His reflection on the ideals, fiery zeal and soaring achievements of the first groups of Jesuits led Eugene to a feeling of despondency when he compared some of the first groups of Oblates to them. He had been particularly disappointed in the past few years with the quality of the men who came to join, and their ability to persevere in difficulties and strictly follow the Rule of Life.
Can we look around us and see anything similar? We have to labor at training a few children who are mostly incapable of conceiving the great ideals which would raise them above their situation.
Not one of them has anything to give of his own, a stone to bring to the edifice that must be built by concerted effort. Wretched are these times and detestable is the influence of this age on minds!
He bemoaned their lack of responsiveness and how they remained cold and feeble despite all that was done to fire them up.
If any of them can produce anything, it is contrariwise and, instead of a soaring achievement attained by the acting in community of several wills intent on the same goal, we have to watch the dampening and deadening of all the impulses of our souls by the carefulness, cautiousness and scheming we have to employ in their regard in order to utilize them at least in some mediocre sphere where such cold and feeble souls prefer to be.
Eugene had become so despondent about his lack of achievements in improving the situation that he concluded:
I finished by asking God to take me out of this world if I am not to achieve anything more than I have done.
Letter to Henri Tempier, 1 August 1830, EO VII n 351
In the past we have often seen Eugene at his passionate fiery emotional best, and here we see him in a despondent emotional low point. Within hours, however, he had realized that he had exaggerated in expressing himself and we shall see that he rectified his opinion. Do not forget that this letter was never intended to be public – it was a private outpouring to Fr Tempier in whom he confided everything, including his darkest moments.
“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” Oscar Wilde