The recent extracts from Eugene’s writings dealt with bringing together the missionaries necessary for his project. During this time he was being kept busy with the material concerns of the building that he had just bought. He was exhausted in his running around, but clearly it was his “dream” that gave him the courage to keep going.
He touches here with a problem that was affecting many in France. The Revolution of 1789 had confiscated many of the properties of the church and the nobility. They had declared them national assets and subsequently sold them to private individuals. After the Revolution some of the original owners wanted their confiscated property returned to them- but the problem was that the actual owners had paid for the property.
Now Eugene himself is faced with the same problem: the church is in a dilapidated state and needs a considerable sum of money spent on it – but what if the Carmelites come and claim it after he has spent all this on it? Fortunately for him, the Carmelites never came to claim it, and today it is our Church of the Mission!
I am in a state of desperation. Never has anything given me more trouble than this undertaking. Every moment some new difficulty crops up; it is the death of me.
How shall we manage without the church? It is all right for you to say it would be fair to let the Carmelites reclaim it. Who will provide them the money to pay for it?
The present occupant, who is yielding her tenancy to me, has never put in a claim to have the structure repaired. The whole roof is dilapidated. The estimate I have obtained for urgent repairs increases the price to seventeen (thousand) and several hundred francs. The estimate will be sent to Paris and certainly the bureaucrats will shy away from it when it comes up for approval. In the meantime, can I take it upon myself to make considerable expenditures without knowing if the building will be ours? In the state in which it is, it can be of no use to us; it rains as much inside as it does in the street…
Here is what M. Guigou [ed. Diocesan Vicar] proposes: his idea is to ask for the church in order to put it at the service of the people and then hand it over to us afterwards. I do not see why this would be unjust. The Carmelites are presently with the Fathers of the Oratory. Three parochial churches of the city belong to religious orders. The Incurables and Blessed Sacrament nuns occupy the houses and churches of two other religious Orders. Why should we also not have charge of the Carmelite church?
Letter to Forbin Janson, 24 October 1815, O.W. VI n.5
It was a practical problem that the Missionaries came across frequently when they were in the countryside preaching missions. Eugene’s own experience gave him a sensitivity to what other people were going through and he tried to help them. We read that as a practical aspect of their mission preaching they set up boards of reconciliation to try to solve the problem between all the parties concerned. They preached the Gospel in word and in action.