Before Eugene was able to leave Rome, he still had to complete some formalities with the Vatican. While waiting, he filled in his time with various occupations that he writes about in his diary. One of them was to read the handwritten manuscript of Cardinal Pacca’s account of the Pope’s imprisonment in Fontainebleau, Paris, by Napoleon.

I ate at Cardinal Pacca’s place; he lent me the first manuscript volume relating the events he witnessed. This writing is remarkable for the impartiality with which it is written; it contains some very interesting facts…
I am very familiar with all these facts; I was at Paris at the time of these happenings, and the regular encounters I had with several cardinals, and especially Cardinal Mattei, who used to honour me with his confidence and friendship, allowed me, not only to attest to the truth of Cardinal Pacca’s account, but even to add some very interesting elements.

Roman Diary, 31 March 1826, EO XVII

Eugene recalls how he had been a part of these events while he was a seminarian and a newly-ordained priest at St Sulpice. He was more than a mere witness, but had been actively involved with the Sulpicians in helping the cardinals and Pope during this period – endangering his life in the process. Witnessing the persecution of the Church, these events explain his life-long sensitivity to the sufferings of the Church and his particular attachment to the person of the Pope.

When Eugene returned to Aix in 1812 the Pope was still a prisoner and so he narrates:

I was dying of the epidemic illness which I had contracted from the Austrian prisoners while serving them in the prisons at Aix when these events took place at Fontainebleau. That is why I have had only imperfect knowledge of them until today. I am out a year, it was the following year, at the same season, that I contracted the prison sickness .

Roman Diary, 1 April 1826, EO XVII

“To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with people.”   A. W. Tozer

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    As I read this morning I was reminded of a part of my life almost 30 years ago where I witnessed terrible injustice being done to some men getting out of prison on day parole, it was hidden and insidious and I, along with the other staff where I worked, quit our jobs. It was a time of upheaval and fear and to this day I am amazed that I was able to take such a stance and put myself in danger for some men who very few people believed deserved any more than to be locked away forever. I had to move from that city to where I am now. I continued to work for a few years with day parolees because they had found a way into my heart – I believed they deserved better than what they were getting – a second or even third chance at life, a decent life.

    Coming here this morning, reminded me of that time, and before beginning to properly reflect and write I googled the name of the man who I had stood up to and discovered he had died quite a few years back. I found myself thanking God for that – rightly or wrongly it’s what I did before sitting here reflecting on Eugene and what he seems to call me to, inspire me to and cause me to look at in my life. Unlike Eugene I doubt there will ever be anything written anywhere about those events, or at least about the part that I played in them. I can only thank God for having given me the grace and the strength to do what I did – for it did result in some changes back there for those day parolees. I am reminded this morning of why I have in my heart a special place for those who are in prisons. And I want to pause to look at those around me. Here we have Eugene who lived so many great things that we know of from his writings and the writings of others. I wonder about those who are a part of my life, with and the small extra-ordinary things they might have done in their lives that would make such a difference in the lives of others. Stories waiting to be told and brought into the light of day, if for no other reason than to make them see and understand how beautiful and graced they are, that we are in knowing them. Eugene’s whole life was about that.

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