Why did Eugene become a priest?
As we have seen, a second motivation in his decision was his wish to respond to the suffering of the Church. It was not a “feel-good” motivation, but one that came as a result of his “Good Friday experience” which was in ongoing communion with the original Good Friday at Calvary:
The Church, that glorious inheritance purchased by Christ the Savior at the cost of his own blood, has in our days been cruelly ravaged.
It was a Church which he understood as being a “great family”:
The idea that I am a member of that great family of which God himself is Head… seems to instantly make my soul surge, with an intensity that is difficult to express.
Notebook, May 1804, EO XIV n 7
The intensity of living “this marvelous communion” led him to experience its pain when some of its members suffered:
all the members of the mystical body of which Jesus Christ is head, the caput, feel and participate in the sufferings as well as the victory that each member suffers or wins.
Letter to Emmanuel Gaultier de Claubry, 23 December 1807, EO XIV n 22
Decades later he recalled:
During my seminary days, I had the thought of making myself as useful as possible to the Church, our Mother, for whom the Lord had given me the grace always to have a filial love. The destitution in which I saw her had been one of the deciding motives for my embracing the priestly state. I had recognized this vocation from my adolescence, but could not follow it then, due to the events of the dreadful Revolution, which forced my family to transfer unexpectedly from one country to another during the entire course of our emigration, which lasted ten years in my case. After I had returned to France, I was pained to the depths of my soul in seeing the service of the altar despised…
I thought I would be able to postpone further to respond to the appeal of grace, and, whatever the obstacles I encountered in my family, and the distress of my flesh and blood that made me feel so keenly the pain I caused to the people I loved most in this world, I tore myself from their tenderness and I left for the seminary of Saint Sulpice, convinced that it was time to sacrifice myself for the faith.
Mémoires, quoted in Rambert I p 47
As Bishop of Marseille, he would often invite his people to solidarity with the other members of the Body of Christ who were suffering and in need. Today we are constantly bombarded with news and images of our fellow-Christians in need. What effect does this have on us?
“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” Henry David Thoreau