Throughout his life, Eugene’s retreat notes and diaries are filled with programs and timetables for a disciplined spiritual routine. He produced spiritual programs for himself as a priest, missionary and bishop. He produced programs for the youth congregation and for the Missionary Oblates. It was a habit of spiritual routine that he acquired from Don Bartolo Zinelli in Venice.

It was in the school of this holy priest that I learnt to despise worldly vanities, to taste the things of God: far removed from all dissipation, from every contact with young people of my age, I did not even give a thought to what constitutes the object of their desires. I went to confession every Saturday, to communion every Sunday. The reading of good books and prayer were the only distractions I allowed from the careful pursuit of my studies. I heard and served Mass every day, and every day too I recited the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I had derived from my pious reading a certain attraction for mortification, and child as I still was, I made it a rule to fast every Friday, and in Lent on three days in the week; my parents did not notice. I often placed planks under my blankets, and on Saturdays, so as to be more sure of waking early so as to spend more time in church, I slept quite simply on the ground on a simple blanket. My health came to no harm at all from it, and I persevered with this regime for as long as I lived in Venice.

Looking back on this period of his life, he recognized the beginning of his vocation to the priesthood and religious life.

If I have related these facts, it is only to highlight the graces I was blessed with from my earliest childhood, and how deeply I must humble myself for not having derived greater benefit from them. It is from then that I date my vocation to the clerical state, and perhaps to a more perfect state, and certainly if we had stayed only one year more in Venice, I would have followed my saintly director and his brother, now a priest, into the religious Congregation they chose, and in which they both died in the exercise of an heroic zeal.

Diary of the Exile in Italy, EO XVI

It was a desire that vanished when he left Venice, and that the sight of the Cross one Good Friday, nearly a decade later, would re-awaken in him. Similarly, the routine taught to him by Don Bartolo, would be at the basis of his spiritual timetable in later life. “Regularity” is a word we constantly come across in Eugene’s Oblate writings.


“Routines are normal, natural, healthy things. Most of us take a shower and brush our teeth every day. That is a good routine. Spiritual disciplines are routines. That is a good thing. But once routines become routine you need to change your routine.”   Mark Batterson

This entry was posted in DIARY and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    When I think of all the routines I have had in my life and how so many of them did in fact become ways of life. It did not have to be about God in order to move from a routine to a way of life, a way of being. Addictions can help that kind of movement just as much as did the habits that Eugene practiced as a young man. I don’t think I have ever consciously looked at my life in this particular light before.

    With the flip side of sobriety and God becoming a part of my life I recognized that in order for me to have both I needed to (in my words) make them more than just a part of my life – they somehow had to become a part of who I was/am, a way of life for me, as routine and natural as my breathing in and breathing out. Unlike Eugene I did not really practice any great kind of self mortification – in fact I shied away from that entirely. But small hidden practices that no one would or could notice seemed to work best for me, such as daily Mass before or after work, choosing to befriend another who was deemed as too dumb or too poor, or too unlikable for others to love or care for. Fidelity to small practices seemed to work best for me, allowing small awkward movements of my heart to become flowing graceful dances of my heart. It was intuitive and I believe Spirit led. At one point I wanted to become a prayer, a never-ending prayer and that would lead me into a very specific way of being. I chose the “Hail Mary” and simply repeated it over and over until it became a part of me, always being said as I breathed in and out. I wanted to be saying it from my heart even when I was not consciously thinking it.

    Intentionality plays such a huge part in all of it. Intentionally I immersed myself daily in all that was AA in order to attain and keep some sobriety and thanks be to God it became a part of who I was, and a very real way of living. I spent time at Madonna House simply learning ‘to be’, to make prayer and living with God a part of my external daily living, my way of life. I did the same thing with my initial commitment to myself to come here to this place every morning. As I had done with AA and my time at Madonna House I committed myself for a year to starting my day with Eugene, being formed, entering into a deeper relationship with this beloved saint, getting in touch with a deeper part of myself. This given birth to other practices which I have taken on – not really hardships at all, although they are not always comfortable or easy. And God has done God’s job – for none of this way of living and being has become dull or tarnished for I been able to learn and become inspired, to adapt and to grow.

    Yesterday was one of those days which was not easy but it called me to go deeper, to let go of some of the veils which we can use to cover and protect ourselves. Today has done the same but in a different way. Here I have looked in yet another light at how my way of life began and has grown to where I am today. It is like I have just begun. And the more closely and deeply I look back the more my view expands, widens. A way of life focusing on God naturally allowing me to be more open and see always more. And yet again I am reduced to simply sitting in awe of all that I have been given.

  2. Patrick M. McGee, OMI says:

    Some of us are still working toward the kind of disciplined practice Eugene lived! The main point is to make it routine to spend time with God in prayer and meditation each day. A walk in the fresh air adds to the appeal!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *