CHANGING FLAGS

Tempier described an incident of this to Eugene. The flag above the bishop’s house was of the Bourbon monarchy, and not the three-colored one of the revolution, and so he wrote:

The fray has started. The lieutenant-general, the commander of the national guard, the mayor and an aide-de-camp came to urgently request our prelate to fly the tricolor flag. His Excellency had a good answer for all their arguments. When the lieutenant-general started push matters a little too far, the prelate informed him that, as far as he was concerned, he would never order the flag to be flown, but that he was physically unable to repel those who might violate his dwelling.

Whereupon, the aide-de-camp went to the city hall to get the flag which they had been keeping in readiness, and returned with it, to put it in place. Since the old flag pole was broken, the aide had to tie the flag to a stick with a piece of string and go in search of a ladder at the cathedral; then, with the help of a few of the national guard, he put it up. Night came on while all this was taking place and a large crowd had gathered in front of the palace. However, everyone realizes very clearly that the flag was put there by force and violence.

Letter of Henri Tempier to Eugene, 20 August 1830, Quoted in Leflon 2 p.345-346

To which, Eugene responded

According to the last thing you relate to me as having happened before the episcopal place, I would no longer stay in my palace; I would be out of there the following day. In no other place have they committed such violence… Once again, I do not think my uncle ought to stay in a house where they have proved to him that he is not the master.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 24 August 1830, EO VII n 360

Two days later:

I have intimated to you in several letters, my very dear friend, that my opinion would be that his Lordship depart for Italy in order not to be exposed to all the troubles that, at his very advanced age, could affect his morale to the point where his health would suffer considerably. I persist in having this opinion. Nice not being far he can very easily make the journey and its closeness would provide him the opportunity of not being a stranger to his diocese as long as the troubles last, and to return promptly as soon as his presence would be judged necessary… Since they have treated him in such an arrogant fashion in this instance, it is not difficult to foresee that they will not be more accommodating to him on further occasions. At his age, such shocks will not be felt with impunity; it is then only his natural right to avoid them by withdrawing for a time.
Remember that if he does not follow this advice, he will regret it. Sensible as he is, there is no other decision he could take, which will not disquiet him, perturb his mind more or less and have an adverse effect on his temperament.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 26 August 1830, EO VII n 361

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One Response to CHANGING FLAGS

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    In Marseille an aide de camp who might have had an exaggerated sense of his own importance and who felt emboldened to claim a power that was not really his but who ran to get a new flag and do whatever it took to fly it. What would the next step be?
    Eugene calls this a violence and it was – designed to show both his uncle and the people of Marseille who was really ‘in charge’. Each side pushing back and Bishop Fortuné would not be able to win.

    Again this morning I think briefly of the story of the Trappist monks in Algeria and the fear tactics that were used on them by what I can only call terrorists. I think too of some of the Oblates I have gotten to know, and their experiences in other countries where they were threatened by guerrilla solders, terrorists in their own right. I think of the toll it took on these dear men, both physically and mentally and I remember their courage as they were forced to face the men with their guns. I stop for a moment to think of the people who were powerless and who were also terrorized into submission. No one should ever be tested in that way.

    Never have I been tested as were my friends, nor have I assumed and abused a power as did the guerrilla solders in South America or those in Marseille. But what has it looked like when I have put on the cloak of arrogance and assumed a small power that was not really mine to assume? Was it to make myself feel stronger and better than another? Was there a victory there or was there actually an emptiness that goaded me to exercise more cruelty? How has it felt when I was on the receiving end of a little cruelty? Was there a ‘Eugene’ who cared and loved me, advised me of possible next steps?

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