promptly at his feet that I did not try to kiss either because when bowing profoundly I did not see them or, too struck by the appearance of the Pontiff, whom my faith showed immediately as the Vicar of Jesus Christ, I became attentive only to the charm and the goodness of his face.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 22 December 1825, EO VI n 213

In his own personal journal, Eugene gave more personal details;

His Holiness was in his small bedroom; it seemed not very spacious to me. Near the alcove, closed off by drapes of crimson damask, the Pope was seated on a couch, leaning on a desk in front of him. People usually make three genuflections, whereas I could make only one; the Pope graciously motioned me to advance; I knelt at his feet and prostrated myself, but was unable to kiss his feet, since he apparently did not want to move them forward. He immediately told me to get up again; I did not want to; he insisted, but I begged him to allow me to remain kneeling since the posture suited me fine. He seemed to give in reluctantly; his face told me that as well as his words, full of charity and kindness.

Roman Diary, 20 December 1825, EO XVII

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I ponder this morning on Eugene’s description of the Pope and what his words were trying to convey. I think of Pope Francis and how I might describe him. I know him only by his pictures and his words, from seeing and from reading of his actions. But he appears to be a man who loves greatly and I can only imagine what it would be like to be in his presence, in the living presence of Christ (in an incredibly real way). I am thinking this is bit of what Eugene meant when he wrote; ” the appearance of the Pontiff, whom my faith showed immediately as the Vicar of Jesus Christ, I became attentive only to the charm and the goodness of his face”. Eugene knew and read people well and he saw and responded to what ‘was’.

    Last summer I was gifted in being able to attend a retreat given by a man who I can only call holy, not the Pope but certainly one of his vicars. He was holy not because of his position but because of who he is, because of the presence of God in his life. When we talked one day I told him that he had ‘put on Christ” and that he wore him [that mantle, that clothing] well. I have been graced in life to see some others whose presence was like that, who seen through the eyes of faith as being in and with the very presence of Christ. There is such an attractiveness about it, we are drawn to it. These people have all been very human and totally approachable and yet there is something extra special about them. This holy man (during the retreat) actually knelt before me to give me absolution and I was unbelievably humbled to be so treated. This was Jesus. The effect of being in the presence of such great love, is that we are able to let go of our ‘ego’, our ‘thinking’ and just be and experience.

    It is not something that we ourselves can conjure up or manipulate, indeed we can not try to put it on ourselves for it would not fit right. I think that it can only be given to us and that it fits only when we say yes with our lives. I am filled with gratitude this morning for how God love us, fills us and is manifested in our midst. Jesus, come and fill me that I might love and serve as you have, as you do. Let the “me” die unto myself so that it is your being that fills me. Would that those around me might experience your very presence in all that I do.

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