I HAVE BEEN CAGED-UP

While the Oblates and those in Marseilles were in the thick of ministering to the cholera victims, Eugene was away at the community of Osier and then Laus. As we have seen above he had had to leave Marseilles as a result of the political situation. Separated from those whom he loved and who were in mortal danger, he wanted to return to be with them during this difficult time. Bishop Fortuné de Mazenod and Father Tempier (to whom he had made a vow of obedience in 1816) forbade him to return. The correspondence of July and August 1835 shows the conflict that he was living. On one hand, he felt called to be with his people, and on the other, he was bound to be obedient to these two figures who had a moral authority in his life.

The almost-daily correspondence of this period goes back and forth between Marseilles and ND du Laus, with Eugene’s every request to return being refused. Just a few excerpts:

My dear Tempier, your letter of the 17th fills me with dismay. On top of the heartbreak at the picture of so many families’ desolation there’s the thought of the danger you are running, and that is hanging over the heads of all our Fathers at Aix and Marseilles. I am being kept here and I would like to take my leave for your sake and theirs too, although it is true they don’t need any encouragement.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 20 July 1835, EO VIII n 525

My dear Friend, you understand the cruel anguish I’ve been experiencing ever since I’ve been aware that you, my uncle and friends are living under the threat of an epidemic as murderous as that hanging over your heads. I find it impossible to express the state of my feelings. You’ll readily understand that from the first day I learnt of the danger, I had the thought of going to join you.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 31 July 1835, EO VIII n 528

Far from the scene of the evil, I have been caged-up; but I am sick with annoyance in consequence. I wanted to set out from here, riding rough-shod over all the considerations that have bound me up to the present, but Father Tempier has leagued himself with the Bishop of Marseilles, who has the final say in the matter, to require me to stay at Laus where the novices and oblates have been sent leaderless to me.

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

It is worthy of note to see that this man, who was always the leader and superior in every situation, was capable of being obedient himself to those to whom he was committed to obey.

Just as suddenly as the cholera had started, so too did this second epidemic of 1835 end. I have spent a long time on the correspondence around this event because it brings out many of the fundamental values and attitudes of an oblation lived out in difficult circumstances.

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One Response to I HAVE BEEN CAGED-UP

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Oblation – it sounds so beautiful, so holy… It is a part of that dance of love that seduces and promises us fulfillment of our deepest desires. It is all of that and more. Obedience – I suppose that too might sound holy, pious, special but the reality of having to live that as one of our fundamental values and ways of being – whoa. There will be times when it will take courage and strength to live them out. Eugene himself shares with us what a struggle it was to live that out. While he continued to say ‘yes Lord your will be done’ – it was not without struggle.

    I begin to see a much deeper and fuller reality. Eugene is bound to that deeper reality along with the novices and oblates who were sent ‘leaderless’ to him. Those “difficult circumstances” that Frank reminds us of – the situation that Eugene has allowed God to lead him through. “Here I am Lord. I will go Lord, where you lead me…”

    Here at home here we prepare for the installation of our new Provincial in another week. It means for all of us having to let go of some that we love and welcome others who we love – changes. And it is not just us, for the one being named our next Provincial must also let go and accept a new way of being. The Holy Spirit, the who first gave us this charism continues to be at work – within all of us.

    I see how God is leading Eugene, how God is leading our new Provincial, how God is leading each of us; those personal and communal, fundamental values and attitudes of our oblation being lived out – by Eugene and by all of us who share in this Mazenodian Charism and Spirituality. We live them out because of love. We live them out in celebration and a particular joy even in ‘difficult circumstances’.

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