Poor Father Mille! He had become an Oblate to be a missionary – yet within weeks of his priestly ordination, circumstance had made it inevitable that he be appointed superior of the seminary in Switzerland. At the age of 25 his missionary heart could not resist the temptation to do ministry outside of the scholasticate, much to Eugene’s displeasure because he was neglecting the seminarians.

While I am on the subject, I will say a word in passing about your zealous works during the Forty Hours. Do you want to know the conclusion that I have come to from your account? It is that you are as good a missionary as you are a poor superior.
… Does conscience require one to forsake one’s special task to embrace another, however better it be in appearance?

Eugene had explicitly forbidden him to get over-involved outside of the scholasticate, but Father Mille’s missionary ears had “selective hearing.”

What can one say of your facility in interpreting your superior’s intentions in a sense exactly contrary to his precise words and to his perfectly well-known intention – and he certainlyhas an intention! No my dear friend, that is not the way to go about things. It is a poor concept of obedience to be always doing the opposite of what is prescribed.
You cut a dash, you earn men’s praises, you may even do some good, but you fail to do your duty – and what profit can one expect in such circumstances from even the most brilliant of deeds? It really hurts me to make these observations to you, but they are the fruit of meditation in the Lord’s presence…As a simple missionary everything you did would have been admirable provided it were done under obedience.
But as superior charged with the care of the special ones of our family and with the duty of caring for it like the apple of your eye, you have not done well.

Letter to Jean-Baptiste Mille, 21 April 1832, EO VIII n 420

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    How crushing to receive a letter such as this from another who you love and look up to. To disappoint the other like this.

    “It really hurts me to make these observations to you… as a simple missionary everything you did would have been admirable provided it were done under obedience.”

    Many years ago I remember being given a specific job to do at work. I felt that I could do other things much better – that I was suited for a higher destiny! I did both things but I remember my boss being very upset with me, first of all because she had a much broader view of what was needed in the larger picture, but also because in giving energy and time to that which I had not been asked to do I was not able to give my full attention and energy to that which I had been tasked with. I do not know if it hurt her to have to make those observations to me but when she told me how disappointed she was – that did get to me. And I was reminded then of the same thing that I was reminded of this morning in coming to this place to reflect: to “do the little things exceedingly well for the love of You”.

    Another memory of long ago – being told that I needed to be ‘cut down to size’. That was just plain hard to hear for it was a lessening that was felt. But Eugene had said this in love – and probably no little exasperation, but still with love and the message was very clear.

    All that without mentioning ‘obedience’ – an attitude, a value that reminds me of fidelity, faithfulness.

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