The de Mazenod men were forced to abandon Venice in November 1897 and flee to Naples. All that Eugene had learnt from the Zinellis was to be put aside for some years as he discovered other attractions and lifestyles in Naples and Palermo. The foundation laid by Don Bartolo was solid, however, and would form the basis of Eugene’s life once again when he would come to his senses around 10 years later in Aix.
Father Pielorz (The Spiritual Life… p.73) tells us that in Venice “by their example, the teachers imbued their student with a desire to follow them in the vocation to the priesthood…. Unfortunately, this budding vocation was not able to contend with the crisis of youth. It began to fade away in Naples and disappeared during the years 1800-1805 to give way to ambition and the search for worldly glory. Don Bartolo tried to arrest the crisis through his letters, reminding Eugene of his “dispositions” while in Venice and suggesting that he follow him by entering the Society of the Faith. But, in vain! Eugene in his last letter to Don Bartolo, dated November 4, 1801, responded defiantly to his former master:
“I am no longer a child; I have grown to be a man!”
When this “man” really grew up, he would change and recognize and rediscover the treasure in his life that Bartolo Zinelli had given him. It was to be the grace of his conversion experience.
So I had looked for happiness outside of God, and outside him I found only disorder and disappointment.
Retreat Journal, December 1814, O.W. XV n.130
Surely the story of each of us on our ongoing conversion struggles.
“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” -Mark Twain