When Eugene returned to Aix en Provence as a young priest he preached a series of Lenten sermons aimed at those who were the most abandoned as a result of the French Revolution. For Eugene the “poor” were those who had been deprived of knowing God as savior as a result of the historical and social circumstances.
In the first sermon he presented the indifference of the people to God, and invited “you poor of Jesus Christ” to come to the instructions where they would be enlightened. Just over two hundred years later, our circumstances are different but the message remains equally powerful.
Question the milling crowd that jostles in the public squares, ask anyone what he is doing, where he is going, what is he engaged in doing, etc.
- The one will answer that a process on the issue of which depends his entire fortune summons him to the bench to solicit, etc.
- Another will say that he is going to negotiate an important matter, etc.
- Another will say that he is going to negotiate his presence on the farm to which he is heading with all speed.
- Another again will say that he is going over in his mind some plans concerning fortune, interests or ambition that will assure, etc.
- Perhaps you will discover some who will be compelled to say that they are hastening their steps towards the object of their less than noble passions.
So come, whoever you are, come tirelessly to some instructions that must correct you in many fatal errors, enlighten you on what should be your only true interests. Not a single one, no, not one will be able to reply that his mind is filled with the eternal truths, that these are the subject of his meditations and searches. “It has been made a desolation” etc. (Jer. 12:11). O blindness! O folly! However, the days pass, the years roll by, death has its day!
Then illusion vanishes, but there is no longer time to make good the loss of a life entirely devoted in the tiring search for passing vanities that must be left behind. It is too late to collect an incorruptible treasure of glory and happiness for eternity.
Come especially you poor of Jesus Christ and may God grant that I may make my voice heard in the four quarters of the world to reawaken so many foolish people from the fatal carelessness that brings them to their doom.
Notes for the first instruction in the Church of the Madeleine EO XV n. 114
These were Eugene’s preaching notes and thus when we see the “etc.” in the text, it means that he would spontaneously expand on that point.