Eugene’s idyllic childhood world was swept away by the French Revolution in 1789. After his father opposed the revolution, the entire family was obliged to flee into exile in Italy. In 1790, a new painful period began for Eugene.

These were years of family instability, material scarcity and danger. The family was forced to flee successively to Turin, Venice, Naples and Palermo.

Eugene’s adolescence was impoverished. Deprived of friends of his own age, unable to continue an orderly academic program, he was also separated from his mother who divorced her husband in order to return and reclaim family property in France.

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As I wrote in the Wikipedia article:

Eugene became a boarder at the College of Nobles in Turin (Piedmont), but a move to Venice meant the end to formal schooling.[1] With their money running out, Eugene’s father was forced to seek various employments, none of which were successful. His mother and sister returned to France – eventually seeking a divorce so as to be able to regain their property that had been seized. Eugene was fortunate to be welcomed by the Zinelli family in Venice. One of their sons, the priest Bartolo Zinelli, took special care of Eugene and saw to his education in the well-provided family library where the young adolescent spent many hours each day. Don Bartolo was a major influence in the human, academic and spiritual development of Eugene.

Once again the French army chased the émigrés from Venice, forcing Eugene and his father and two uncles to seek refuge in Naples for less than a year, and finally to flee to Palermo in Sicily. Here Eugene was invited to become part of the household of the Duke and Duchess of Cannizaro as a companion to their two sons. Being part of the high society of Sicily became the opportunity for Eugene to rediscover his noble origins and to live a lavish style of life. He took to himself the title of ‘Comte’ (“Count”) de Mazenod, did all the courtly things, and dreamed of a bright future.ène_de_Mazenod

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    It would seem that God is ‘planting the seed’ in Eugene’s at this time in his life.

    In my heart there have been times when I laughed at Eugene such as when he started to call himself “Count”. Looking this morning I see when I too have put on ‘airs’ perhaps not so blatantly as Eugene did but there was not real difference – I have wanted to recreate myself a couple of times in my life and so this morning I think of who were the Zinellis and Cannizaros in my life? What did I do or take on in my life in order to cope and to feel good about myself? What seeds were planted within me?

    I ask myself why I am coming here these mornings for it is not always comfortable and does not really make me feel ‘good’ about myself. It is Lent and in the desert there are not a lot of things to hide behind.

    Another picture comes to mind of a tree sprouting out of the rocks on the face of a cliff that greets an ocean. It appears strong and alive with needles that are a deep green. It has to have been buffeted by the winds and washed with the salt from the sea far below. It’s roots must have struggled hard to plant themselves and grow around rocks searching for nourishment. But there it stands, like a beacon to those birds coming across the seas, as a shelter for them to escape the storms with their needles giving nourishment.

    One name comes to mind – Kay Cronin, HOMI – the seeds she planted. She was without a doubt the Bartolo Zinelli in my life.

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