As we have seen, Eugene’s time of enforced rest became the opportunity for a retreat and a time for reflection on the eventful events of the previous months. It was a grace-filled time because it allowed him to come to certain insights about himself and also concerning the congregation of Missionaries in its development and direction.
He became aware of how necessary a part of his life the community was for him. It was in community that he experienced where he belonged:
I am like a fish out of water here. My sole consolation is to follow you in your pious exercises. I am more faithful to them than when I was amongst you.
His retreat underlined, once again, the need for the striving for personal sanctity, to “be” in order to “do”:
If the good God heeds me, there will be no priests more saintly than you, my dear brothers, whom I love tenderly in the Lord, our common love.
It was the Lord, “our common love,” who brought the community together and ensured its continuing existence. The quality of life of the missionaries had to be such that they would be a witnessing community of living the Gospel virtues of Jesus, “our common love.” This, in turn, would attract others to want to imitate their lifestyle and commitment:
I embrace our dear novices and pray God that he will grant that they imitate your virtues.
Letter addressed to “our dear brothers, the missionaries at Aix”,
July 1816, O.W. VI n 12