On his birthday Eugene looked back on 56 years of life, and focused on 26 years of priestly service, seeing them as part of a journey which he began at a sprint but was now reduced to little steps.

At the beginning of my ministry I galloped along. My rate of speed very likely hindered me from seeing dangers scattered on the way, if I remember rightly. At least, I scarcely thought about them; whether through recklessness or preoccupation, I had little fear of them.
Now that I take little steps, it is really different and I count every stumbling block one by one, briars clutch at me from every direction, thorns pierce me to the heart, cold freezes me, heat stifles me, illness weakens me, infirmities weigh me down, morally speaking I mean,
for whereas my body has suffered from excessive work in the diverse ministries, that I have fulfilled for the 26 years of my priesthood, the strength of my temperament has furnished me with vital resources, which can still sustain me even though I am very aware that today I have entered my fifty-sixth year.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 1 August 1837, EO XVIII

A pessimistic thought, perhaps caused by his carriage accident, but which hardly reflected the galloping pace with would be the characteristic of the following 24 years of his energy-filled ministry as Bishop of Marseilles.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    At the age of 56 Eugene was most likely considered to be an old man, if for no other reason than he lived longer than the average life expectancy of his time. In his life he experienced life deeply greeted what lay ahead of him.

    As I sit here with Eugene I am reminded of a line from Tennyson’s Ulysses: “I am a part of all that I have met…” Eugene did not run from life but met it head-on. And though he was not as strong and fearless as he had been in his youth, he looked with gratitude on how his past strengthened rather than weakened him.

    This morning is a gentle invitation to look back on our lives; not to revel and drown in missed opportunities or so-called failures but to recognize how they were gifts that helped to shape who we are today. And – and we dare to see how we are more than our imperfections, how far we have come in life; how we love and live compassionately with deep and abiding strength and courage.

    I suspect that my life and ministry will continue to look much like it has up to now. I have slowed down, but I begun steps that allow me to enter more deeply into all of life. It will be in the ordinary of my days that I will hopefully love more deeply, with ever-growing compassion and gratitude.

    I take great hope from Eugene and his life for in so many instances he models and inspires me on my journey. Like Eugene I am slowing down in my steps on my journey; not a bad thing for I begin to take time to notice and really experience the grace of being part of all creation. I prepare to greet my birthday with joy and gratitude for all I am given.

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