The cholera epidemic ended suddenly in Marseilles in April 1835 after having ravaged the city for 111 days. Three months later it broke out in the nearby harbor city of Toulon with multiple deaths each day. Two Oblates in Aix were preparing to go to Toulon to give spiritual assistance to the dying but were prevented from doing so on 16 July when the epidemic started in Aix en Provence.

Father Courtès wrote: “This day will always remain in the memory of the inhabitants; this morning at 4 the deadly cloud enveloped the city and by 10 am more than thirty victims were struck by cholera almost like a lightning strike. I was obliged to send two priests to the hospital to help the chaplain: all those with cholera were administered to, and half of them died. Father André returned home at 10 pm after hearing confessions for the whole day. The Major Seminary has been converted into a hospital.” (Quoted in Rey I p. 632)

Eugene was no longer in Marseilles, but at the Shrine of ND de l’Osier, and was informed of this by Father Tempier, to whom he responded:

My dear Father Tempier, your letters become more and more distressing. Today it’s the heartbreaking recital of the disasters caused by the cholera, and the possibility of the plague at Toulon, and the all too just fears that the proximity of the unfortunate infected city inspires in you. On this last count, I really need to have daily bulletins about the locality where you are living through a daily newspaper, like the “Gazette.” I hope you won’t have neglected to procure me this gloomy consolation … I am in such anguish to know that you are once again in the danger-zone…

Letter to Henri Tempier, 19 July 1835, EO VIII n 523

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    The immense fidelity of Eugene to being wherever it is that God calls him to be. It would seem that he has barely time to take a breath and recover when the next volley is coming at him.

    We know what it is like to experience love of those who are caught up in wars and other struggles. It often feels important to us to know how they are doing, how they are managing in their circumstances – in order for us to be able to go about our daily business and being. The image of our Beloved sharing in the total anguish because of perfect love.

    Eugene loves the members of the still-young congregation, as a father loves his own sons. He had to rely on letters from his dearest friend, Tempier; and while it seems crazy that he would ask that Henri take precious time to write and keep him updated, Eugene’s love is so great that he does ask for just that, for he too is in the midst of his own experience of once again feeling exiled and lost.

    I think of yesterday’s focus on martyrdom of charity – this morning brings it once again into view as we see Eugene pulled once again away from those he loves so dearly even as his heart still beats passionately. An image appears before me of Eugene having given his own life so totally to God, to his crucified Saviour that he asks to be a cooperator of that same Saviour; to be able to share in the Cross – that is to be along-side of Jesus on that cross.

    Who among us has not thought or asked to be in that position along-side of Jesus, their Beloved, on that cross? It is then that we pick up our Rule of Life turning to read Constitution 4 and in so doing cannot help but notice on the facing page the notes from the 1826 Rule – the words: “with Jesus on the cross”.

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