Eugene shares the suffering he is experiencing publicly from a handful of the priests of the Marseilles diocese.

My dear Child, far from hoping for some rest, each day I see fresh difficulties come up that put my patience and dedication to tests. I make bold to say, that are more than flesh and blood can bear. Bad priests think to wear my courage down after taking advantage of my goodwill. They would succeed in their objective if I didn’t constantly tell myself that men, with perhaps one slight exception, aren’t worth the trouble one takes to help them.

Letter to Casimir Aubert, 23 May 1835, EO VIII n 515

One of these diocesan priests, in particular, a Father Martin had been problematic. Three years earlier he had published some vicious anonymous attacks on Bishop Eugene in the Semaphore newspaper. It soon became clear who the author really was, and in a moment of repentance he wrote to Eugene to apologize. Here is Eugene’s reply to him, which is worth reflecting on.

My first impulse after reading your (letter) was to hasten to your home to reassure and console you and to give you a more heartfelt and more sincere embrace of peace than that which, alas! I received from you such a short time ago. I decided to write to you instead, fearing that my appearance at your home might subject you to suspicion.
You have done a serious wrong, my dear friend; I do not want you to look upon it lightly . . . But I told myself to pay heed only to your repentance because I am confident that it will gain you favor in God’s eyes and with that I shall be satisfied; undoubtedly our holy bishop will be also…
Only when you have expressly permitted me to reveal your name to him, shall I do so. I have also observed this same caution with my colleagues. Personally, I would like to have even the memory of such a serious wrong blotted out, and to keep the name of the guilty party from ever being known.
However, in the inevitable commotion caused by the scandal of this unfortunate article, several people have suggested your name. So as not to add to your remorse I, perhaps, should not tell you that each time this supposition was made, I, who was personally vilified, strongly protested that this supposition was too insulting and too outrageous a charge against a man to whom I have so often given the name friend and sometimes even son. I mention it not to reproach you but only to show you how favorably my heart is disposed toward you; for I repeat, you will never receive any reproaches from me.
May the Good God forgive you! That would satisfy me a thousand times more than any reparation you might wish to make to me. All that I ask is that you choose a good spiritual director, a deeply holy man who will enable you to appreciate the gravity of the wrong you have committed and who will give you wise advice regarding atonement for it. God be with you, my friend. I am sorry that, due to several unforeseen delays, my letter did not reach you as soon as I would have wished. I embrace you. Yes! I mean that with all my heart, and as proof that my charity is sincere, I shall offer the Holy Sacrifice for you tomorrow.

Letter to Father Martin, 27 September 1832, quoted in Leflon II p 530 – 531

Sadly, Martin’s repentance was short-lived and before long he continued to multiply his public attacks.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I think of Jesus, who when attacked did not lash out. Eugene does not say “aha – it is you who has been causing such pain and grief to me” but rather faces it squarely, stating his truth. In the face of Fr. Martin’s apology, Eugene does not wipe away all that has taken place; he acknowledges the truth of what Fr. Martin has done and shares with the man how he has not condemned him in the eyes of others who figured was really behind the vicious attacks in the Semaphore. Rather the tone is that of one who loves another, who sees through the words of apology and states truthfully what has been done to him and how he will wait to see what happens, but whose waiting will be filled with love and forgiveness.

    Again I think of Jesus on the cross with the two robbers who are there on either side of him; I think also of St. Peter and Paul – of St. John of the Cross and so many more down through the ages who have been made martyrs to love – in big and in small ways through the course of their lives.

    Even though Eugene was not blinded to what had been done to him he was not running around proclaiming a miracle. His love for Fr. Martin was true – like God’s love for all of us when we sin. When we approach God the truth of our humanness is there between us and God’s love encompasses that truth right along with our goodness and gathers it all into one embrace.

    This is how love transforms us. It does not mean that we will not have pain and suffering to carry, but it does transform the way we carry our struggles. It is an invitation to each of us in our daily live as to how we might live. A model of how we too might be transformed as we stand at the foot of our crucifix so as to look up and see through the eyes of our crucified Saviour.

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