An invitation to reflect with St. Eugene: who are the people I carry in my heart?

From mid-November 1828, we find Eugene’s life focused on the dangerous illnesses of two young Oblates who were especially close to him, whom he referred to as the “pupils of his eye.”

“I insist you to take care of yourself for two blows of this kind would make me lose either my mind or my life.”  

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 18 November 1828, EO VII n 315

To grasp the pain and depth of his suffering we need to understand who these two were for him.

suzanne2Father Marie-Jacques Antoine (known as Marius) Suzanne (1799 – 1829) met Eugene in Fuveau, at the second parish mission given by the Missionaries after our foundation. The 17-year-old was a minor seminarian, and was so struck by these men that he applied to join and was admitted to the community a month later. He began his novitiate in January 1817. Yvon Beaudoin writes:

Father Suzanne was a likable individual and was well loved. Bishop Jeancard wrote that Father Suzanne had “an open and gracious personality. His was a heart filled with affection with a genuine zeal for God’s house”… The Founder became immediately attached to this young man brimming with talents and virtue, endowed with an affectionate nature and a fiery temperament like his own…

Father Rey, who lived for some ten years with the Superior General, comments: “Father Suzanne was his favourite son. Godly, good-hearted, affectionate, intelligent, courageous, everyone considered that Father Suzanne was the spitting image of Father de Mazenod. An apostle like Father de Mazenod, consumed with zeal, he radiated great power from the pulpit and showed great wisdom in the confessional. His successes in preaching parish missions were consistent, without exception and irresistible … (http://www.omiworld.org/en/dictionary/historical-dictionary_vol-1_s/993/suzanne-marius/)

courtesEugene had known Father Jean Joseph Hippolyte Courtès (1798-1863) when he had joined the youth congregation as a teenager. Experiencing the life and example of the Missionaries in Aix, the 19 year-old Hippolyte asked to join them and became a novice in 1817. He was to remain one of Eugene’s closest advisors and friends throughout his life. (cf. http://www.omiworld.org/en/dictionary/historical-dictionary_vol-1_c/681/court-s-jean-joseph-hippolyte/)

While Marius Suzanne was suffering during his last weeks of life, Eugene often confided in Hippolyte Courtès:

I have had prayers said here so that the good God will preserve for us this beloved brother …. It will cost me my life to love you as I do.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 15 November 1828, EO VII n 314


“It is not flesh and blood, but heart which makes us fathers and sons.”   Friedrich Schiller

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I have spent the better part of my time here this morning looking at the faces of those I carry in my heart. I have recognized what my heart looks like as it builds relationships of love. It can be excruciating but also the base of immense joy. I looked up the spelling of excruciating and there it was – another word formed from the latin word crux, cruc – a cross. Death. Eugene writing to Hippolyte that loving him while at the same time suffering because of what Marius Suzanne was going through said yes to love. I think of Jesus who loved – he loved so much that he said yes to death – on the cross the most cruel and humiliating death there could be – knowing that he did not deserve it at all but standing firm in it – making the decision to go through with it. Just as did Eugene when he gave his heart without question to love, deeply, fully, without holding back.

    Who do I carry in my heart? Who would ever think that a heart could be so big as to carry so many. The faces change and some move to the front but they never leave – even with death they don’t leave and yet there is room for more. There is one who I will call Joy – she has an under-formed body and is able to communicate mostly with her eyes. She loves with her being – Joy. There are some who it has been a struggle to love because of personality clashes, and perhaps because they are so alike myself. There are those that I learn to love, with a heart that grows as I get to know them better. There are those who invite and form, teach and guide and I have nothing to offer them save for myself and my heart. And there are those who I will give my whole being to. Imagine to be loved for your being; not what you do but for your being. That is how God loves, how Jesus loves. Imagine to be loved not for what you do or can do but just because you are. Immense hearts, immense love.

    Sometimes the relationships are of the heart and they are quiet and not spoken of much. But they are deep and they are what carry us. Whose face shall I see today? What relationships will my heart grow if I let it?

  2. Peg Hanafin says:

    Lovely reading. Thank you Fr Frank.

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