Having written to try to help Nicolas Riccardi back to some clarity regarding his Oblate vocation, Eugene wrote to Tempier to tell him about it. He complains about people who have so many conflicting ideals and are unable to make clear decisions. Using the image of the multi-colored clothes of the people of one of the cities of Italy, he reflects on the lack of perseverance in religious vocations in general.

I have written a long letter to [Riccardi]; I am sending it to you because I want you to have it copied before giving it to him. I think it as well that one should know in future what I think of these harlequins, who have as much of the motley in their soul as these fine citizens of Bergamo have in their costumes.
Do not be surprised at so many defections. There were countless such in the time of the blessed Alphonse in his Congregation and after his death, it had gone so far that quite a number of candidates entered the Society to be ordained without a patrimony and said farewell to the company as soon as they were priests. They were obliged to take the precaution of having them sign a document whereby they were obliged, if they left the Society before ten years, to defray the expenses they had incurred. Amongst the Lazarists, one fine day, eight students, that is to say, amongst those who had made their vows and completed their courses of philosophy and theology, decided amongst themselves to go and become Dominicans. The event perhaps had less of an effect on them, because they were more numerous, but this misfortune nonetheless happened to them as to us. Who could count the secularizations and even the apostasies in the religious Orders? Poor human race, how few are the real men you have!

Letter to Henri Tempier, 18 February 1826, EO VII n 226


“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things, distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”   Thomas Carlyle

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Sometimes we (read I) look and enter into groups and ways of living because we are looking through different lenses. We fall in love with an image or we are at a stage in our life when we need to live and experience certain things. Sometimes thought we might be almost trying to escape and run from our own lives and selves. I can’t say that I ‘tried on’ a religious group in the sense that Eugene is speaking to Henri Tempier about. I was brought back into the Church by a Franciscan, and they are a group who hold a special place in my heart. I looked seriously (although not entirely realistically) at the Poor Clares , who in turn introduced me to Madonna House who introduced me to and fostered within me a real love of the poor. I was re-introduced to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and came to know and work with them over a long period of time. Finally though I found my place, where God has called me to be, with those who I will walk with, how I shall live. It has been a long journey (which is far from over) and a sometimes difficult one, for myself and for the many who have walked with me. I describe myself as passionate, but the words wild and untamed also come to mind. But I have persevered, as have those who walked with me and that is most certainly a sign of God’s graces for all of us, and even more a sign of incredible and unconditional love for the journey has also been in practicalities which are ever important in this world.

    I look at Carlyle’s three ‘P’s and think also of discernment, all of which are a part of my own journey, and I might add, through no grace of my own. I think of some who walked with me and the others but who left, left our group and even left our Church. Because I loved them it hurt and even to a degree scared me and so I got angry at them for “quitting”. But still I love them, much in the same way that I have been loved in spite of my bouts of doubt and anger and fear and, and….

    Eugene knew well from his own life that we must lives with degrees of permanence, perseverance and persistence. Yet he ends with a cry of woe; “Poor human race, how few are the real men you have!” I can almost picture Eugene saying this and it makes me smile broadly. It is the perfect way to go and begin my day – with a smile of joy and a whole lot of gratitude for all that I have been given.

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