AIM AT LESS BRILLIANCE AND INSIST MORE ON SOUNDNESS FOR THE MISSIONARIES

The leader of one group of missionaries (Eugene) writes to the leader of another group of missionaries (Forbin Janson) and shares professional advice. The occasion is the preaching visit of Brother Hilaire from Janson’s institute, the Missionaries of France.

Eugene emphasises his foundational principles on the quality of missionaries: they must “be” in order to “do.” The quality of their personal lives is more important than their ability to preach.

We have considered ourselves very fortunate to be able to extend our hospitality to the good brother Hilaire. I would wish that everyone of your group be of his kind, which is ours too; but I have reason to believe that much has to be done to achieve this. If I were you, I would aim at somewhat less brilliance and I would insist more on soundness.
Of what use are fine speeches if one is conceited? Humility, the spirit of abnegation, obedience, etc., and the utmost in the way of fraternal charity are also necessary for the good order and the happiness of a Society. Not all your people have properly understood that. I attribute this failing to a certain necessity wherein you find yourself to accept men capable of preaching.

Eugene puts this principle into action. Referring to the expulsion of Icard, he proudly asserts that the remaining Missionaries are the best priests of the diocese!

Here we agree on no such arrangements. We were six. Of these six, one did not have the spirit of a man of the Church. He did poor work. We asked him to withdraw. Our community is very fervent. There are no better priests throughout the diocese.

The lessons learnt by Eugene in his exhaustion of some months earlier shows in his concern for others not taking care of themselves:

Hilaire will give our young people a retreat of eight days in preparation of the Feast of All Saints. I hope it will have a good effect. I will see that he does not exhaust himself too much but I warn you about him generally: he does not take enough care of himself. At Marseilles, he preached up to three times a day. He does not have the constitution for that. If care is not taken, he will perish as a victim of his zeal.

Letter to Forbin Janson, 9 October 1816, O.W. VI n. 14

 

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