IT WAS CONSOLING TO THINK THAT, WHILE IN MOST FRENCH TOWNS CHRIST HAD BEEN PROFANED AND HIS CROSS TORN FROM THE PEOPLE’S MIDST, OUR CROSS SOARED ABOVE EVERY HEAD

… It’s one long endless paper war against the powers of this world, big and small, far and near. It is a correspondence that centres repetitiously on the most minute details with all who must needs consult us so as to leave the responsibility for our decisions on our shoulders; add to this council meetings that last for four hours, etc.

Eugene was back in Marseilles as Vicar General of the diocese of his aged uncle Fortuné – embroiled in the all the difficulties caused by an anti-religious government. As difficult as it was to maintain the values of the Church, perseverance in the face of opposition did bring blessings.

But I must say that in all this turmoil there is some consolation to be had. To give you an example for your edification, May 3 was a real triumph for the cross and it is thanks to the resolution we took always to honour our ministry and not to back down in the face of any danger when it is a question of duty.
It was only right, after we had saved the cross from the latest outrage, when twice before the arrival of the Bishop the mayor had sent a town councillor to beseech us to remove it and shown us the bomb ready to explode and the town on the point of running with blood if we should pay no heed to such a just request, it was only right I say not to let the feast of the Finding of the Cross pass by without paying a signal act of homage to the crucified Saviour.
It was consoling to think that, while in most French towns Christ had been profaned and his cross torn from the people’s midst, our cross in the heart of an immense population soared above every head and was displayed as in the greatest days of its triumph. As a help to our people’s piety and to make reparation as far as it lay in our power for the outrages that Jesus our God had suffered elsewhere, we decided to give to this beautiful feast all the pomp that the people had the right to expect. In line with this, the full octave was announced at Calvaire, a triumphal arch was erected above the cross, the holy place was adorned with garlands of greenery, banners and tapestries and drew the attention of the passers-by, ravished with joy on learning of a ceremony so much in tune with their sentiments.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille, 7 May 1831, EO VIII n 390

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One Response to IT WAS CONSOLING TO THINK THAT, WHILE IN MOST FRENCH TOWNS CHRIST HAD BEEN PROFANED AND HIS CROSS TORN FROM THE PEOPLE’S MIDST, OUR CROSS SOARED ABOVE EVERY HEAD

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Wow – am not sure where to go with this and I find myself struggling with Eugene and what this morning I want to call his being ‘over the top’. I keep telling myself that it is better to walk quietly and not be noticed, (my version of survival mode), a quiet refusal to give in to a power that might be. Back and forth in my mind and then I am reminded of the new Bill C62 in Quebec which seems to affect only Muslim women and what they wear. What an outrage this new law is! No matter how it’s dressed up I still think it is wrong – to women, to Muslim women and to all because I wonder what will come next. Could they, would they go back to the original and first version of the Bill which would ban religious symbols of a particular size (such as a cross) for any who work for the government, work in public service. I remember my reaction to that first one when it came out as part of a ‘Charter of Values’. How to fight something like that – what do we do, what do I do? What can I do? I realise that I simply won’t be satisfied if I am passive. I picture myself – if it was me in Marsailles, at the Calvaire, I would hope that I would stand on guard at the cross, at the foot of the cross so to speak – perhaps letting someone else carry the banner but I would want to be there, celebrating the day with others.

    At first reading this morning I really did want to run away – I wasn’t in love with the title or the content but they ‘poked’ at a place deep within myself. I needed to persevere and work through my own demons and fears and brokenness in order to catch a glimmer of some possible strengths.

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