Continuing our reflection on Eugene’s attempts to bring the young Nicolas Riccardi to his senses, we see how he tried to inspire him to see the importance of a mutally-supportive community in his life.

You rap out one after the other four lines which form a sequence in your letter: “I understand the loss that I suffer by leaving the community, I would be in despair if, and I know this only too well, I was obliged to leave it forever, I feel that I am made to live in community”. Say rather that you have a need, an extreme need, to live in community. That is why you are right in what you understand, but you do not understand enough the sorrow you cause by leaving the community. But if it is beyond doubt that you need to live in community,

Community is not about fulfilling personal needs, it is a two-way street of give and take, of mutual support:

and if it is true you would have reason to despair were you obliged to leave it forever, it is not less true that the community needs from those who form it that they do not give her the distasteful spectacle of an acute disorder, of an insulting disregard, of an unedifying irregularity, or a scandalous desertion, all of which trouble her tranquility, her peace, her happiness, and even compromise her existence.
Nothing can excuse your conduct, it is execrable in every way. You have let the Society down; your defection has not only been a scandal, you have hurt her substantially by the bad impression your fault must have made on the feeble souls who are not ready for such blows; and in quite another manner, you have let God down by trifling with what is sacred amongst men since in scorn of your engagements you have taken counsel only with your exalted imagination. You have obeyed only your own impulse or rather let us say, the demon who alone could inspire you with a resolve so contrary to your true interests as well as your sacred duties towards God.

Letter to Nicolas Riccardi, 17 February 1826, EO VII n 225


“Surround yourself with people who provide you with support and love and remember to give back as much as you can in return.”      Karen Kain

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    It sounds almost as if young Riccardi was using the congregation to fill his own needs and wants; that it has all been about him. I am finding it difficult to stay focused because of a fierce cold so have gone over this several times. Rather than dwelling on the intimate details of Eugene’s letter I am finding it easier to reflect on one statement: “Community is not about fulfilling personal needs, it is a two-way street of give and take, of mutual support.” This is it in a nutshell. The ‘me’ only comes about in relation with the ‘we’. This speaks of love and even that is a bit of a mystery. It is not something to be grabbed at or taken and hidden away but rather a flow, back and forth. To endlessly receive and use is not love, but to give back, ah that can be a different ball game.

    Alas this morning I find myself in the precarious position of wanting to give of myself simply to feel better – about myself. So having very little to offer I will simply sit and be in the midst of this community of prayer and love. Having previously said that to endlessly receive is not love but now and here I sit, I ‘be’, receiving and being loved in return.

    • Ken Hart says:

      Sounds like most of the marriages I know about, including my own. It is critical to acknowledge both the gains and losses, the rewards and responsibilities inherent in any form of community.

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