1791 – beginning of 11 years of emigration in Nice, Turin, Venice, Naples and Palermo – years of flight and fear and changing fortunes.


“As he had been declared under arrest by the revolutionaries, on his return from his mission to the Estates General, my father left France and went to Nice and soon from there he sent me his brother to bring me to him …

There really must have been a genuine fear of the threat made to do away with the children of the nobility, for my mother to have consented to let me undertake this journey even before I had quite got over an illness that had taken a lot out of me…

I was not yet nine years old. All I could do was to keep the secret as a grown-up would have done. This was enjoined upon me, and faithfully observed…


One day I was amusing myself at the window that gave on to the house of the Zinelli family opposite. D. Bartolo appeared on his side, and addressing me said: “Master Eugene, aren’t you afraid of wasting your time in idleness in this way at the window?” – “Alas, sir, I replied, it is indeed a pity, but what can I do? You know I am a foreigner, and I haven’t any books at my disposition.” That was the opening he wanted: “That’s no problem, my dear child, you see me here actually in my library, where there are many books in Latin, Italian, French even, if you want them.”

“There is nothing I would like better”, I answered. Immediately D. Bartolo undid the bar that held the shutters of the window, and placing on it a book, passed it over to me across the little street that separated us. .. From this time on, every day over a period of four years, I went after Mass to be with these most benevolent teachers …

His mother and sister returned to France, and his parents divorced – all Eugene’s efforts to reunite his parents were in vain


My stay in Naples, was for me an oppressive year of very gloomy monotony…


Providence, which has always watched over me since my youngest years as an infant, gave me entry into a Sicilian family, in which I was accepted from the first as a child of the house. This was the family of the Duke of Cannizzaro… From this time until my return to France, I was one of the family: my place was always set at their table; I followed them to the country in the summer, and everything in the house was at my service as it was for their own children, who considered themselves my brothers.”

Diary of the exile in Italy (1791-1802), E.O. XVI

For further details, see Alfred Hubenig and René Motte: “Living in the Spirit’s Fire” pages 12 – 24

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    For some reason I find myself singing “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me… Now enter into the home of my Father.”

    These were not vague childhood memories that Eugene was looking at and I find some of his words leaping from the screen and touching me in a new light this morning. “…he sent me his brother to bring me to him” and his thoughts of how his mother allowed his uncle to come and take him to his father because she realized the great danger that he as the son of noble was also in danger of death. There were the four years spent with Don Bartolo; a year of darkness in Naples followed by his time in Palermo as a member of the Cannizzaro family.

    What stands out for me this morning is how Gods love for young Eugene was there in full force although it might not always have seemed to be visible during some of those times. He was never abandoned, not even for a short time.

    I spent the greater part of my life in darkness and then in fear of looking back at that darkness. It is only now that I am able to see the light that was there all of the time. God had not abandoned me and there were those who God sent to watch out for me, care for me and help me to continue on. God was (and is) so much more than some pious thoughts that helped to keep me sane.

    This looking back at Eugene’s life has been an invitation (as are all of the postings here each day) to walk with him as he speaks to all of us.

    Eugene continues to shed his light on us, we do not walk in darkness.

    For this alone I give thanks…

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