AN ULTIMATUM

We have been following Eugene’s struggle with the situation of being reconciled with the King and the government, and how he had many objections to what was being asked of him in order to achieve this.

Henri Tempier was justifiably frustrated with Eugene for not cooperating with those who were trying to help to extract him from his situation as an exile from Marseilles, to restore his French citizenship, and to have official recognition that he was in fact a Bishop. Tempier sent Father Jeancard to Laus to speak directly to Eugene and to help him to write the letter required by the King.

Jeancard brought this letter from Tempier. It is direct and an ultimatum to stop making conditions and to make up his mind one way or the other.

My dear Lordship and beloved Father,

Do you or do you not want to extract yourself from the grim situation in which you are placed? If not, well and good! But in that case you really shouldn’t let us incur all the expenses of the proceedings, you ought to forbid Guibert categorically to speak a word about you; you will have to put up with all the injuries they heap on you; you must say amen to all the harassment, past, present and future, whether coming from ill-disposed members of the Society or from the Government. If that is what you want, I have nothing to say.

He needs to listen to his friends who have his welfare at heart and who have spared no effort to redeem him from his wretched situation.

But if, on the contrary, you do wish to extract yourself from this situation, that I am justified in describing as wretched, you will have to submit to some extent and yield to the opinion of your friends, who also have some concern for your honor. They have done nothing unworthy of you up to now and would never ever suggest that you take a debasing and improper step.

It is absolutely necessary that you co-operate with the measures we are taking on your behalf. We consider this so indispensable that, so as not to lose yet another week in negotiations by letters, we have decided to send Jeancard to you; everything that he will tell you has been thoroughly discussed in committee in the presence of his Lordship [ed. Bishop Fortuné].

Fr Jeancard, a former Oblate, was a respected collaborator of Eugene, who would eventually make him his auxiliary bishop in Marseilles, and Tempier and Bishop Fortuné hoped that he would bring some sense into Eugene’s head, even if this were to mean accepting the responsibility of  diocese.

Another difficulty is accepting a diocese, should they offer you one. Now why would you not be willing to follow the way that Providence is opening for you? I am speaking to you as a friend and as the confidant of your most secret thoughts: you would act badly were you to refuse a bishop’s see, should they want you to take one. I would only hope, for your own peace of mind and many other considerations, that you will be bishop elsewhere than in Marseilles, for elsewhere you would be able to do more good.

Letter of Henri Tempier to Eugene de Mazenod, 23 August 1835, EO2 Tempier n 83

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One Response to AN ULTIMATUM

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    “I am speaking to you as a friend and as the confidant of your most secret thoughts…” Enough says Henri Tempier to Eugene – you either allow yourself to continue to sink or to let the community help you to swim to where your feet can touch the ground. And Tempier reminds Eugene of his friends who “would never ever suggest that you take a debasing and improper step”.

    The extent of their love for Eugene and the need to get him ‘back on his feet’ is shown in the creation of a small committee formed with his uncle Fortune in attendance as well as Fr. Jeancard who had left the congregation a year earlier, a committee who laid out the steps that Eugene could take to get out of the hopeless situation which he himself seemed powerless to free himself from. And – to send Fr. Jeancard with Tempier’s letter, stay and walk him through the entire ordeal and simply be there with him in person.

    This all came from the immense love and respect of those present in Eugene’s life at that time. It is in seeing Eugene at this time (and earlier) that we recognize Eugene’s own poverty. It is this which Bishop Fortune, Henri Tempier, Fr. Guibert and Fr. Jeancard recognise as well and so they step in. Eugene must make the decision to let go of the morass to which he has succumbed himself; the time has come to once again surrender himself totally, in another way to God’s love which is to be found in the ‘life-line’ which his loved ones have made for him.

    I take time to remind myself what this has looked like in my life and the number of people who have supported me with honesty and love but who also say what I need to hear. Deep wounds are not always healed all at once, but we can then move on as we are called-to in life and to continue the work of healing. I have often recognized parts of myself in some of Eugene’s struggles and his way of living and loving. “A father’s communication with his many children…” and I am filled with gratitude and a new energy this morning.

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