I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN EXCEPTIONALLY FRANK

I continue to reflect on Eugene’s self-evaluation for his spiritual director on entering the seminary. Today I find more revealing than the text that he presented, the lines scratched out in his rough copy of the document (underlined here):

I have always been exceptionally frank, and this makes me steer clear of using any kind of flattering compliments that would in any way at all call my sincerity into question. Out in the world, people got used to accepting me as I am.
I must be on my guard against making rash judgments, for I have a strong propensity to pass judgment on all and sundry; led to do this by a certain talent I have had since I was a child to judge with.
I have never been able to be content with explaining people’s actions on the basis of their intention, for it is my practice to pick up various small aspects of an action which escape the notice of most people, and which give me a well-nigh infallible clue to the person’s intention. I am hardly ever mistaken in this. So I am not very trusting, and attach little weight to the protestations of friendship and esteem of three quarters of the people who would have me believe they are fond of me.
My experience has given me confidence that my judgment is rarely wide off the mark, and I have to be very careful not to speak my mind when there is no need.

Self-evaluation written for his spiritual director in 1808, O.W. XIV n. 30

The quality of being quick to judge is clear in many of his writings throughout his life, particularly if the person’s actions or attitudes were not in keeping with the values and ideals that Eugene expected from that person’s state of life. This attiitude of frankness caused him to have enemies, particularly in Marseille when he was Vicar General of his uncle and had to be the “hatchet man” to deal with problems in the diocese, or problems with civil government authorities.

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One Response to I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN EXCEPTIONALLY FRANK

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I have decided to continue with my daily reflections with Eugene – it matters not the day this was written for, or even the early period of Eugene’s life; I will use these as a guide to look at where I stand right now.

    “I have never been able to be content with explaining people’s actions on the basis of their intention, for it is my practice to pick up various small aspects of an action which escape the notice of most people, and which give me a well-nigh infallible clue to the person’s intention. I am hardly ever mistaken in this. So I am not very trusting…”

    Eugene you could so easily be describing me – in the past and even now. God gave me this incredible gift of being able to recognize myself in others, however how I saw myself was not the truth but rather a lie that had been forced upon and into me. And as I grew up I ‘tested’ everyone and trusted none.

    But perhaps one of the greatest gifts that I have learned from you is to be able to realise is not so much the frankness, but the way in which it is delivered.

    With you, and all who God puts in my midst I am learning to be frank – in a most loving way. I have always noted that when you wrote to your sons and others that you would be frank and that you always wrapped it in a tender love – making it safe for another to listen and take in your advice.

    With love, with respect, acting out of tenderness rather than blame and condemnation we gather the other to us so as to walk together. There is no secret shame for either just our recognized woundedness and humanity and our shared experience of being loved.

    It is in this way that you lead me to act like a human being, first of all, and then like a Christian, and, finally, to help me to become a saint. And I – well I am learning to share and help others I meet to do the same thing.

    Dearest Eugene – look at where your invitation to walk with you has brought me to so has to allow me to love and learn and let go of the poverty of hardness and shame that you must have been able to see within me. I can do no less – with myself and with the others I meet. Look and see what God has ordained as we journey together this Advent. My tears this morning are not tears of sorrow, but rather those of immense and unending gratitude.

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