Eugene’s biographer, Rey, describes something that we will see regularly in the future: Eugene’s ability to identify a group of people who were “the most abandoned” and to take practical steps to rectify the cause. In this case the group was the children who had been left orphans when their parents died of cholera. Rey’s vocabulary is a bit flowery, but it conveys the powerful message. I quote the passage in its entirety.
“He never ceased, however, to deal with the cholera and the dreadful consequences which had resulted from it, and which manifested themselves daily. On April 5, he had summoned to the bishopric the most distinguished ladies of the Marseilles society to have them adopt, in principle, the foundation of an asylum for children who had been fatherless and motherless, following the cholera. At this meeting, where the brave bishop electrified his audience – which was common to him in all circumstances … It was a preparatory meeting: the ladies consulted and stimulated by the eloquent words of the Prelate, they raised the funds necessary to the immediate adoption of several orphans. A new meeting was announced in the church of St. Vincent de Paul on May 19, the first day of the Rogations. The church was too small to receive the multitude of the faithful attracted by the desire to hear the message of the Bishop of Icosia and to contemplate the spectacle that offered at the feet of the altars, the assembly of Lady Patronesses and young orphans. We would like to reproduce the words of the speaker; they were collected by gratitude; we will confine ourselves to the quotation of a passage which shed the tears of all:
“Here they are, ladies, those innocent creatures which your charity consents to adopt under the auspices of Providence; Here they are dressed in their mourning clothes, which attests to their misfortune. You have made them feel all that they can expect from your mothers’ hearts, and already theirs beat at that name full of charm that they dared no longer pronounce. They extend to you their supplicating hands, to you, ladies who are so good, so tender, compassionate, say better, so eminently Christian. Ah! Ladies, I understand your emotion! Our poor children are saved!
“Yes, I see you pressing them against your maternal bosom, and in this delicious transport of a most divine charity, lavish on them your caresses, give them with your affection, not only the food necessary to sustain their lives, but some something more precious, for I see you preparing them for an education which, assuring their happiness in this life and in the other, will crown all the care you want to take from their young years.
” Almighty God. God most holy, God infinitely good, favor from heaven’s height this admirable adoption which delights my soul with joy, makes my tears flow and excites my gratitude.
“And you, adorable Jesus, our divine master here present, bless from your tabernacle this nascent work; bless those children whom your Providence has just placed under the tutelary mantle of those who represent her here below.
“Bless these Christian ladies, so worthy of this beautiful name, whom they honor by so many virtues;
“Bless also those humble religious who will dedicate their best years to the relief, the instruction and the sanctification of these children whom we entrust to them today”.
The work was founded. The blessings descended on her cradle have never abandoned her.
Rey I p 619 – 620.