The entire clergy of Marseilles, including our missionaries, acquitted themselves marvellously. At Aix, it is a scandal. They left it all to be done by our Fathers, who did wonders, but in addition people gave them due credit, pending divine reward. What is truly miraculous is that no one was taken ill despite experiencing excessive fatigue like that.

Although Eugene only wanted the priests to be involved with those dying of cholera, he recognized the courage of the novices and scholastics in their involvement.

And as for our Oblates [ed novices and scholastics] it is impossible to narrate the heroism of their devotedness, for here it was a matter of touching, rubbing down, drying off an ever-growing number of cholera patients, men in a shocking state, giving off an unbearable stench, whose cold sweat sometimes drenched them, that is a literal description. Their sweat was so abundant that while changing them one wiped it off with the hand like after getting out of a bath. Our men had the experience while tending the dying of that icy sweat running down along their hands and arms down their sleeves to wet them through to their chests. It makes me shiver to narrate all these details.
It was high time for me to bring them out of such a dangerous spot, they were on the point of going under. They were already experiencing in varying degrees certain warning signs that would not have been long in developing into something more. As it was only a matter of giving the temporary relief that these rubbings down give and which have no curative value. I ought not to have exposed the lives of those who are entrusted to me and who are furthermore the only hope for the Congregation’s survival, to whose conservation I must attend as I am its father; this service could have been given by paid help.

Letter to Bruno Guigues, 1 August 1835, EO VIII n 529

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    This is a harsh picture that is presented to us this morning; one of heroic young men who are not yet priests, caring for those who were dying, trying to comfort them as best they could even when there was no hope for them. Their sole aim, to try to alleviate some of their suffering. These young Oblates were seeing those who were suffering so greatly through the eyes of the crucified Saviour and so were loving and caring for them in the only way that they could.

    These young novices and scholastics were learning what it meant to love so greatly, to give of themselves so readily and completely and most surely was not an easy thing to do to do. “Oblation”.

    I think for a moment of those standing at the foot of the Cross as Jesus was dying – who in their love were powerless to do anything else save suffer with him.

    Isn’t this what we do with others today? We stand in our fears and we care for them in our ‘being’ and listening.

    This morning I look at how I love in that way; asking myself where that love has come from. How do I respond and give myself so readily and completely? I seem to recognize others in myself, and myself in others. Sometimes their discomfort and sorrow, their struggles and pain might make me want to run and hide and pretend that I do not see them; it might also invite me to sit and be with them, to listen and love them, to walk with them and share with them my own experiences of suffering an dying. I walk with them, and they walk with me.

    It is a together thing. Isn’t that what Jesus asks of us from the Cross? Isn’t that why we ask that we might be his co-operators?

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