The Marian sanctuary at Laus was the second Oblate community established in France, and became a successful center of mission for the pilgrims in the warm months, and as a base of missionary outreach to the villages in the cold months. Unfortunately the Bishop of the diocese of Gap and some of the priests found the Oblates to be too “liberal.” The diocese was strongly Jansenist and condemnatory in its pastoral approach, whereas the Oblates followed the moral theology of Alphonsus de Liguori, which stressed the mercy and compassion of God. This was to be a source of ongoing friction for the next decade.

The Bishop’s letter to Eugene of January 30 has not been found, but Father Simonin summarizes it in these words: “The Bishop sets out therein the accepted principles in his diocese for the administration of the sacraments, principles with which, according to the pastors, the missionaries were in disagreement. Matters cannot continue in this way and those who work in the diocese must commit themselves to follow our principles.” Missions OM1, 1897, p. 366

Realizing that cooperation with the local bishop was essential for their continued ministry in Laus,  Eugene responded in a way that would not slam the door shut. In no way did he compromise Oblate principles, however, as the missionaries discretely continued with their pastoral approach in the confessional.

Your Lordship, I had intended to reply to the letter that you did me the honor of writing on January 30, when our Missionaries returned. When they left, I could not take pen in hand. I wanted to have a little time to reflect on the painful communication contained in your letter. I could not find it. Now I am almost fully at ease. When a person is deeply affected, it is difficult to avoid some expression which could be misinterpreted, and I would be inconsolable were I to offend when my intention is certainly only to register a complaint. I am very pleased that you got along well with our Fathers Mie and Touche, and dare to hope that you will get along as well with everyone else whom you are willing to deem fit to employ in your diocese. I will not send anyone whom you do not like, and if by chance someone may displease you, you would only have to notify me and he will definitely refrain from every external exercise of ministry in your diocese; but I am not overly concerned about that.

Letter to Bishop Arbaud of Gap, 10 March 1828, EO XIII n 64


“I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.”   Paulo Coelho

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Imagine Eugene holding back when being attacked somehow, especially by of all people, the Bishop of Gap. This seems to have been an ongoing ‘thorn’ in the side of Eugene, one that allowed him to be reminded of God’s infinite tender mercy.

    I myself have learned (off and on) to adopt this strategy of stopping to reflect not through or because of any great wisdom or holiness but simply because my initial response is to ‘react’, usually to something that is difficult for me to understand or something that is hurtful. It cannot be a time to step back and then ‘plan out how to strike back or get-even (which I am ashamed to admit is often a very strong temptation). This is a part of the staying with and holding of another and myself while at the foot of the Cross that I spoke of yesterday (versus a ‘dump and run’). It will take how long it takes.

    In a later reflection of the day I came across a letter to Fr. Mille from St. Eugene in 1832 with the phrase “My prayer is that your love will never cease to grow and overflow.” I think perhaps that someone must have prayed for me this very prayer and it is how I want to wait patiently at the foot of the cross, holding another, just as I am held. I began this yesterday and am not so foolish to think that ‘one small moment’ will be all there is. Oh for at least a few billboards in my life to remind me till it becomes as natural and thoughtless as taking a breath.

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