The sight of the cross, of the God who gave everything for Eugene – to the last drop of blood – evoked a corresponding response of generosity from Eugene. Like Jesus, he understood on Good Friday that he was “to act in everything and for everything only for God, to love God above all else.” It was more than a short-lived emotional reaction, it was a response of total enduring giving:
O my God, don’t I have every reason to devote myself entirely to your service, to offer you my life and all that I am, so that all that is in me may be employed and spent for your glory?
Retreat notes before his ordination, December 1811, O.W. XIV n.95
How could he devote himself totally to the service of the Savior? Focusing on the cross led to discernment as to the most effective and lasting way to respond. How could Eugene express his desire for oblation? A prolonged and deep process of discernment was begun. He described this period when “I prayed, got prayers said, consulted, ruminated” to his mother two years later:
When I was being urged more strongly than ever by grace to give myself entirely to God’s service, I did not want to do anything rash and you must have seen that I began to move out of that state of tepidity into which I had fallen and which would infallibly have led to my death, I tried by a much greater fervor to merit new graces from the Lord and as this good Master is generous, he did not fail to grant them to me.
I prayed, got prayers said, consulted, I ruminated in this way for a year over the design Providence inspired me with; finally, as the time drew near when I must make up my mind, before making a final decision and so as never to have to reproach myself with not having employed every possible means of knowing God’s will, not content with having consulted at Paris one of the best directors existing in the world, in whose hands I am at present.
I went to Marseilles for the express purpose of baring my soul to a saintly and experienced man, I had several sessions of several hours with that angel of peace, after which I could no longer have any doubt that God wanted me in the clerical state, towards which, notwithstanding the circumstances and perhaps because of the circumstances, he was giving me a definite attraction, it is to this holy priest that I wrote in detail, laying bare my soul to him.
Letter to his mother, 23-24 March 1809, EO XIV n 49:
It is impossible to focus on the cross and remain unchanged. When we become aware of the Savior’s look we are impelled to take it seriously and to discern an appropriate response. This is not the exclusive prerogative of religious and priests – it is an invitation to every baptized person as Pope Francis points out in inviting us to reflect on the moments in our lives when we became aware that: “his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me…. This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia. It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth.”
“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust