In recent centuries there was the tendency to separate a person’s “spiritual life” from “daily life in the real world.” Spiritual referred to all that was of God, and material referred to all that was the world. So, in popular thought, we had the spiritual beings who had chosen the more “perfect” way (religious sisters and brothers and priests) and the rest of humanity who had to slog it out in the world. Vatican II corrected that imbalance by teaching the universal call to holiness without categories and grades of perfection. Consecrated religious, in many cases, were actually more involved with the transformation of the world than many others “in the world.”
Eugene, while being a part of and using the categories of his century, understood very clearly that holiness, the spiritual life and daily life were in no way divorced from each other. His conversion from self-focus to God-focus led him to look at everyone and everything and every action through the eyes of the Crucified Savior he had encountered on Good Friday.
You, you alone will be the sole object to which will tend all my affections and my every action…. I wish to love you alone and all else in you and through you.
Notes made during the retreat in preparation for priestly ordination
December 1-21, O.W. XIV n.95
Eugene aimed to live his life in a constant awareness of the presence of God. He refers to this goal often in his writings, and the many results in action produced through his ministry as priest, as founder of a missionary congregation and as Bishop of Marseille bear eloquent witness that in his life and actions there was no separation between spiritual life and worldly life.
An example from his later life. In a pastoral letter to his diocese, looking back on ten years of ministry as Bishop of Marseille, he wrote:
This faith, which was believed dead or dying, has awoken livelier, more active, more fruitful than in the days that preceded so many violent attacks. She has been sharpened, renewed as a result of persecution, and she now once again takes her place in the world through charity …
Marvel at how these good works are multiplying.
He then gives an impressive list of the achievements for the poor and most abandoned in the city and concludes:
… All kinds of good works are being generated in the name of Jesus Christ
Pastoral Letter of 7 February 1847, Marseille
An impressive result of seeing the world through the eyes of the Crucified Savior and putting it into practice.
Christian spirituality is the daily, communal, lived expression of one’s ultimate beliefs, characterized by openness to the self- transcending love of God, self, neighbor, and world through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Elizabeth Dreyer