On the journey to accompany his mother and sister as they left for France, the diary of the exile narrates two incidents in the 13 year-old Eugene’s life that indicated a future direction.
During this journey, Eugene demonstrated what grace had worked in him. First he provided himself with a large crucifix which he hung around his neck as a sign of his faith and of the public profession of it that he was prepared to make, if needs must be. The occasion presented itself at the first inn where they stopped. Although the crucifix was fastened under Eugene’s waistcoat, it was big enough to be seen; it became a subject of malicious pleasantries on the part of the inn’s servants, but Eugene, far from blushing, replied to these insolent people with a truly Christian courage, something these impious people were not expecting from a child of thirteen.
On arriving at Livorno, the family stopped a few days in that town. When Eugene observed that the house domestic where they resided was extremely ignorant in religious matters, his chief occupation was to explain this woman the catechism, which he did in so interesting a manner that the mistress of the house was pleased to join in and, from what she said, to her great profit. Zeal was one of the distinctive traits of Eugene’s piety, and foreshadowed the ministry he was one day to exercise towards the most abandoned souls.
Diary of the Exile in Italy, EO XVI
Seeds that pointed to an awareness of the Cross and to sharing its Good News with others – on which God was to build a missionary vocation. Each of us is invited to recognize the seeds of our spirituality and life direction in reflecting on some of our spontaneous actions in our youth.
“There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.” Graham Greene