An epidemic of smallpox had just broken out in Marseille, brought by a ship arriving from the Middle East. Eugene was at Laus at the time of writing.

I would wish to be at Marseilles to arrange everything with the Bishop and yourself, I would like to be there also to watch out for the dangers that you indicate to me…. My plan would be to leave Saturday from Grenoble and Monday from Gap, for I ardently desire to join you in circumstances so painful from every point of view.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 24 June 1828, EO VII n 304

Victims of epidemics were considered by Eugene a being among the most abandoned and deserving of the care of the Oblates. As an intention for his first Mass he had prayed for:

Final perseverance, and even martyrdom or at least death while tending victims of the plague, or any other kind of death for God’s glory or the salvation of souls.

One of the intention for which he offered his first Mass, E.O. XIV n.100

We recall how he had nearly lost his life in serving the Austrian prisoners in 1814. This was oblation: being prepared to give all, even life itself for the salvation of others. Thirty five years later he recalled :

I have all my life desired to die a victim of charity. You know that this crown was withheld from me right from the first days of my ministry. The Lord had his designs since He wanted to trust me to give a new family to His Church; but for me it would have been a greater value to have died of the blessed typhus which I had contracted while serving prisoners.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 12 September 1849, E.O. X n.1018

 The response of the Oblates shows that they had understood this aspect of oblation.

Fr. Mie and Fr. Touche have asked me immediately to call them to Marseilles if the plague is there. Fr. Dupuy would wish like them, to devote himself in the service of the stricken; these offers are made by these good Fathers in the most edifying and most serious manner.
Fr. Touche has begun by proposing to God the sacrifice of his life while offering the Holy Sacrifice this morning.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 24 June 1828, EO VII n 304


“With compassion you can die for other people, like the mother who can die for her child. You have the courage to say it because you are not afraid of losing anything, because you know that understanding and love is the foundation of happiness. But if you have fear of losing your status, your position, you will not have the courage to do it.”   Thich Nhat Hanh

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  1. Jack Lau, OMI says:

    Interesting quotes for sure. Having the quote from Thich Nhat Hanh personally made more sense to me for it is written in a language and a spirituality I can understand.

  2. Robert Laroche, OMI says:

    I find Bishop De Mazenod’s wish to become a martyr interesting. It seems to be a big thing in those days. As for me, my flesh is not made for martyrdom. I see myself more in the service of others. I am presently visiting a number of elders who live very isolated and lonely lives. My role .. to bring a bit of cheer. I’ve come to realize that they give me more than I give them.
    It’s a joy to be at the service of others.

  3. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    For many years I wanted to be a saint, not so much a saint like St. Theresa or others, except perhaps St. Paul. I just wanted to be a saint as myself which to me meant perhaps giving my all to God and God giving God’s self to me – it meant a oneness that was all love and joy. No greats or littles, just a oneness. I still want that even though I don’t talk about it alot.

    Like Eugene and many of those early Oblates I too want to die for God, for others, to be a martyr in a sense. This comes with profound love and I don’t know that God will ever answer this particular request, but quietly in moments of love this is what I pray for. And perhaps like the sainthood it is just a small childish prayer. I do not find myself in places where I am likely, or even at risk of dying for another. Did those early Oblates, did Eugene rush forward to help those who were sick with a view to dying for them, or did they rush forward to help them.

    Who knows, life is not yet finished with me, who knows what will happen. I want to believe that I would die for others, but I can be pretty weak sometimes. But that desire and fire that burns within me might just be strengthening me. It is not so much the dying that I want to do, as they giving of myself. It all gets pretty mixed up within me.

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