Two hundred years ago, when there was no electricity, radio nor television, it was the theaters and opera houses that provided public entertainment. In reality, the moral values portrayed by the majority of these performances were usually not in keeping with Gospel values, with marital infidelity and immorality topping the list. For this reason, the bishops of France never went to theatrical performances.

In this journal entry Eugene speaks of meeting the world-renowned composer and musician, Niccolo Paganini, and of refusing an invitation to the theater where he was to perform.

So as not to offend the good Billon, parish priest of St. Victor, I went to assist pontifically at the High Mass in his church. They performed the Cherubini Mass; the artists were determined to perform at their best, having as witness and judge of their ability the famous Paganini. This famous man had given two concerts in the city which had won him the praises he is accustomed to receive everywhere he makes heard his really magical violin. He did not fail to come and invite me in person. I was really happy to see so extraordinary a master, but I was obliged to disappoint him with a refusal motivated not simply by my state of health, but also by the just severity of our French practice which is opposed to a bishop appearing even for an innocuous concert in a theatre considered by us all too justly as the temple of the devil.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 5 February 1837, EO XVIII

We may be tempted to judge Eugene as being narrow-minded by today’s standards, but perhaps this text invites us to reflect on our own attitude and reaction to the Gospel values that the mass media constantly bombards us with today.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I look at many of the attitudes and practices that are portrayed today, of our constant quests to be as ‘acceptable’ or as well-loved as another. There seems to be emphasis put on how we look, how much money we make, how many people follow us on Facebook, how smart we appear to be, even on how strong we are when it comes to being constantly bombarded with obscene violence, cruelty, control and the necessity of amassing extreme wealth and power at the cost of so many others. And not to forget the growing popularity of lessening and negating others so as to build-up ourselves.

    These are ways that insidiously eat away at the fabric of our hearts and with which at the end of the day we find ourselves feeling empty and separated from the gifts we have been given and from who we have been created to be. We feel alone and separated from even our deepest selves.

    Sadly we must also be on guard against present an image of ourselves that seems to give approval to that which is not always good for some – how often do we hear another saying ‘well so-and-so did it so it must be okay’.

    Eugene did not want to get caught up in all of that. He had looked outside of God for happiness and had not found it there. I liken it to many of today’s members of AA, having known a life where every possible part of us (body, mind and soul) have been lost to all that is good – we must now always be on guard against alcohol or drugs, but also on guard against the many ways that we turn away from God and from our truest selves. We must be on guard as to the image we portray to others, especially those who will model themselves on our behaviour.

    How do we do this will be difficult for it must be done respectfully – loving ourselves and loving the other.

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