I HOPE THAT THE POOR SUFFERER WILL RECEIVE ALL THE HELP HE NEEDS AND TO WHICH HE HAS A RIGHT

A prisoner condemned to death wished to receive the sacraments, but many clergy followed the Jansenistic practice of not doing this. Eugene was visiting the Diocese of Gap. In the absence of the local bishop, he wanted to bring God’s mercy to this poor abandoned prisoner.

A letter to Father Lagier, a director of the Major Seminary at Gap. It was to repeat to him even more explicitly than I told him the other day that it would be sinful for a director not to give Communion to a condemned man whom he judges to be well disposed, that the French custom, which however is no more general, is nothing but a pitiful abuse which the Supreme Pontiffs have never ceased to denounce…

Empathizing with the suffering of the prisoner, Eugene responded.

I most readily consent to administer the sacrament of Confirmation to such an unfortunate person, but I consider that first he must fulfill the obligation of annual Communion which he certainly neglected, that I offer to resolve the difficulties in order to give it to him myself, for which nothing more is needed than an altar in one of the prison rooms if there is no chapel, or even in the prison cell if necessary; that it be well understood that this Communion is to satisfy the present obligation and there still remains the duty of receiving the Eucharist in danger of death. I hope that this forceful letter based on principle, joined to my other arguments and the strength of my words the other day, will produce their desired effects, and that the poor sufferer will receive all the help he needs and to which he has a right.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 14 July 1837, EO XVIII

Here, in the heart and actions of Saint Eugene we see our Constitution 4 put into action: “Through the eyes of our crucified Saviour we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know also the power of his resurrection (cf. Phil 3: 10)”

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One Response to I HOPE THAT THE POOR SUFFERER WILL RECEIVE ALL THE HELP HE NEEDS AND TO WHICH HE HAS A RIGHT

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associates says:

    Seeing through the eyes of most perfect love, the eyes of our crucified Saviour, Eugene finds a way to minister to the poor prisoner that is fully in keeping with the Church and her Supreme Pontiffs. He is well aware of the Jansenistic practices; but he prefers to work and act from the heart, not limiting his actions.

    I am reminded of Matthew’s Gospel (5.17-37) from last weekend and how Jesus said “…but I say to you…” True he was speaking of thou shalt nots, but the flip side of that, the “thou shalts” which must be lived. A door that is only half way open is only half way open. Jesus calls us to follow him through a door that is fully open, all the time.

    I am reminded of how Eugene’s mission was/is to the most abandoned, the poorest of the poor who were not being served by the structures of the Church; hence his ministry to the prisoners – not part way but always fully.

    There is in Eugene’s voice not only love but a demand for justice as he writes of the prisoner’s right to receive the sacraments.

    Once again our Rule of Life reminds us of how we might live and love to the fullest. I remember when I first sobered up and was given the 12 Steps of AA – not just to be read once and then leaving the message to be nice words on a page. I was given the grace to realise that I needed to take them in and have them become a part of me so that I could live them (much more than just reading or reciting them). Here again we see the Constitutions and Rules for what they are: the lived expression of the charism given and shared with all of us.

    I had not expected this as we move into the weekend, but I am grateful for how God ensures that we are reminded.

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