WHEN ALL THE PEOPLE OF THE AREA WHERE ONE LIVES DO NOT HAVE A GIVEN THING, IT WOULD BE UNPARDONABLE TO REGRET NOT HAVING IT

We have followed the misery of Eugene for many months of serious illness and mourning, slow convalescence, concern over the anti-religious political upheaval, and his frustration at being far away from his Oblate family and those close to him in the Marseilles diocese. Now the sun was shining again with the arrival of the young Oblates, and Eugene enjoyed every minute of his time with his family.

I am still in ecstasy, my very dear friend, with the happiness which I have enjoyed during the nine days that I have spent with the family at Billens. I was deprived for such a long time of living thus with all these angels, whose worth I have experienced to the full. My presence was very agreeable to them and they never tired of assuring me thereof. I think also that it was useful to them for several reasons, if only to accustom them by my example to some indispensable privations, which are for that matter well worth it in exchange for all the advantages which are to be obtained in this agreeable dwelling.

Then, as a real Provencal from France where bread and wine were the staple diet, he comments on the difficulties of getting used to the food in Switzerland!

The bread is of wheat and rye but very good; the quantity they eat is enormous. The people here, who eat little of it because it is dear and because their potatoes are excellent and make up for it, are astonished. Imagine that I have been obliged to have dough mixed twice in the same day. The wine is very bad in this country and very expensive; the peasants likewise drink very little of it; they find themselves better off for this. The privation is not felt; besides it is too much in keeping with poverty for anyone to allow himself to regret it. When all the people of the area where one lives do not have a given thing, it would be unpardonable to regret not having it. At Billens, the water is of the best quality; everybody finds it good and is content with it; they take every day a copious and very good soup at lunch; it is the custom of the country; they have it likewise in the evening.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 24 October 1830, EO VII n 367

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One Response to WHEN ALL THE PEOPLE OF THE AREA WHERE ONE LIVES DO NOT HAVE A GIVEN THING, IT WOULD BE UNPARDONABLE TO REGRET NOT HAVING IT

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Years ago, when I came to this part of Canada from the west coast, I left all of my belongings behind to come and live with a community. To me everything was new and different. I was not with my friends and community back home, the land itself looked very different and the weather was much less temperate than I was used to; the food and variety of it was different with no corner grocery stores to pick up whatever I wanted. Even the ways of praying and celebrating were different from what I was knew.

    One day I looked up at the sky and to my astonishment the clouds there on that day reminded me of home – for it was the very same sky! I realised at that moment that if I spent my time looking at what I did not have I would never be able to see what I did have. I needed only to learn to let go of what ‘wasn’t’ so that I could begin to embrace what ‘was’.

    I think for a moment of many of the early Oblates who came to this country where the food was different, where most everything was different. They too had to let go of where they had come from to get here, especially the richness of their community life back. They found their joy in other ways, with the people they were serving and living with; with the climate and the weather that was so very different but was incredibly rich with a beauty of its own.

    Every once in while I am reminded of this – usually when changes are presented on my horizon. Changes last week in my life felt as if something new and different was being thrust upon me. What did I need to ‘let go of’ in order to be able to see a different way of being? The new way does not have to be less than was before, but perhaps there might be even more richness than with the old way!

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