A LIFE-CHANGING LETTER

Perhaps you are surprised to see how short the text of St Eugene is today. Yet, behind these words is a reality that was to make a life-changing difference for Eugene until his death 29 years later. The request was accepted by the Pope, and Eugene did become a bishop, initiating a stormy relationship with the French government, much personal suffering and, finally, a period of outstanding pastoral leadership and love for the most abandoned in Marseilles, then the second-largest city of France.

You are in Rome…

Letter to Henri Tempier, 14 May 1832 EO VIII n 422

Yvon Beaudoin explains:

“The municipal council of Marseilles, at the beginning of 1831, had passed a resolution voting for the suppression of the episcopal see on the death of the incumbent. Bishop Fortuné de Mazenod, already 84 years of age, wrote to the Pope on March 11. 1832:

“I am now exceedingly old, Holy Father, and I do not entertain the vain hope that God will keep me alive much longer …. It is not the closeness of death that causes me pain: my pilgrimage has lasted quite long enough…. But what will become of my poor diocese of Marseilles, so recently restored from its ruinous state by your predecessor Pius VII? … In the preoccupation that ensues from this thought.

God has given me an inspiration: that Your Holiness might give me, not a coadjutor bishop – that is impossible, and besides I do not want the Government to get involved in this matter in any way – but a bishop “in partibus”, someone who would enjoy my confidence and that of my clergy and people. For the little time that is left to me, such a bishop would be a solace in the exercise of my ministry, while on my death he would become the stay of my flock, the hope of my clergy, the mainstay of all my institutions.

I have in mind a man who is already my vicar general and who on my death will undoubtedly be named vicar capitular by my Chapter, all of whose members esteem and respect him highly. In this way he will govern the diocese with the powers of an ordinary. He will animate everyone by his zeal, his presence will sustain all the good that he has already achieved, he will administer the sacrament of holy orders and so ensure the unbroken continuity of the priesthood, in expectation of the moment when better times permit Your Holiness to provide my church with the successor of your choice…”

To ensure the success of this project. Bishop Fortuné sent Father Tempier to Rome.”

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One Response to A LIFE-CHANGING LETTER

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    ‘You are in Rome…’ This is no ‘thriller’ from the bookshelves – no mystery novel and yet I know the story. Yet there is within me an excitement to turn the page and enter into the story in my own way. There is in these few words a grand invitation to turn yet more pages – not just to read but to experience.

    This is like walking down a lane that we have walked before, that is known and comfortable – yet offers a new vista before us – it is somehow new to our eyes, to our senses and we are invited to simply ‘enter into it’.

    ‘You are in Rome…’ There was for Henri Tempier an obedience here, a trust. Like having a large jigsaw puzzle with all of the pieces set out ready to be put together with someone else having put a few pieces on the board leaving the rest to be slowly added to where they fit in. There is no diagram or image to work from and so colours and shapes are important in selecting the next pieces that will build out from those key building pieces. Only God knows where each one will end up.

    Who will help to complete the puzzle? I think for a moment of Jesus and Mary and Joseph and so many others. Each as they took steps – Mary when she said yes, her ‘fiat’ and then Jesus throughout his life – he knew what was ahead and yet he didn’t. His apostles and followers. Obedience and trust. And Eugene and Henri Tempier, Bishop Fortuné and the Pope.

    The day begins here, where I am – in Vancouver, not in Rome. I don’t really know which steps I will take or what will be the outcome of those steps. Only the Master painter of the picture knows what will be the final picture.

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