Why did Eugene become a priest?
The second motivation is that, through the eyes of the crucified Savior he was able to understand the suffering of the Church in France, nearly having been destroyed by the Revolution, and now persecuted by Napoleon. This gave him the strong impetus to respond with the gift of his life as a priest. As he wrote to his father:
I devoted myself to the Church because she was suffering persecution, was abandoned…
seeing us heading rapidly towards a schism that I believed was inevitable, I feared it would find but few generous souls with the capacity to sacrifice their comfort and even their lives to preserve the integrity of the faith, and because it seemed to me that God would give me strength enough to dare to brave all these dangers.
I was so persuaded that it would not be long before we experienced a cruel persecution, that on leaving for the Paris seminary I packed a complete set of lay clothes with the idea that I would have to use them as a priest.
Letter to his father, 7 December 1814, EO XV n. 129
To his mother he repeated the same motivation for his priesthood:
So do not grudge, dear mama, do not grudge this poor Church, so terribly abandoned, scorned, trampled underfoot – but which even so was the one who gave birth to us all in Jesus Christ – the dedication that two or three individuals out of the whole of France (a small number I count myself happy to be one of) wish to pay her of their liberty and life. And what reason could you possibly have for wanting me to delay any longer from committing myself, and devoting myself to the Spouse of Jesus Christ?”
Letter to his mother, 11 October 1809, EO XIV n.61
Today, we continue to experience a Church openly persecuted and abandoned in many parts of the world. And in our own country and environment – where is the Church being openly or subtly persecuted and abandoned? And my reaction? What can I learn from Eugene?
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master, or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.” Martin Luther King, Jr.