Eugene had been happy to be of service to the diocese and to his uncle in an auxiliary role. He had looked forward to retiring from Marseilles to devote himself more fully to the Oblate Congregation once his 87-year-old uncle retired or died.
There’s no doubt about it, my dear friend, it was to get you to pray for me more zealously that our Father Courtès gave you the news of an event that makes me feel so sad. My lovely Icosia was not weighing on me at all. With the episcopal character I could perform genuine services, even bear a portion of my good neighbours’ burden, but I was exempt from every responsibility, I was free and I could count on the rest to which I feel so strong an attraction, when the time came that I hoped was still far distant but which would eventually occur, unless I were the first to die.
Unburdening himself to his medical doctor and friend, Eugene reflected on the nature of the responsibility that was now given to him for the rest of his life:
Now here I am, doomed to die in harness and this terrible responsibility that I have always so feared, here it is ready to shatter me; for I am far from putting a diocese on a par with a prefecture. The role, rather the burden of the pastor is frightening in the eyes of faith.
And the first pastor, in virtue of his institution, is pastor by divine law for the whole of his diocese! How can one deceive oneself that nothing is suffering through his fault in so vast a field, how can one make a promise always to do what one can to acquit oneself of so immense a duty?
For myself, I am bewildered when I reflect on it and have to summon up my inexhaustible trust in God’s goodness, in the help of the prayers of the just who still bother themselves about me, in the protection of the saints who have found themselves in the same crisis as myself, to win a little respite.
It was a responsibility that Eugene would fulfil with total dedication and much success for the following 25 years.
Thank you, dear friend, for all that your good heart inspired you to say so kindly to me on this topic; I would like to merit your praises, but, apart from my goodwill, there is precious little else.
Letter to Doctor M. d’Astros, 16 April 1837, EO XV n 183