A PRACTICAL RESPONSE TO THE EFFECTS OF THE CHOLERA EPIDEMIC

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.
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One Response to A PRACTICAL RESPONSE TO THE EFFECTS OF THE CHOLERA EPIDEMIC

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Eugene speaking from his own personal experiences of feeling abandoned and alone; and I am reminded of how at the age of 17 Eugene found himself landing in Palermo, Sicily and soon being “received by the Duke and Duchess of Cannizaro as their own son. (more of his exile in those years can be found in a 2017 entry of “Eugene de Mazenod speaks to us” (http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=3362). He knew what it felt like to feel abandoned as a child and in a sense of his seeming abandonment by his country and church at the time of this epidemic.

    What a gift for inviting others to life! Eugene was able to touch that deepest part of us which just waits to be invited to love and care for others. Recalling Eugene’s first Lenten Homily in the Church of the Madeleine in 1813, with words that I hope I never forget, I see him once again using his God-given skills as an orator to call others to love, to God – not just for themselves but for those children who would surely die without their care.

    I am reminded of our own call to live Christ Jesus in apostolic community, to live Christ Jesus crucified among the most abandoned in the Church, proclaiming the Word [with] simplicity in preaching [and] the ministry of reconciliation, with daring humility and trust, as prophets of the new world with Mary Immaculate. Today Eugene speaks to and through his sons and daughters. I think of the message coming out of this week from Inter-Chapter that was held in Poland. There is an urgency for us to look towards our youth, our young people and to minister to and with them.

    We too are called to invite both ourselves and others to life.

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