During the cholera epidemic of 1835, Eugene was away from Marseilles, because he had been ordered to as a result of the ongoing hostility with the government

In this letter Eugene confides his sense of impotence, and his anxiety for the people he cared for, to his friend and confidante, Father Tempier, and gives the only response possible for him.

My dear Friend, normal life is impossible at this unhappy juncture. My heart and mind are in an emotional state that breeds anxiety  that makes it impossible to rest in peace. Prayer is the only course open to me, any other activity is impossible. Apart from that, my imagination plagues me with unhappy and gloomy thoughts; as a result I sometimes even have nervous spasms. I mean I start involuntarily at the thought of the evil that I fear may befall the people who are dear to me, or of their death. For two days I had no letters from you. It was all that was needed to torture me with the idea that perhaps you were dead.

At the time of the first epidemic, when I was there on the spot, sharing the same dangers, I experienced hardly any anxiety for others any more than myself. It seemed as if we were all invulnerable; now that for my sins I am in a place of safety, the most acute suffering is never absent from me..

Letter to Henri Tempier, 7 August 1835, EO VIII n 531

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I think that perhaps we are all experiencing what Eugene wrote about to Henri Tempier. We find new ways to pray and be with each other, new ways to journey together. I now get up much earlier to try and start my day as one of my roommates must use a weak Wifi signal so that she can work from home and meet with her colleagues on line. I feel cut-off when I wait for her to take a break so that I can connect with all those I love. It is more important than ever to share a smile, a joke, a distant and virtual hug. It is imperative for me to communicate with others just as Eugene is communicating with Henri Tempier, my options like his are somewhat limited.

    This morning Richard Rohr shed his light on me as he wrote: “Life is not about us, but we are about life. We are not our own. We are an instance of a universal and even eternal pattern. Life is living itself in us.” I am unable to properly break that down or explain it, but rather can only sit in wonder knowing that this is a great truth. We are all in this together; life is living itself in us.

    Like Eugene during the epidemic, we too have had to adjust. Like St. Eugene who was sent away from Marseilles, separated from his loved ones, we too are unable to come together, to hug, to celebrate, to share our fears and challenges as we walk together through this pandemic.

    Prayer in some new and old ways become our accompaniment in this new way of living.

    Whether we await letters as did Eugene or wait for a strong Wifi signal to be with our loved ones – we all need to connect with each other.

    I think of Oraison – one of those gifts that Eugene shared with us – how we will come together in the heart of Jesus to meet and be with all and each other. Prayer becomes our connector – then and now.

  2. Jack Lau says:

    Thank you for this timely letter.
    The feeling of being helpless is there and just staying home and connecting with friends on line or on phone is what we can do.
    Be safe. Jack

  3. Anda Sprudzs says:


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