On the journey to accompany his mother and sister as they left for France, the diary of the exile narrates two incidents in the 13 year-old Eugene’s life that indicated a future direction.

During this journey, Eugene demonstrated what grace had worked in him. First he provided himself with a large crucifix which he hung around his neck as a sign of his faith and of the public profession of it that he was prepared to make, if needs must be. The occasion presented itself at the first inn where they stopped. Although the crucifix was fastened under Eugene’s waistcoat, it was big enough to be seen; it became a subject of malicious pleasantries on the part of the inn’s servants, but Eugene, far from blushing, replied to these insolent people with a truly Christian courage, something these impious people were not expecting from a child of thirteen.
On arriving at Livorno, the family stopped a few days in that town. When Eugene observed that the house domestic where they resided was extremely ignorant in religious matters, his chief occupation was to explain this woman the catechism, which he did in so interesting a manner that the mistress of the house was pleased to join in and, from what she said, to her great profit. Zeal was one of the distinctive traits of Eugene’s piety, and foreshadowed the ministry he was one day to exercise towards the most abandoned souls.

Diary of the Exile in Italy, EO XVI

Seeds that pointed to an awareness of the Cross and to sharing its Good News with others – on which God was to build a missionary vocation. Each of us is invited to recognize the seeds of our spirituality and life direction in reflecting on some of our spontaneous actions in our youth.


“There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.”   Graham Greene

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I came here to this space earlier this morning and then sat fighting feelings of pain and shame. The pain was remembered pain of experiencing life without love and having to survive in such a world. The shame came from being quite unable to think of any early experiences or people that would be the seeds of life especially as noted by Graham Greene. I told myself there had to be something but after an hour I shut down my computer and prepared to come to where I volunteer.

    As I walked here I had a good half-hour to reflect. Usually this time is spent saying my rosary, but I wanted this time to continue to look back without shame, without measuring and without hiding. I ended up thanking God as I walked for all that I ‘have’ been given. I also received a small infusion of courage, enough to return here and just to be okay with what I have read, to give witness to the fact that for many years I survived and then was able to start living and that for many of us there might not be a lot of nice memories.

    That is why I write these few lines, to stand without shame – that although I grew up in years without the special moments that Graham Greene wrote of or what Frank has spoken of recognizing seeds of spirituality and life direction in spontaneous actions in my youth – what I will call the absence of both of those things became like seeds of my spirituality. I did not immediately recognize it in my life (AD) but as I look back there was within me a special love for all who were not loved, for those least loved or not easy to love, for all who were not wanted, for those who did not know love. For to me they were the poorest of the poor. None of this happened in a flash – it took time to develop, just as it took time for me see the tie-in between my first experience of the Cross with the love of Jesus for all who were like me.

    So although my open doors and windows do not bear much of a resemblance to the lives of many – they are mine and I can only rejoice in what I have received, rather than dwelling on what I do not have, or did not have. Some of the richness of my life and what I have to share seems to have come in direction proportion to what I did not have.

    I thank God for the love and life that he has lavished upon me even though some of it seemed to be hidden or even absent – it has all made me who I am now and the life that I live now, full of joy and wonder and awe. And I thank God for the opportunity to look again at my life – not with a view to what I missed receiving but rather in gratitude for all that I have.

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