Eugene continues to express his anguish at the situation in which he found himself. The King was willing to offer a reconciliation, but the price was heavy if his episcopal status was to be recognized – it was to accept a diocese.

The idea that anyone at Paris could take seriously the project of offering me a diocese disturbs me and leaves me no more peace. My repugnance towards entering into that career at fifty-four years of age, with the tastes I have at present, and in the position I find myself in vis-à-vis the Government and the universal Church, is insurmountable; it goes against my conscience, my happiness and my honour. My conscience imperiously demands that I reject the burden with all my strength; all the more because it is certain that, notwithstanding all the good will in the world, and even if you like with a connatural understanding of what the duties of a bishop are, and even if I could work miracles, I would never be able to obtain satisfactory results. The reason for this is basically the prejudices that have been disseminated everywhere against me…

Not only had he collected many prejudices against him from political authorities and from some in the Church itself, but now would be in danger of being accused of personal ambition, of sacrificing his principles in order to gain a promotion.

Again, do you not see that my honour would be as compromised as my happiness in the new career into which they want to push me? In the first place, everyone will say that I have sold my loyalty in exchange for a diocese; that this is what I was after all along, etc.
The very Government, believing me capable of such baseness, will think to buy me for that price and will persuade itself that it will be able to make demands upon me that my conscience and my tact would no less have refused it; and then what will happen?

Letter to Henri Tempier, 25 August 1835, EO VIII n 537

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    This morning as w sit with Eugene, listening to him share his fears and anguish our response is one of patience and understanding. The Spirit was still guiding him, still leading him, even in the chaos that was at war within himself. This dear man who had given his all to God, was being asked for more. Eugene was being asked to once more let go of everything.

    A couple of years back one of the older Oblates that I knew and quite loved asked me if Eugene had ever given into the French government and the king and signed the concordat? The question was angry and it was in this manner that it had been asked. Yes, I replied; yes Eugene had signed it and I reminded him of Eugene’s suffering at the hands of the French government; and of what Eugene had to let go of in saying yes to becoming the Bishop of Marseilles. My friend was so incredibly angry at Eugene for giving in to the wishes of the government and I felt badly for him for he too was having to let go of something just as Eugene had – something very precious in his own life that he had become quite comfortable in holding onto.

    I am sure that there were those who reacted to Eugene’s being made Bishop of Marseilles in exactly the manner that Eugene feared and which Frank spoke of in today’s parlance, in the language of the 21st century.

    To stand on principle can sometimes be an empty thing. We do not have to be famous for God to love us so and to ask for more of our very selves. I think of Eugene’s term of being a ‘martyr to charity’, a martyr to love – that dying to ourselves which can only happen with immense and total love. Eugene’s cross in his life took on many different forms, just as ours does in our own lives. Unseen battles that we experience over the course of your life time; and the toll it may take on us can often be heavy.

    But at the end of it? We need only to look at Eugene and his life. For me personally it invites me to say ‘yes’ to God, to ask God for the strength and courage to let go of that which I am trying to hang onto in my life.

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