An invitation to reflect on witnessing the sufferings of those close to us.

The Oblates in the four communities were not impassive onlookers. Like Eugene they had suffered the pain and death of Marius Suzanne, the suffering and near-death of Hippolyte Courtès, and now they helplessly looked on as Eugene himself began to struggle between life and death.

The biographer Rey takes up the story:

“Those of the House of Aix, witnessing the progress of the illness, never ceased to address to God the most ardent prayers for the healing of their beloved Father.

In Marseilles, when the seriousness of the Superior General’s health was known, their pain was no less lively. At this serious news, some wept in a heart-rending manner, others went to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Several, like three of them had done for Father Suzanne, offered their lives in the place of their beloved Founder. All offered wishes of the most filial piety. They asked permission to expose the Blessed Sacrament in the interior chapel for eight days, to implore the divine mercy so necessary to the tiny Society.

They did not confine themselves only to this; they vowed to go as a community to Notre Dame de la Garde, walking barefoot from the bottom of the hill, and they fulfilled the vow on that same day. They resolved to fast every Wednesday for a whole year. Other penances and exercises of piety were also practiced, each according to the movement of his fervor.

…Nonetheless, it was believed for a few days that these ardent supplications had been granted, and that the imminent danger had passed. They rejoiced and applauded the Founder, who, in the opinion of the doctors, regarded himself as freed from his violent illness.”

Rey I p. 469

As we will see, it was to be a temporary respite for Eugene’s health, and more serious illness was to follow. Looking at the reactions of the young Oblates touches a chord for us. How often, when faced with the sufferings of someone we love, have we offered so much to God in exchange for a favor or grace for that person? There is something beautiful and powerful in these acts of oblation for others.


“The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.”    Mahatma Gandhi


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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Never it would seem have I loved another so much that I committed to doing what those men did. I can remember making promises to God but they were really more in the way of making deals than truly giving of myself – ‘if you do this for me – I will do that for you’ sort of thing. There have been some in my life who I have loved greatly and with some of them I ‘ran’ from their dying – I was not able to deal with death. There were a few that I asked God to simply take them, to deliver them from their suffering – I prayed for them, hard and often, but I did not pray in a public way, nor did I make promises (perhaps because I had spent years of my life making promises that were empty).

    Most recently (in the past ten years) there were two people that I loved dearly and who died. I walked with them on their journey – not always a comfortable way to be with people but I did it and I am grateful for the opportunity and graces that each afforded me in doing that. Of those two there was one that I loved greatly – a good man, a loving man, he did not ‘found’ anything and in some ways was quite unremarkable and ordinary, but in all of that he was actually quite extraordinary. He loved greatly. He was for quite a while in terrible pain and I did a few times ask God if I could not carry that pain for him – I did offer myself to do that with a little fear that God might listen. God did not respond in the way that I asked but he did respond. I would go often to sit with my friend and listen. Then for a time all that I could do was to go and sit and be with him, pray for and with him. I would hold the rosary that he loved to pray in his hand so that he could hold it and I would pray the words aloud that he could no longer give a voice to. And after a time I would simply sit with him, sometimes talking, sometimes praying and sometimes simply being there. And when the time came I gave him to Our Lady, I said my own goodbye and let him go. It did not ease my sorrow nor did it ease his pain. Perhaps it helped him in that he was not alone.

    It might have started out being about me because I loved him so dearly, but over the days, weeks and months it became about him. And while I never wanted to lose him, never wanted for him to die I did not ask God to not take him. It did give me the opportunity, the grace and strength to witness the sufferings of one who I loved dearly and I am oddly grateful for that.

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