DEATH OPENS THE GATES OF HEAVEN TO US

Eugene writes to Father Courtès, the superior of the Aix community, about an Oblate he has just sent to join his community: 

… I am quite aware, my dear friend, that you will not get much out of the man I have recently sent you: I was not really thinking of him as an addition to your strength. He had to leave N.-D. [du Laus] as his health was suffering from the acute cold that is found in that part of the world. Before that he had persuaded himself that the climate of Marseilles was no longer doing his chest any good at all. Thus we had no choice left and he had to be called to Aix. He has arrived there, and if I am to judge by his letter he is ready to do his best there. I hope he keeps his word, but this wretched nature of ours, when it gets too much attention, leaves weak people open to strong temptations. I think it then my duty to tell you for your guidance that our dear Brother is prone to excess in this matter. It is unbelievable how far in the past he has carried his precautions in this regard.

This Oblate’s exaggerated preoccupation with his health drew a strong conclusion from Eugene:

Death must have been in his eyes a really great evil and he must have quite lost sight of the fact that it opens the gates of heaven to us, seeing he could impose so many sacrifices on himself for its avoidance.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtés, 7 January 1832, EO VIII n 413

With what eyes do I see death?

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One Response to DEATH OPENS THE GATES OF HEAVEN TO US

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    “…this wretched nature of ours, when it gets too much attention, leaves weak people open to strong temptations.” There is a love here that allows Eugene to see the truth of this man, without condemnation or judgement. “… I am quite aware, my dear friend, that you will not get much out of the man…” Through the eyes of love, of our crucified Saviour Eugene is able to make these statements about the young Oblate. Eugene keeps trying and I think for some reason about the question of how many times must we forgive each other and Jesus responding “with seventy times seven”. Matthew 18:22

    This is not the love and forgiveness once offered and when there is no change is dropped and walked away from. No, this is the love and forgiveness that gives us the grace to persevere, to keep trying (both with ourselves and with others). The same love and forgiveness that Jesus lived and showed when he was on trial and then on the cross dying and that Eugene is recommending.

    I think of the many small deaths that we are invited to enter into and walk through over the course of our lives. There can always be a temptation to flee from those experiences – fear – fear is at the root of that wanting to flee. The ‘what ifs’, the not knowing – fear. I sometimes wonder if fear is not one of my greatest weaknesses. I am reminded yet again this morning of the gospels and Jesus saying often – do not be afraid.

    This past weekend I was at a funeral for a man who by all accounts was a beautiful person and I listened to family and friends speaking of his good nature, his love of others and sharing with them – his life filled with small ordinary day-to-day interactions with others. I wondered briefly if there would be any who would go to my funeral when I died and if they would be able to talk about how I loved so many others. What if…?

    Death can be looked on as friend or foe. I choose to not run in fear, but rather to look at it as a continuation – of life, of leaving something for that which is new and so very much better that what I have now. For me – a going home.

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