However, the Founder believing that he had reached the end of his life, had taken all the measures dictated by the circumstances of the moment. He had made his will, recalled the prescriptions of the Rule concerning the election of his successor, spoke with Fr. Tempier about the novitiate, the scholasticate and the juniorists. He anticipated nothing more than the moment of death, with the calm and serenity of a predestined soul.

But the hour of Providence had not yet struck. On the 16th of June, the attacks of suffocation did not recur and the fever began to diminish. A few days later the time of convalescence began without the Founder having to weep over the death of any of the many victims who had offered their lives to obtain his cure. God was satisfied with their goodwill and with the admirable submission of his devout servant.”

Rey 1 p. 471

 Six weeks later he referred to the newspaper reports that had mistakenly announced his death:

Although the newspapers have me dead, I still have enough life left in me…
Shall I mention my health? it has suffered a tough shock from two consecutive and very severe illnesses that brought me to death’s door. God in his goodness yielded to the innumerable prayers both private and public that were said for me and left me on earth. Pray, my respected and very dear friend, that it may result in my sanctification.

Letter to M. Antoine Garnier, superior general of St. Sulpice, 26 July 1829, EO XV n. 160

This was the second of Eugene’s touching-death experiences. The first had been in 1814 when he had caught typhus from the Austrian prisoners. When one emerges from a brush with death, everything seems different and is seen with new eyes. In 1814 his recuperation focused him on seeing the defeat of Napoleon and the restoration of the monarchy as an invitation to a religious response: the possibility of founding the Missionaries. Now, 15 years later, he was being invited to focus with new eyes on another political situation: the anti-religious sentiment in the country that would lead to the 1830 Revolution and a time of deep suffering for Eugene.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I keep thinking to what is ahead of Eugene – he did not know it but we do. Here is a man who has almost died and by all accounts he was ready for that – he surrendered himself greatly – all in preparation for what was to come? Most certainly he did not take anything for granted as noted in his letter to M Antoine Garnier: “Pray, my respected and very dear friend, that it may result in my sanctification.” We know that it did.

    That time that he was dying was physical, his body was dying. I think of the time ahead for him when his spirit, would be experience death over the course of five years. After which he would again see differently the world before him and his role in it all. His heart would again expand and grow even more.

    I look at myself and readily admit that I have not been close to death in the way that Eugene was but a friend that I know has been very close to death a while back. I did not know him before that but I do know how deeply he loves others now – how open he is to others. He continues to say ‘yes’ to God and live his oblation over and over again. I think of my own small deaths along the way in my life – they seemed so huge at the time and how I saw things a little differently after them. My heart became more open, softer after each of those experiences.

    One word comes to mind; ‘perseverance’. It is or can become a grace.

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