WHO IS SAINT EUGENE? THE YOUNG NOBLEMAN IN EXILE

1791 – beginning of 11 years of emigration in Nice, Turin, Venice, Naples and Palermo – years of flight and fear and changing fortunes.

“As he had been declared under arrest by the revolutionaries, on his return from his mission to the Estates General, my father left France and went to Nice and soon from there he sent me his brother to bring me to him …
There really must have been a genuine fear of the threat made to do away with the children of the nobility, for my mother to have consented to let me undertake this journey even before I had quite got over an illness that had taken a lot out of me…
I was not yet nine years old. All I could do was to keep the secret as a grown-up would have done. This was enjoined upon me, and faithfully observed…

VENICE

One day I was amusing myself at the window that gave on to the house of the Zinelli family opposite. D. Bartolo appeared on his side, and addressing me said: “Master Eugene, aren’t you afraid of wasting your time in idleness in this way at the window?” – “Alas, sir, I replied, it is indeed a pity, but what can I do? You know I am a foreigner, and I haven’t any books at my disposition.” That was the opening he wanted: “That’s no problem, my dear child, you see me here actually in my library, where there are many books in Latin, Italian, French even, if you want them.”
“There is nothing I would like better”, I answered. Immediately D. Bartolo undid the bar that held the shutters of the window, and placing on it a book, passed it over to me across the little street that separated us. .. From this time on, every day over a period of four years, I went after Mass to be with these most benevolent teachers …

His mother and sister returned to France, and his parents divorced – all Eugene’s efforts to reunite his parents were in vain

NAPLES

My stay in Naples, was for me an oppressive year of very gloomy monotony…

PALERMO

Providence, which has always watched over me since my youngest years as an infant, gave me entry into a Sicilian family, in which I was accepted from the first as a child of the house. This was the family of the Duke of Cannizzaro… From this time until my return to France, I was one of the family: my place was always set at their table; I followed them to the country in the summer, and everything in the house was at my service as it was for their own children, who considered themselves my brothers.”

Diary of the exile in Italy (1791-1802), E.O. XVI

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One Response to WHO IS SAINT EUGENE? THE YOUNG NOBLEMAN IN EXILE

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    How horrifyingly difficult and scary it had to be when Eugene’s father had to flee and then for him to have to leave his mother and sister and flee with his uncle – keeping it a secret that would be a burden for a grown man while he was yet just a young boy.

    But there appeared in his young life Don Bartolo and later the family of the Duke of Cannizzaro. It was Don Bartolo who played such a profound part in Eugene’s formative years, who would help to give him a base which he would return to and grow from in later years. I guess we might all have a Don Bartolo in our lives, perhaps more than one. For some he will be found in parents and siblings, for others in neighbors and teachers. This, for some, is who God would be present in a very special way, so we could be gently shepherded, formed and led. For me there was Sr. Mary Catherine in 9th grade whose heart was so incredibly generous and who taught me about the joy of words and then later it was an Honorary Oblate, Kay Cronin, who befriended me as I moved in a downward spiral that was not life but rather a road to death. As I think of her the image of her smile passes before my mind’s eyes and I can almost hear her speaking to me. Such a powerful effect that she had on my life that I still ‘talk with her’ some 40+ years later, for she has been gone for almost 40 years. She was my introduction to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and I think we share a special smile and understanding now – look Kay at how full my life has since become.

    I guess that there have been parts of our lives that in some ways there has been an exile – perhaps not as dire as was Eugene’s, but no less in some ways. I am struck how Jesus gave his life, his all (quite literally) and then rose from death to even great life. And Eugene who gave his all, his life in many many real ways, who stood not only at the foot of the cross, but was up there on it along side of Jesus, one of his Co-operator’s – modeled himself and his very life on that of Jesus. And like me many today have their own stories of exiles of some type and of dying to ourselves, many little deaths, and who rise in a way to new life even as we live here and now.

    I start this day filled with gratitude and in a couple of minutes I will go outside to walk in the dawn, the first and new light of the day. The thought occurs to me that I will be walking this day in the footsteps of many holy men and women, with saints past and present. Such is the joy and wonder of life with God. Look St. Eugene, this is just a continuation of what you began.

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