Leflon writes: “Installed on December 30, 1806, ‘Demazenot fils’: immediately assumed the duties of the Semainier (the director in charge for one week), and, in this capacity, presented, on January 6, 1807, a report that had the Mazenod touch, and seems to have somewhat startled his colleagues who were accustomed to less clear-cut and less emphatic reports. In no uncertain terms, the young committeeman denounced the baker for the abuses which the members of the organization had very prudently ignored up to that time.

First abuse:
We must be scrupulously exact in seeing that the baker hired to provide bread for the prisoners does not underhandedly slip in bread that has gone bad; having noticed this abuse the first day he carried out his duties, and having made complaints to the baker, the Semainier was promised by the said baker that it would not happen in the future, and, actually, the bread was excellent all the rest of the week.
Second abuse:
allowed to creep in, one that can have dangerous consequences and, hence, one which must be remedied immediately;
at the end of each quarter the said baker presents a statement on the amount of bread delivered, but no one verifies the accuracy of this statement.
To help us proceed correctly, the baker should be obliged to present, along with this quarterly statement, the day by day delivery slips, signed by the officer of the week. Verification would then be made and, in this way, we can be sure of the accuracy of his statement.”

Reports from the minutes of the meeting, quoted by Leflon I p. 282

Telling his father about this new area of concern for him, Eugene wrote:

whatever about this deplorable disposition of the very great majority of the unfortunates confided in part to my care, I try to obtain for them all the comforts that depend on me, whether it be by taking care that the bread the government provides for them is of good quality, or having the soup that the results of our appeals obtains for us served to them each day through the ministry of our Ladies of Prisons, or in preserving them from the rigors of the season with good overcoats, or saving them from being dirty by giving them a weekly change of shirt, or giving them bed sheets when they are ill, all with money raised by appeals…

Letter to his father, 19 January 1807, EO XIV n 21

A few years later, Eugene would insist that a hallmark of the method of our spirituality had to be to help people be more fully human, then Christian, then saints. His concern for the welfare of the prisoners clearly shows the starting point in his own life.


“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”   Mahatma Gandhi

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    The word justice comes to mind this morning as I reflect upon Eugene and how God was transforming him, quietly startling and relentless. He is demanding justice, not for himself but for those who have no voice.

    He is calling others to accountability. I smile as Leflon describes Eugene’s encounter with the baker and think of how he came by it all quite honestly. Wasn’t his father President of Accounts or something like that?

    I think of some of the names throughout history of great people who have changed the world – beginning with Jesus and St. Paul 2000 years ago. Closer to our times; Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Catherine de Hueck Doherty – the names so well known. But there are many more, many of them much closer to home. Eugene de Mazenod and so many of his sons and daughters. How incredibly beautiful to behold.

    “I try to obtain for them all the comforts that depend on me.” What does this look like in my life? What kind of the most basic comforts might I take for granted that others don’t experience, don’t have? How can I become bread for those who hunger?

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