Eugene’s birthday found him in the somber mood of the reflection of one who is limited during recovery from serious illness and feels frustrated.
1830 marks the beginning of a very difficult phase in Eugene’s life. It was a dark night which was to last for several years and from which he emerged as a wiser figure who had grown much.
As you look at the date on this letter, you will recall my dear friend that I enter today into my forty-ninth year. I was busy yesterday, the whole day, with the thoughts that the circumstance of the end of my forty-eighth year brought to mind. I have groaned, as you can imagine, over a quantity of miseries; I thanked God for many graces, but I was saddened – and it is here that I have been wrong – to find in my life, as a whole, a field greater than that which I have walked on; I meant that it seems to me I have not really fulfilled my course. Is it my fault? Is it a question of time?
Looking back on his life, he is conscious of not having achieved all that he could have. He asked himself whether this was his own fault or had he been a victim of circumstances.
The director to whom I confided these regrets seemed persuaded that it is the fault of the times and the misfortune of circumstances. I then complained in a way to God for having given me more thoughts, more desires, more means, more will than physical strength.
Ruminating about what he could have achieved had he not had these obstacles, he wishes he had been born under different circumstances.
If, to be just, I agreed to admit to myself that I had habitually profited enough from the situations in which I have found myself to act, even with some courage, in the midst of obstacles of every kind, I felt rather annoyed in a way at not having been placed in another time, or in some other position where I could have discharged all the energy that was in me, and which fades because it is not used.
Letter to Henri Tempier, 1 August 1830, EO VII n 351
Let us remember that he is convalescing as he writes to Father Tempier, his confidant and confessor, and so he reflects his intimate thoughts and questions out loud as he writes. We witness a rare glimpse into the frustration of one who was used to being a man of action and constant activity and, who was now, incapacitated.