In these first moments of my retreat, I come up against an altogether singular obstacle to devoting myself seriously before God to the great topic that calls for my complete attention, namely, an involuntary mental state that persists in seeing as a dream everything that has happened up to now with regard to my election to the episcopate, and all the preparation that has gone into accomplishing this great work of the Holy Spirit in me. I have in my hands the Apostolic Briefs of my canonical institution, I have before my eyes the various dress items of my new estate, I devote myself seriously to the consideration of the lofty dignity to which, all unworthy as I am, I am elevated, the duties this dignity imposes on me, etc., but even so, it still seems as if it were all happening to someone else.

Retreat journal before being consecrated bishop, 7-14 October 1832, EO XV n 166

The words of the writer, Nikos Kazantzakis: “Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality” is what times of prayer and meditation do.

Eugene’s retreat was a time of prayerfully allowing his eyes to be transformed into the eyes of Jesus the Savior.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    St. Paul might have asked this question – following his experience on the road to Damascus and then later on when he was imprisoned. A genuine response to what was happening to him – within him as his eyes met those of Jesus.

    I reflect on this past year, my studies which have been rich and full – which have opened me, shed light – not only on me but on those that I see around me. And then my time of rest, since Easter, a time to allow all that I have received (through no merit of my own). It has not been a retreat but it has been a time of slowing and deepening – slowing my ‘doing’ and allowing a deepening within my ‘being’.

    St. Paul and his time in prison – he was filled with the joy given to him by the Spirit, even as he struggle in jail. He probably had much time to reflect on his life – not what I would call a retreat, but the results could be the same. And Eugene – who has struggled so much even as he has been filled with joy (for the two go together most perfectly just as do the ‘cross and resurrection’) And as his eyes met those of Jesus – another deepening transformation.

    I recently returned from a trip that was difficult for me – a struggle at times – yet in the midst of that struggle and also upon my return home I found my eyes being transformed, for I began to see things differently, through love. Like Paul – not a retreat, however dare I say that I was and continue allowing my eyes to be transformed by and into the eyes of Jesus the Saviour? Something so scary to use those words out loud.

    I recently heard the term “Pentecost Vigil” – similar to Easter yet different (“the difference is simple yet profound”) for it is a time of preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit – an ongoing part of the Paschal Mystery and exactly it would seem what Eugene was experiencing. That I would somehow connect that with this in Eugene’s life and with something in my own life – the sheer immensity and depth of God’s love.

    “Walking with, in the footsteps of Eugene de Mazenod” has taken on an entirely new and deeper image.

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