Reflecting on the meaning of the approbation for us, Eugene reviews the whole process and sees the work of God at every step. In this long extract from this important letter to the Oblates, Eugene summarizes the events which led to the approbation.:
… but we have found, prepared long in advance, like a formidable fortress which no one was able to remove, a principle established by the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars to no longer approve specifically any congregation but to be satisfied with praising it. This principle had not been set aside by the Pope up to now, the Holy Father being the first to let me know about it;
but also for our eternal consolation, it is the Holy Father who decided to break away from it in our favour and this resolution was put in his head by no one; no, I make a mistake, for it was the Holy Spirit who assisted him was the only one capable to inspire him and direct his will. Thus he insisted on it to the end, directing himself the whole proceedings throughout, speaking on several occasions of the approbation he intended to give to our work which he said pleased him and which he wished to see spreading.
Is there not something supernatural in that? When have Popes ever taken such matters upon themselves? Petitions are presented to them that they do not read; they are sent to the Congregation of which the Secretary makes a report; the Congregation decides and the Pope approves what has been done for or against. Our matter proceeded as usual until the report of the Secretary but the Pope stopped it there and then; far from accepting his report, he let him know that he willed that our Congregation be approved specifically, while speaking highly of our work at the same time. He himself chose the Cardinal ponent to avoid our falling into the hands of some other formalist who might tire us out; he ordered the Secretary to make known to the Cardinal ponent his will in our favor. The Secretary was flabbergasted and did not know what to think, he still has not got over his surprise and never stops saying that he has never seen such a thing. In the meantime, the Archbishop of Ancyra is appointed and one would say that this was in order to support the Pope; in all his audiences, he converses about us with the Holy Father always in the most favourable manner.
The Cardinal ponent is enchanted with the Rule and the Institute, he studies rather than merely reads it, as is proved by the slight corrections that he proposed. The protests arrive. The Archbishop, the Cardinals, the Pope take note and do prompt justice to them without giving me the trouble of replying to them, indeed not wishing me to say a word about them; it was they, it was the Pope himself, who said more in favour of our cause than I could have done.
In order to accelerate sooner an affair which he had at heart, the Pope did not let me ask twice to be authorized to have it dealt with by a special congregation of Cardinals, to which the Archbishop secretary was attached with a deliberative vote. The decision was unanimously in favor. The Pope approved it and confirmed it on the next day. What more do we need? “Video caelos apertos” [ed. I saw the heavens opening]. In the execution of the formalities, there were new proceedings, each more favorable than the other. Whence it follows that if the work did meet adversaries it was in order to show the seal of God; they simply served to show up more clearly his truly miraculous protection for us.
Realizing that our history has been “salvation history” Eugene concludes the with responsibility we have to respond to God’s actions.
Try never to show ourselves unworthy, and let us merit seeing the designs of the mercy of God accomplished in favour of the Congregation and of poor souls.
Letter to Henri Tempier, 20 March 1826, EO VII n 231
“To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have traveled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives.” Pope Francis