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.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I have a friend who refers to all things spiritual and of the Church in business terms only; who will not speak of or use the word retreat but says it is a conference or a workshop – the spirit of it is in this way dropped. Gatherings are called meetings and sharing should not be asked for or allowed – that is not business-like. The word God is seldom if ever used or spoken and religious congregations are referred to as ‘corporations’. There can be a great emphasis on how much money is brought in, the cost of ‘doing business’ and works that are done are deemed good and humane. But for me it seems as if God has been taken out of the equation. I hate the word ‘secular’ because it creates divisions, walls and boundaries and becomes (for me at least) a way excluding and creating differences that are not real. But I use it here for it is the only word that comes to mind. My friend seems only to want to deal with and live in a secular world. That which is most important to me – God and spirituality have been eliminated from the language and more ‘acceptable terms’ are used. It is all here and now. Is this a subtle form of persecution? For it affects me and hurts me in a way. It is a denial of that which is most important and alive within me, a part of my deepest self. It saddens me immensely.

    What is my reaction you ask? Well it is not a life so lofty as the one chosen by Eugene, or rather chosen for Eugene. But I wear my little Oblate cross – not as a decoration but rather a sign of who I am, a sign of a way of being and of who I walk with. I wear it as a sign of my commitment and a sign of my love. For me all revolves around the Cross and so it is with endearment that I look at it, touch it, kiss it. It too has become a part of me. Like Eugene I did not start out with an ‘Oblate’ heart. Eugene became a priest, just as I re-entered the Church and began to become a member of a very large community of human-kind.

    It was Eugene who invited me to walk with him, to share in his spirit. I see most often the poor in my parish, those who hunger for more but they do not know what or if it is possible. I see the poverty which is in many of us and so I walk with and feed, nourish. I serve those who would serve, in all the little and unseen ways.

    And the best part is that in coming here each day I learn a tremendous amount from Eugene, and from Frank and from all that share this space. It is here that I learn to look at myself, at God and how that has come together in a life that continues to amaze and give wonder and awe. I get to walk with Eugene as a part of my life, with his sons and daughters who I serve in many small ways.

    I alter ever so slightly what Eugene wrote to his mother. “And what reason could [anyone] possibly have for wanting me to delay any longer from committing myself, and devoting myself to the Spouse of Jesus Christ as a lay woman, an Oblate Associate, as a daughter of Eugene?”

    Did you know that this time during Advent is for me a time of deepening discernment over renewing my commitment as an Oblate Associate for another year on February 17? Look at how I am led, and who I walk with! I am most grateful. God works in such wondrous ways.

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