HOUNDING CREDITORS AND ALLOWING THE POOR TO TOUCH HIS HEART

I have taken a lot of time to describe some of the activities of the young Eugene that will shed light on his conversion and his future life and spirituality. His social life, pleasures and search for a girl with a huge dowry, however,  only took up a portion of his time. His two other preoccupations were the finances of his family and personal study.

Eugene showed himself a shrewd business man (learning from his mother and her cousin Roze). His father could not return to France because of his debts, so Eugene set out to collect all the money owed to the Mazenod family – and in this way he would use that money to pay his father’s debts. His correspondence with his father from 1803 – 1807 is full of details of these dealings.

Pielorz narrates: “In addition to the worry of recovering the inheritance from his great-uncle he had to deal with the question of cashing in the small debts owed his father and his father’s small pensions. Eugene set about these tasks with a clever shrewdness. Because it was not just a question of obtaining payment of these debts, but also of seeing to it that his father’s creditors did not find out about it. Sometimes, however, his very sensitive heart prevented him from sticking to the rules he had set for himself. It was with great satisfaction that the unfortunate creditors of President de Mazenod would suddenly see their money returned, money they had given up for lost…

Some examples from his correspondence:

He made me feel so sorry for him, that I intend to give him 6 or 9 francs tomorrow to pay for his journey.

Letter to his father, 29 June 1804, Méjanes, Aix.

I do my best to recover some of the money owed to us. Oh, what an appalling trade. Until now I have only found miserable people with no possessions, who are in greater need of receiving than of giving.

Letter to his father, 1 June 1804, Méjanes, Aix.

Seriously, you would have no idea of the waste of time that this useless running around and the irritation that these bad debts give me. But one must leave no stone unturned.

Letter to his father, 16 August 1805

When there was a possibility of being reimbursed, Eugene was resolute in his demands. He wrote about a widow whom he had visited, in her filthy home, and who pretended to be badly off and unable to pay him. Any compassion he felt for her soon disappeared:

She made me feel sorry for her because I did not know the whole situation, and I left her taking with me lots of fleas and the promise that she would pay as soon as she managed to sell her house. A long time passed. Then I discovered what she was really worth and that she was not in any misery because she had a superb property that had once belonged to the church. From that moment I have not left her with a moment of peace. I call into her place twice a week…

Letter to his father, 16 August 1805

Pielorz comments: “Eugene de Mazenod’s actions during this period of his life must be rather disconcerting for those who do not know his character which could be both unyielding and sensitive. On the one hand, we see him pursuing his family’s interests with unforgiving tenacity, a tenacity that did not flinch at the use of means hardly in harmony with Christian charity. On the other hand, he is reaching out to the poor, even to the extent of paying with his own money some creditors whose destitution touched his heart.”  Pielorz The Spiritual Life, p. 97

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“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”   Dalai Lama

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One Response to HOUNDING CREDITORS AND ALLOWING THE POOR TO TOUCH HIS HEART

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    What a picture of a young man whose heart is being grown. His heart which was hidden for so many reasons is now beginning to come into the light. There is the business of the every-day being wrapped at times in love. Glimpses of the meeting and coming together of humanity and divinity. We begin to see how greatly affected and transformed Eugene was to become over the years (it was not matter of being one thing or another, but of being ‘both and’; it was not a one-time event but rather an ‘evolving’). As in moving from stage to stage, carrying with us all we have been into what we are becoming.

    I am reminded of how affected I was yesterday in listening to Bishop Doug’s homily at the funeral of Bishop Peter (Peter Sutton, OMI). What I heard did not alter what I thought and felt of Bishop Peter, except to perhaps help grow the love that already was in my heart, but it also affected how I looked, look and see Bishop Doug – because as he spoke he really shared his own heart. What a gift, what an immeasurable gift to be able to be a part of that. To catch a glimpse of another’s heart – wow.

    That is what we or at least I am doing here each morning. Coming to know and love more deeply Eugene, the Oblates and all who come to share this space each day. The image of the flaming hearts with lines of fire from Jesus to his apostles and then out to Eugene and all of us. Jesus and now so many others there in a very particular way, prominently Eugene at this moment for I am here in this space, but also Bishop Peter and Bishop Doug and the whole family. We, even I, are all there and it’s just that we haven’t all learned to see ourselves there.

    Eugene look at your family! Sharing your spirit we too evolve as we walk with you.

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