The arrival of the French armies and a riot in Naples brought an end to the misery of the de Mazenods’ stay in Naples. They were able to flee to Palermo in Sicily. On arriving there, young Eugene’s fortunes changed dramatically:
Divine Providence which has always protected me from my earliest childhood opened the doors of a Sicilian family to me. It was the family of the Duke and Duchess of Cannizzaro. From the very start they treated me like one of their own children. The mother, who was the Princess Larderia, was a saint.
Both she and her husband, the Duke, felt a great affection for me and were quite happy, it seems, to be able to provide their two sons who were close to my age, not merely with a companion but one who would also be their friend and a good example to them, something of a rarity in that country. From then on, until I went back to France, I was one of the family; there was always a place set for me at their table and in the summer months they took me with them to their summer home where I had at my disposal everything enjoyed by their own children. The latter looked upon me as their brother; in fact, through the affection I showed them I had really become like a brother to them. The Duchess who often said that a third son had been added to the family drew me so close to her through her kindness that her own children could not have loved her more than I did.
Diary of the Exile in Italy, EO XVI
The new environment was to cause changes Eugene which were to have long-term repercussions on his spirituality in later life. Fr. Pielorz provides the background:
Once established as a member of the Cannizzaro family who owned a luxurious villa in the plains of Colli, Eugene wrote a letter to his father to tell him about his new way of life. In mid-October of 1799, he wrote:
I am living like a fighting-cock. An excellent bed, a delightful room, a dressing room, etc., a valet at my beck and call who shook out my clothes this morning (that is important)… This morning when I arose, I had the impression of being in the countryside. The view from my room is delightful. The servants and the valets hasten to anticipate anything I could desire.”
In addition to the good meals served at the Cannizzaro palace, one must mention the frequent receptions. They lasted until midnight and were often the occasion for dances, horse racing and different games of chance. One reception prepared by the duchess for the King of the Two Sicilies cost 500 ounces of gold, that is, 6,500 gold francs, today’s equivalent of about 70,000 Euros [ed. around $80,000]. Such squandering was the price to be paid for cutting a good figure among the families of Palermo’s high society.
- Pielorz, “Cannizzaro, Family” in the Oblate Historical Dictionary http://www.omiworld.org/en/dictionary/historical-dictionary_vol-1_c/634/cannizzaro-family/
Do I serve or am I served? Are there any signs of spiritual danger in my life?
“Luxury is the wolf at the door and its fangs are the vanities and conceits germinated by success. When an artist learns this, he knows where the danger is.” Tennessee Williams