In Eugene’s ministry we find him accompanying the dying and staying with them until the moment of death. He wanted to assure that the person have a peaceful death and not give in to temptations to despair and to turn away from God. We see this in the Rule for the Youth Congregation:

Art 50. The prayers being finished at the church, the Director will go directly to the patient, leaving him only for very short intervals. It is in these decisive moments for the salvation of his beloved sons in Jesus Christ that he will protect them against the temptations of the treacherous enemy of their souls.

Statuts XIV, §2 Envers les congréganistes malades

Eugene’s uncle, Fortuné de Mazenod who lived with the Missionaries in Aix, attested to this with his own eyes regularly. He wrote to Eugene’s father:

You know that he does not abandon for one moment the souls committed to his care when they are in danger of losing their lives.

Letter of Fortuné de Mazenod to Eugene’s father, 1 April 1819,
General Archives, Rome APR FB V 1-7

This concern for the welfare of the dying was written into the Rule of the Missionaries, who were committed to accompany to the guillotine those prisoners condemned to death :

They will accompany them right to the scaffold, which the Missionaries will not leave until they have received the last breath of those they are caring for, because they are responsible for defending them against all the snares of the devil, the fear of death and the danger of despair.

1818 Rule Part 1, Chapter 3, §4 Prisons

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I am thinking of my experience in Aix and the route that was most likely the one taken by the prisoners to the scaffolds, the one that Eugene and the other would have known. A relatively short distance in terms of length of time it would take to arrive from the prison to the scaffold but I can only imagine how horrendously long it would have been to anyone walking it. Eugene could not and of course did not walk it for any of the persons condemned to die, but he did accompany them – in other words they did not have to walk it alone and that is perhaps one of the greatest things anyone could have done for them. That fear of death and danger of despair.

    This is maybe the only thing we can do for someone we know is dying. Yes yes prayer but to be a presence there with them, to be a living prayer there with them – there’s not a whole lot else we can do, and even this is not comfortable or painless. I am reminded somehow of the cross and the walk that Christ took. Am not sure where that came from but there it is.

    I find it hard right now to thank you Lord for this, can only ask that you hold us both.

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