Eugene’s friendship with Charles de Forbin Janson dated back to their days in the seminary together. They had formed a deep friendship and shared much together during their early years of priesthood. Together they responded to the request of the Pope to rebuild the ruined post-revolution Church in France by the preaching of parish missions. Eugene initially was going to join his friend but then discerned that God was calling him to concentrate on the poor of Provence, by preaching in their language. (See http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=829)

The letters shared between them give many details of Eugene’s early ministry and the foundation of the Missionaries of Provence. Charles had always been an unpractical dreamer – even when he was appointed Bishop of the diocese of Nancy – and this continued right to his last days as Eugene’s diary entry shows:

The bishop of Nancy came to rest in my home after having consulted Doctor Cauvière. The good prelate is kept in a lamentable sense of security by this doctor who, after having physically examined him, assured him that he did not have any lesion in his chest. I was saddened to see my friend under this assurance. While waiting to speak frankly to him what I think about his condition, I tell him that physicians make a duty of lying.

I was astonished that the doctor had vouched for his chest while I see him habitually spitting blood. He answered me that this did not disturb him, that this was nothing and that, if his rheumatism in his insides passed, he would soon be out of the situation. Never a similar illusion! While telling me this, he was out of breath, was not able to breathe and he had no good place at all on his armchair. I had to help him up when he wanted to withdraw and to hold him under the shoulders as far as the carriage. He is a man beyond hope except for a miracle.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 28 June 1844, EO XXI

A week later:

I went to make a small visit of friendship with the bishop of Nancy. He is continuously becoming worse, but, deceived by everything that surrounds him…  he has no suspicions that he is so close to his end. I therefore took advantage of the opportunity when I was alone with him to frankly tell him the truth. At the astonishment which he displayed to me, I understood how useful was the ministry of friendship and of charity which I was fulfilling with him,

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 9 July 1844, EO XXI

For further details see: https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/forbin-janson-charles-de/

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Poor Forbin-Janson and poor Eugene. It seems that his dear friend died only a couple of days after Eugene had visited with him and told him the truth concerning his health. And while some might ask how Forbin-Janson could have not figured out that the doctors were only telling him what he wanted to hear, we know how easy it is to remain blind about our own weaknesses and realities. We do it in how we dress and try to look and remain younger than our years and can blatantly ignore that which we don’t want to see or know. We do it in our various addictions…

    How many of us have had to speak with friends or siblings, colleagues, etc. and share the truth of what they were doing to themselves? How many of us have had a true friend who has lovingly talked with us about the truth of our lives and where we are headed if we do not change? Eugene himself, in the years that Hubenig wrote of as being the “trials of an Apostolic Man” and how Eugene needed his dear friend Tempier and other founding companions to sit with him and speak the truth. I think of my true friends who have loved me and shared with me their views of how I might have or be harming myself.

    It is love that gives us this great courage. As for the ministry of friendship that Eugene writes of. I have not thought of friendship being a ministry. It seems to be more of a gift as we walk with and stand at the foot of the cross with each other, especially when it would be so much easier to turn away, ignore or run from. And yet I guess that is a ministry in itself – a ministry of love.

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