The enterprise is difficult, I am not concealing that fact from myself, it is not without danger even since I am proposing nothing less than to oppose with all my power the sinister ways of a highly suspicious government which persecutes and destroys all who do not support it; but I am unafraid, for I place all my trust in God, because I seek only His glory and the salvation of the souls he has redeemed by His Son Our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom alone be honour and glory and power for ever and ever.

Diary of the Aix Christian Youth Congregation, 25 April 1813, O.W. XVI,

To help us to touch something of what Eugene is referring to, here are two extracts from the Imperial Catechism that Napoleon had published in 1806.

Question: What are the duties of Christians toward those who govern them, and what in particular are our duties towards Napoleon I, our emperor?
Answer: Christians owe to the princes who govern them, and we in particular owe to Napoleon I, our Emperor, love, respect, obedience, fidelity, military service, and the taxes levied for the preservation and defence of the empire and of his throne. We also owe him fervent prayers for his safety and for the spiritual and temporal prosperity of the state.

Question: Why are we subject to all these duties toward our emperor?
Answer: First, because God, who has created empires and distributes them according to his will, has, by loading our emperor with gifts both in peace and in war, established him as our sovereign and made him the agent of his power and his image upon earth. To honour and serve our emperor is therefore to honour and serve God himself. Secondly, because our Lord Jesus Christ himself, both by his teaching and his example, has taught us what we owe to our sovereign. Even at his very birth he obeyed the edict of Caesar Augustus; he paid the established tax; and while he commanded us to render to God those things which belong to God, he also commanded us to render unto Caesar those things which are Caesar’s. ( )

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    How many small empires have I tried to create in the past? How might I have tried to convince myself or anyone else that God was responsible for those little messes?

    That God has established a man to be sovereign and made him the agent of his power and image…to honour and serve (the emperor in this case) is to honour and serve God himself. Clever wording…disgusting but clever. And that some in the Church would help write this and make it into a ‘catechism’ – that would lend authority and approval to it. To the many who were not educated it would be sold as a truth, and to those of learning it could be an excuse or cause to guard their words and actions very carefully. A threat. An abomination and I wonder how many people saw it coming.

    We have seen this throughout history and in many ways it still exists in the world. Peoples are still being robbed (or perhaps they have handed it over) of their inherent humanity, of their dignity. I think of one of the things I first heard that Eugene had said and I copy it here from the Preface to the Constitutions and Rules: “We must lead men to act like human beings, first of all, and then like Christians, and , finally, we must help them to become saints.” I thrilled when I heard this because it expressed where God had carried me and my secret desire to become a saint. The Holy Spirit speaking through many. But is with St. Eugene, the Oblates and indeed the entire Mazenodian Family that I have to realise and recognize how I am called to be. There is no power or dominance in Eugene’s words, but rather I see them as being full of love and service.

    It was perhaps in reaction and response to the dangers posed in the text above that Eugene came eventually to put into words what he had been living. I think of the many ways that Napoleon’s behaviour and way of thinking is occurring in and around the world today. How am I called to be in light of this morning’s post? What does this look like in the ordinary of my life?

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