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.