Eugene was frustrated and wanted to be back where the action was so as to discharge his responsibilities to the Oblates and the Diocese. He was held back by his state of health. Like a chained-up lion, he argued:

I long for the moment when the doctors will decide that I am well enough to resume my ordinary occupations and share your work. Consult my regular doctor. I am at his orders. Those here are not sufficiently aware of my temperament; but force him not to be so concerned with my carcass as to overlook my duties which I cannot discharge here.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 13 August 1830, EO VII n. 354

Why was he so unusually meek and incapable of ignoring his health and forge ahead with his own plans?

It was because he had made a vow of obedience to Henri Tempier in April 1816 (cf http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=639). Tempier never used his privileged position of son, friend, old comrade, admonitor, spiritual director and confessor, to interfere in Eugene’s ministry, but only in the case of his spiritual and physical welfare. Two months before, when Eugene had stubbornly resumed his duties in Marseilles, the alarmed Tempier had written:

“My dearly beloved Father,
I am as grieved as anyone could possibly be. . . . I have done everything, not only as a son, but as a friend, an old comrade, an admonitor, even as a spiritual director and confessor, to induce you not to fast, and God knows how right I was! But all my suggestions and pleadings have been to no avail. I now learn that after fasting for two days and finding it necessary to sit down yesterday before you could go on with your Mass, today, the feast of the Holy Trinity, you are going to celebrate two Masses, one of which will be a High Mass at ten o’clock. Such imprudence is beyond all limits. I can find no words to describe this abuse of your health . . . and I feel conscience- bound to make my sorrow known to you in writing. If this is of no avail, then I shall inform the assistants-general of the Society that, since I cannot prevail upon you to care for your health, they themselves will have to see to it. It pains me, my beloved Father, to speak to you in this way, and yet, although I apologize for it, I feel that I have done nothing more than my duty.” (Quoted in Leflon 2 p.338)

Leflon continues:

“This imperative admonition would have sufficed, but Tempier, ad abundantiam juris, prescribed a physical check-up, as a result of which the doctors ordered a change of climate. Certainly, had he remained in Marseilles, no one could have counted on his relaxing. It was necessary, therefore, that he go away, and a good distance away. His trip was so arranged that it would take him from his regular duties, relax him, and at the same time provide him an opportunity to occupy his mind with family interests. It was decided that he go to Switzerland, an ideal spot for a sojourn. At Fribourg, he could see his nephew, Louis de Boisgelin, whom he had enrolled at the Jesuit College after the decree of the ordinances expelling the Jesuits from the minor seminary at Aix. His mother and his sister would accompany him to look after him.” (Leflon 2 p. 338 – 339)


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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I am not sure why, but my mind these days seems to focus on the word or idea of ‘obedience’. It continues to surprise me that I see it ‘popping up’ in my mind, as if someone is telling me to see what it actually looks like when it is lived-out in love. It is dominating my reflection this morning. I used only to think of it in relation to ‘subjugation’, brutal power, not able to connect it with love in any way.

    Yet I look at the this vow that Eugene and Henri Tempier made to each other – not just to God or the Church, but to each other. I think for a moment of the others that were not sure they wanted to do this and can understand their reluctance for ‘everything’ would change if they did. There is a responsibility that comes with obedience. Everything is born out of love. Another view of Oblation.

    Here Henri Tempier has called upon ‘obedience’ out of love for Eugene – I do not imagine it came easy to him but still he did it and Eugene obeyed, just as did many of his sons when he spoke out of love. A new awareness this morning of the depth of love that gives life to this vow.

    I think for a moment of the humble sunflower. She grows tall – stretching out towards the sun, simple and beautiful, and she carries in her flower the very seeds to be planted and bring about new flowers as she feeds the small creatures running around her. The power of love!

    Obedience – I liken it to the fruit of a tree, the flower of a plant.

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