Why did the sight of the cross became the life-long focus and starting point of Eugene’s spirituality – and the spirituality of all who are part of the Mazenodian charism? Why did it make such an impact? Because it was a manifestation of transforming love:
Blessed, a thousand times blessed, that he, this good Father, notwithstanding my unworthiness, lavished on me all the richness of his mercy.
Retreat Journal, December 1814, O.W. XV n.130
It changed Eugene because it was a confirmation of God’s love for him. Looking at the cross he became aware of being in God’s embrace, as God lavished all the richness of mercy on him. Eugene’s life would henceforth be a focused response of love to this lavish God. He was transformed into a lover – in the same way as, in the history of spirituality, countless persons have been transformed by the realization of God’s love for them.
Joseph LaBelle, in his scholarly study of Eugene, summarizes how God became a loving master whom Eugene would give his life to in loving response:
“An important point to note in Eugene’s perception of Jesus was that it was largely informed through his personal experience of the Son of God, inflaming him to expressions of love and gratitude. His language betrays a closeness to the Savior; such a relationship incited him to grow in his love for Jesus, and to love what He loved.” T. LaBelle, “TRULY APOSTOLIC MEN. Apostolic Life in the Early Ministry of Saint Eugene de Mazenod”, in Oblatio Studia 3, Missionarii OMI, Roma 2014, p. 33.
“Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible – it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.” B. de Angelis