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)”