EUGENE AND THE HISTORY OF FRANCE: THE HOLY FATHER WEPT AS HE KEPT WATCHING THEM, AND BLESSING THEM

We have seen that when the Pope had been released, the people of Aix had expressly disobeyed Napoleon’s orders and flocked to greet the Holy Father as he passed by their city. Eugene was one of them. It was a dangerous gesture, in time of persecution, and hence Eugene gave himself a different identity in the letter and passed himself off as a woman who was writing.

The narrative is quite long, but expresses the excitement of the first time that Eugene had any contact with the Pope:

I am feeling well, apart from a sore on my heel, which I developed while escorting the carriage of the Holy Father. I was holding on to the door which, as you know, is very close to the wheel; but, that’s only a minor thing. I was only too happy to be able to hold on to that spot for such a long time, in spite of the inconvenience.
On Monday, the 7th, at 8 o’clock in the morning, we were alerted that the Holy Father would arrive at noon. The rumor spread like wildfire and immediately all shops closed down. In spite of the wind which was acting like an enraged schismatic that day, everyone ran out to meet him. Not only did big fat women like ourselves brave the wind; even the youngest and frailest little misses ran pell-mell with the rest of the population out beyond the city limits where the Holy Father was expected to pass.
Those who had given the orders that he was not to make any stops or even pass through any city if it were possible to avoid it, evidently failed to realize that the inhabitants knew how to get out of the city. The fact remains that only the dying remained behind.
As soon as the Holy Father appeared, a great shout went up from all sides: “Long live the Pope; Long live the Saintly Pope!” They took hold of the bridle, stopped the carriage and then practically carried both the carriage and the horses. It was an immense crowd and yet it wasn’t an unruly one. The joy, love, and respect expressed with all the warmth typical of Southern temperaments were so clearly portrayed on all faces that the Holy Father wept as he kept watching them, and blessing them.
I cut through the crowd until I reached the door of the carriage and I remained there until the horses were changed at a station outside the city. My old crony, the one you met at Grenoble, was with me. She lost her shoe and both of us lost our bonnets in the shuffle. We didn’t get them back until after we returned home. What a picture that carriage made, bearing the most precious person in the world and moving along through fifteen or twenty thousand people who kept shouting words of affection that would have touched the heart of any good father. It was positively thrilling.

Letter to Madame Ginod, 10 February 1814 (Paris, Arch, de la Sainte-Enfance). Forbin-Janson papers.

This Mme. Ginod was evidently a fictitious addressee, used as a cover up for his friend, Forbin-Janson.

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2 Responses to EUGENE AND THE HISTORY OF FRANCE: THE HOLY FATHER WEPT AS HE KEPT WATCHING THEM, AND BLESSING THEM

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    This release by Napoleon and is forces turned out to be a gift both to the Pope and to Eugene and the many people he met along the way returning to Rome. To be a part of such a celebration!

    I think of that crowd, escorting the Pope, clearly there were thousands who were filled with joy, love and I dare to say thanksgiving that their Pope was now free. I wonder how many were there because they had been ‘dragged’ by a friend but whose hearts were touched? And then to see how their Pope responded to such love with tears (of love and gratitude) and all that he could do was to bless the them.

    I want to laugh as I picture Eugene holding on to the side of that carriage. Of course he would not be one of those simply standing and waving. He was passionate, he was zealous and he was going to celebrate the Pope. Its funny but I think of Palm Sunday that is coming up and of the great number of people who greeted Jesus with shouts of praise and joy – with their hosannas and the waving of palms. A different setting from that of the Pope and Eugene. But I am sure that Jesus did not pass through those crowds with a stoic and stiff heart. He knew what was before him even if he did not know the fine details and yet I am sure he kept blessing those people.

    How many times in my life have I not celebrated those around me? How have I celebrated the return of and seeing and being with those that I love? I think for a moment of seeing Pope Francis as he came out after he accepted to be our Pope. His quiet humility and his obvious love for us all touched me greatly. I think too of seeing my dear friend Germaine return to church after an illness and how I stop what I am doing to run and greet her. These are the blessings that we give to and receive from in our daily lives, they help to sustain us and become touchstones in our lives, we draw on them in moments of struggle and pain.

    Thank you Frank for sharing this with us today. It is a wonderful gift to begin my day with.

  2. Patrick M McGee, OMI says:

    Creative fellow, I’d say!

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