The Marian sanctuary at Laus was the second Oblate community established in France, and became a successful center of mission for the pilgrims in the warm months, and as a base of missionary outreach to the villages in the cold months. Unfortunately the Bishop of the diocese of Gap and some of the priests found the Oblates to be too “liberal.” The diocese was strongly Jansenist and condemnatory in its pastoral approach, whereas the Oblates followed the moral theology of Alphonsus de Liguori, which stressed the mercy and compassion of God. This was to be a source of ongoing friction for the next decade.
The Bishop’s letter to Eugene of January 30 has not been found, but Father Simonin summarizes it in these words: “The Bishop sets out therein the accepted principles in his diocese for the administration of the sacraments, principles with which, according to the pastors, the missionaries were in disagreement. Matters cannot continue in this way and those who work in the diocese must commit themselves to follow our principles.” Missions OM1, 1897, p. 366
Realizing that cooperation with the local bishop was essential for their continued ministry in Laus, Eugene responded in a way that would not slam the door shut. In no way did he compromise Oblate principles, however, as the missionaries discretely continued with their pastoral approach in the confessional.
Your Lordship, I had intended to reply to the letter that you did me the honor of writing on January 30, when our Missionaries returned. When they left, I could not take pen in hand. I wanted to have a little time to reflect on the painful communication contained in your letter. I could not find it. Now I am almost fully at ease. When a person is deeply affected, it is difficult to avoid some expression which could be misinterpreted, and I would be inconsolable were I to offend when my intention is certainly only to register a complaint. I am very pleased that you got along well with our Fathers Mie and Touche, and dare to hope that you will get along as well with everyone else whom you are willing to deem fit to employ in your diocese. I will not send anyone whom you do not like, and if by chance someone may displease you, you would only have to notify me and he will definitely refrain from every external exercise of ministry in your diocese; but I am not overly concerned about that.
Letter to Bishop Arbaud of Gap, 10 March 1828, EO XIII n 64
“I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.” Paulo Coelho