Leflon describes Eugene’s efforts to bring spiritual comfort to the prisoners: “Finally, the Semainier, anxious to make sure the prisoners received spiritual help, which was also one of the purposes of the Organization, observed that there exists an inexcusable neglect of religion, if not a deplorable spirit of irreligion among many of the prisoners who dispense themselves from attending Holy Mass without any legitimate reason, and, hence, it would be advisable to exhort the prisoners very strongly to fulfill such a sacred duty.” Leflon I p. 104
To his father, Eugene narrated:
Believe me, dear friend, the man who is fulfilling this ministry of charity does not see in these criminals whose advocate he has in a sense become, anything but unfortunates in need of help. It is the task of justice, with both equity and severity, to establish guilt, our duty is to ease their sufferings by every means in our power but above all with the consolations that religion brings.
Young Eugene’s means of conveying the “consolations that religion brings” by bribing the prisoners to go to Mass are quite horrifying when one considers his pastoral approach to prisoners in later years:
Do all my colleagues fulfil this duty, so essential as it is? I cannot say; as for myself, I congratulate myself, not only on having seen to it that the quality of the bread has been improved, that one category of prisoners are more demanding and more abandoned than the rest, and of about the same age as myself, got help, and on having put right many abuses, but especially for getting the administration to consider through my report that a punishment should be imposed on those Catholics amongst them who failed to attend divine service on Sundays and feast days. This punishment cannot be very extensive as we have no prison police, but forfeiting their soup will be enough to hold all these Gentlemen to their obligation.
Letter to his father, 19 January 1807, EO XIV n 21
Eugene certainly needed the grace of an encounter with the meaning of the mercy and compassion of the Crucified Savior!
“A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron.” Horace Mann