The missionaries were preaching in Digne. It was in an area known for its Jansenist rigidity and for being critical of the Oblates whose preaching focused more on God’s mercy for sinners than on legalism and hellfire. Conscious that their ministry was being done in delicate circumstances, Eugene encourages them with words of advice.
At the seminary of Digne, be considerate to the superior ….
The moral theology being taught at the seminary was not that preached by the Oblates, and so Eugene reminds them to be courteous to the seminary rector at all times, despite their differences. Then he stresses that it is by the quality of their lives that they achieved good results. When their critics became aware that the Oblates were not troublemakers who wanted to defy them, but men sincerely striving for sanctity, much would be achieved through their ministry:
Above all be saintly for one achieves more by actions than by words.
Finally, they needed to keep a watchful eye on one another’s speech and behavior to guard against any misinterpretations.
Do not refrain, I conjure you, from charitable fraternal correction.
Letter to Fathers Mie, Jeancard and Guibert, 21 November 1826, EO VII n. 259
We will see in the future how the fundamental difference in approach to sinners between the Oblates and the diocesan authorities in this area was to become an increasing source of tension, leading to the eventual expulsion of the Oblates from Notre Dame du Laus a decade later.
“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” Ben Okri