Writing to the community superior about the Oblate whose exaggerated preoccupation with his health had led him to lose focus, Eugene continued:

Such great precautions cannot be taken without notable loss to the interior life. At the same time there is a serious weakening of personal virtue. I do not know if he had held on to even the least vestige of religious life, at any rate he was far from understanding the value of perfection as affirmed by all who serve as models in this field. It was inevitable that his behaviour would be affected by an outlook so little in accord with the spirit of Jesus Christ …
You know that this man has a solid foundation, but over-much esteem for learning to which perhaps he gave preference over sanctity caused a withdrawal of grace and light; then, over-much care of his health led him to neglect even things that can never be abandoned with impunity. From that results a state of imperfection from which it is vital that he emerge [if he] does not want to leave himself open to complete collapse.

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

Too much of a focus on learning and on personal health had led him to a loss of focus on spiritual “grace and light” – a dangerous situation for a missionary’s relationship with Jesus Christ.

I was struck by John Piper’s statement: “If God’s love for his children is to be measured by our health, wealth, and comfort in this life, God hated the apostle Paul.”

Where does God fit into my physical concerns; how does care for my body fit into my spirituality?


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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    What a fine balance is called for in this life! If I run to far in one direction or another simply to run and try to fill a void I might well miss being able to connect with God’s love, or with anything that is real.

    And if I try to measure God’s love – a dangerous preoccupation to get into at best, then I am likely to measure with a tape that is false, empty and far from reliable. I remember Eugene’s comment about how he looked for happiness outside of God. God knows how much and for how long I tried that and how it didn’t work – not even a little bit. For me there can always be temptations to go ‘overboard’ on somethings, be they fads, new ways of looking, exercising, etc., etc. Balance.

    One of the things that I learned when I sobered up was that I needed to take care of health concerns, rather than to run away from them, that I needed to feed my body when it was hungry and to rest when it was tired, because if I didn’t my sobriety would not happen, or it would not last.

    When I don’t take care of myself (not pampering but basic and common sense care) I suffer. My psyche suffers, my prayer life and my focus on God suffers. Again I could point to Eugene de Mazenod and what he tried always to remind his missionaries to do – to make sure they ate and slept, that they returned to community to refocus and be supported.

    Even here Eugene sheds his light on me. My body is a part of me, of part of how I am created. I thought of the word ‘temple’ the other day for it is where the divine is – within me. I am grateful. I am resting and it is good. I am finding my balance again, and I move into prayer with joy, quiet joy, into grace and light.

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