The “difficulties of my position and my soul’s bitter distress” was caused by the imminent death of a trusted Oblate at the age of 28, and of the departure of another. A double blow for the Oblates.

And now another blow, what can I do in the face of Providence’s severe decrees, what can I do even when faced with the cowardly folly and insensitivity of men? Let us speak no more of Pachiaudi who has so unworthily betrayed the Society and trodden underfoot so many duties. Even so his desertion does leave a gap that I cannot fill;

Eugene was understandably upset by the departure of Fr. Pachiaudi and expressed this harshly. In fact he later entered the monastery of La Grand Chartreuse where he held important positions as a monk.

but still more crushing, tearing at my soul and striking at my very existence, is the desperate condition in which our wonderful and irreplaceable Pons finds himself. For four days he has been betwixt life and death, and short of a miracle he cannot survive. The nature of his illness moreover keeps me in a state of continual anxiety for all these good young brothers who are nursing him with prodigal and heroic charity. He has no less than the most virulent form of typhus, and all those who are nursing him, which includes the whole community, feel in varying degrees the effects of the influence of this sickness that is carrying our dear and precious brother to the grave.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille, 15 September 1836, EO VIII n 583

Father Pons was only 28 years old and was a capable and respected professor at the Major Seminary in Marseilles.

So we have to resign ourselves to the loss of one of our best men and it will be a long time before we find a replacement. It is God’s will, that is everything; but it goes to the heart and the gap will make itself felt.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 16 September 1836, EO VIII n 584

We touch Eugene’s suffering and his anxiety for the health of the younger members of the community who were in danger of contracting the contagious disease as they ministered to their brother in the difficult medical circumstances of the 18th century.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Fr. Pachiaudi – not the first one to leave the community nor would he be the last – but that did not lessen the love that was accorded to him and so there was a small tear, a hole in the tapestry of the community. It is easy to understand the hurt and anger resulting from a seeming betrayal, abandonment that was felt by the small community in times that were every bit as trying as those that we live in today. Eugene as Superior General and father to Pachiaudi felt this loss keenly. We all know what it is like to experience the loss of some members of our Mazenodian Family; we feel the loss keenly for the love does not just stop – there is a sense of ‘missing’ them with a sadness even as it may become mixed with joy as they continue to grow in their lives with a new family or a different way of living.

    I am sharply reminded of how Eugene himself contacted typhus in 1814 and which took him to death’s doorstep. Eugene had been only a few years older than Fr. Pons was when he contracted typhus and it took him a while to recover. And yes the reality of losing not just Pons the man, but also of the position he held within this still young community – the loss would be hard to fill.

    Our superiors are more than just someone who will tell us what to do or how to do it for within this family it will always be within the realm of love. I know that they give their all to and for those they are charged to love and guide.

    This morning I am reminded to look through eyes of love at our superiors, who like parents or teachers and how they so often take the larger view of the loss and continue to shepherd their flocks no matter what happens. This giving of oneself in leadership is profound and never to be mocked. It is a very special grace, one that is perhaps particularly hard to carry for the load can be so very heavy.

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