The Duchess of Cannizzaro was Eugene’s adoptive mother in Palermo. She was generous to the poor, and Eugene helped her to distribute alms to the needy.

I experienced it indeed at her death [which took place May 1, 1802] when everyone could judge that my grief was incomparably more painful and deeply felt than that of her own sons. The Princess, whom I so rightly called my mother, was suddenly taken from us. The blow was cruel and the wound deep. I felt it for a long time; it even made me ill. They say that when I saw her lifeless body, I prostrated myself at the foot of her bed issuing a number of times this wrenching cry: “I have lost my mother! I have lost my mother!”

Diary of the Exile in Italy, EO XVI

It was the young Eugene’s first close encounter with the death of someone he was emotionally attached to. From it he would learn to be understanding of death and grief in the future. His reaction was intense and we will see how deeply the death of loved ones would affect him in the future.

Hubenig and Motte comment: “Perhaps it is a sign of how Eugene’s spiritual life had waned that he did not turn to prayer or spiritual reading to find solace in his suffering. Instead, he buried himself in a long meditative essay in blank verse entitled Night Thoughts on Life, Death and Immortality by an obscure English poet, Edward Young (1683-1765). The work abounds in macabre imagery and indeed briefly started a so-called “graveyard school” of poetry in England. Eugene describes the author and his poem as follows:

A wonderful man and, what is more important, the finest and most sympathetic friend I could possibly have at this moment. We both share the same feelings… His writing is sublime and makes for reflective and satisfying reading.

…Alarmed, Eugene’s father chided him: “You should discard this reading that pleases you so much. In nourishing your grief it serves only to prevent the effect of the remedies the doctors prescribe to relieve your sorrow.”   (Living in the Spirit’s Fire, p. 24)

The young man still had a way to go before he could integrate death and grieving into a spiritual vision. In the future his grief would be intense but he would learn to find comfort in the Savior and not in romantic poetry.


“Grief is the price we pay for love.”   Queen Elizabeth II

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1 Response to I HAVE LOST MY MOTHER!

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I think I want to write “good grief!” but then I remember my first time in having to deal with the grief of a loved relative. For me it was my grandfather and I felt the need to let everyone know at school how my ‘granddad’ had died and how sad I was. In truth I had somehow got a hold of the idea that I had to cry non-stop and be extra demonstrative about it. I too delved into some dark and lonely, well tragic really – music. And I got over it eventually.

    There is still grief when someone who I love dies, but there is too a sometimes-hidden joy. I think now of all who have died and who pray for me, watch over me. It can be a source of consolation.

    Saturday a dear friend of mine died and I will miss him, but I am not inconsolable. He’s not suffering in any way now and I actually want to celebrate him. So I share this small story of him:

    Since receiving the news of Bishop Peter’s death I have been thinking of my memories of him. I did not know him as long or perhaps as well as did all of the Oblates, but my memories of him are sweet and very treasured.

    “I met him more than 10 years ago – quite a few years before becoming an Oblate Associate. We got along well and he was always very friendly. And then, as it can happen, the relationship cooled somewhat as I became more involved with the Oblates – perhaps he did not know what to make of me. We did not joke as much and I noticed a wariness on his part (my word for it not his), he was a little guarded. One day when we were all up at Galilee for a retreat we were lined up to get our meal and Peter was behind me only I did not know it. I kept feeling something on the back of my neck like a feather touch or maybe hair brushing it and I would rub it but there was nothing there. Finally as I began again to feel something I turned around quickly and there was Peter behind me with his lips pursed and he was blowing softly. He grinned as I caught him in the act and from then on we were good friends. And when we would meet and then part and say our goodbyes after having seen each other he would always tell me that we would meet each other every day in our prayers – Oraison.

    Thank you Peter for all that you gave – you have been a light in my life and will continue to be that.”

    What a gift Bishop Peter Sutton, OMI has been in my life. I will miss Peter even though he has been away from here in Richelieu for a few years. I will miss my friend and brother, but still hope to meet him daily in my prayers. And this is the little joy that lies hidden behind the grief that comes when we love.

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