ROLLING BALLS OF FIRE IN DANGER OF BURNOUT

Receiving news of the zealous preaching and ministry of the Oblates during the jubilee celebrations in Aix, Eugene responded:

The news that you give me about the Jubilee of Aix is murderous. It is not possible for our Brothers to resist such fatigue. That is what we did in our beginnings, to the great detriment of my health. I fear lest Fr. Mye and Fr. Suzanne especially who rises to such occasions with such vivacity, will be affected. We must do everything to avoid ruining workers of this calibre.

He concludes the letter by stressing the same point:

When writing to our Fathers, commend me to them and to their prayers, while advising them not to tempt God by working to excess which is not in order. Adieu to all.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 30 March 1826, EO VII n 233

Eugene was speaking from personal experience of having allowed himself to be carried away by his missionary zeal until his body collapsed. He did not want his collaborators to do the same. During a period of enforced rest and recuperation ten years earlier, he had resolved in his diary:

So he must sleep and eat; and when he is tired he must rest. It is a great pity I did not understand this a lot sooner. There is still time to get there, the damage is not irreversible; but it would be foolish to delay any longer.
Whatever happens, I will get the sleep needed so as not to be exhausted when I get up in the morning, as is usually the case. I have been guilty of excesses in this area, going back to my first years in the seminary. I acknowledge I would be blameworthy not to change my ways, since my health, until now always good, has already suffered a lot as a result.
The example of the saints seduced me, but it seems God in his goodness does not ask the same of me, as he seems to be warning me by a lessening of my energy and the upset of my health.

Retreat Notes, July-August 1816, O.W. XV n 139

 If we were at least able to form two rolling balls of fire, that is, if we could be two teams of which one would rest while the other was active, we would them be able, with God’s help, to do a great deal of work.

Letter to M. Arquier, Parish priest of Saint-Remy, 25 December 1816, O.W. XIII n 4

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One Response to ROLLING BALLS OF FIRE IN DANGER OF BURNOUT

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    For all the times that I rail at Eugene’s language and wording there are times that I simply sit and enjoy them with a wonderful smile, perfect enjoyment. ‘Seduced by the saints.’ Does he not do this very thing to me, to all of us?

    Rolling balls of fire indeed! This morning I tried to imagine what it would have been like to live in the same house as a young Eugene de Mazenod. I find myself having to be very honest – with myself. I am a person of high energy, who is slowing down, partly due to the physical aging of my body and partly due to what God so very gently reveals to me about myself. God himself who is the greatest seducer of all times has been at work in my life and there is within me a natural tendency to allow the fire of passion to almost run amok burning brightly. It began and is most likely still there a little with the desire to ‘be good enough’, to work hard enough, etc, etc. Eventually I have come to recognise that as being sometimes a weakness, sin if you like, of mine. It would be a lie to say that I have conquered it, but I have gotten better. Yet it is still there buried deep within wounds not yet healed and likes to poke it’s way through to the surface from time to time. The fire still burns deeply and the seduction of St. Eugene can still urge and inspire me but it cannot be all ‘doing’ and it cannot be all ‘me’. Now I am coming to a place where I must share that passion with others. Even more, I seem capable of only joining in with the great passion and fire of others and work with them, being with them. Each of us small little points of light who together form a moving ball of fire. The “I” is slowly becoming replaced with the “we”. Seduced by God, seduced by Eugene. I wonder if one day God will give me the grace to be a part of the grand seduction of others? I have no doubt because look who I walk with.

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