On December 23 1806, Eugene, addressed as ”Demazenot fils,” (the equivalent of “junior”) received the following letter, addressed to him from the directors of the Work of Prisons in Aix: “Sir, we have the honor to inform you that the Mayor of Aix, convinced of your zeal and your love for all that is related to the relief of the poor and unfortunate, has named you in its meeting of December 22, 1806, a director of the Work of the Prisons of this city.” Rey I p.80

Leflon gives some background:

It would not be too far-fetched to see some connection between Eugene’s spiritual evolution and the short but very active role he played in the charitable works among the prisoners at Aix. At any rate, the coincidence is so striking that it deserves to be mentioned.

First established in 1686… Its purpose was to assure necessary spiritual and material assistance to the prisoners… Before 1789, it consisted “of 15 directors, all distinguished for their piety and chosen from among gentlemen, lawyers, procurators, notaries, bourgeois and resident merchants of Aix.” These directors gathered every week under the chairmanship of the officer of the week, called the Semainier, who gave the others a report on the visits made to the prisons, the needs of the prisoners, and the distributions that were made that week. Taken over by the municipality in 1792, suppressed in 1796, reestablished in 1797, and reorganized in 1803, the organization was in need of what Eugene called “regeneration.” De Fortis, the Mayor, therefore, resolved to add six new directors to the board… all of whom brought new life to the organization. (Leflon I p. 281)

Eugene wrote to his father about this event:

My dear friend, it is incredible that more than a month has flown by since my last letter, and what is perhaps difficult to believe, is that this is the first free time I’ve had to attend to my own affairs. In the three months since it pleased M. de Fortis, mayor of our town, to honor me with the appointment of director of prisons, I have not had what is called a minute of time to myself.
New blood having been put into this work with a view to regenerating an establishment that is so precious for suffering humanity and which had fallen along with so many other institutions under the sickle of a Revolution destructive of all good, I had to devote my time and efforts entirely and uniquely to that restoration, all the more as on entering I was chosen to be on duty in the first week.
I will not tell you what it cost a heart like mine to live so to speak in the midst of all the miseries and sufferings of every kind and especially when I consider the hardening and perseverance in evil of people given over to all the severity of justice and who lack for the most part the expectation of graces from Him who wipes out the crime in the act of pardoning it; whatever about this deplorable disposition of the very great majority of the unfortunates confided in part to my care, I try to obtain for them all the comforts that depend on me

Letter to his father, 19 January 1807, EO XIV n 21


“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”   Billy Graham

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I find myself wanting to jump up and down and exclaim aloud to any who would listen that “I get it”. I find myself excited for and with Eugene – look at where he was headed and how he was getting there.

    I think of his statement that ‘we must lead the people to act like human beings, first of all, and then like Christians, and finally, we must help them to become saints.’ I see here that this is what is happening to Eugene himself. The lines between humans and Christians and saints are blurred and there is a great overlapping. It is a bit like the ocean of life and it’s tides which ebb and flow, sometimes with surges and sometimes with eddies but still all of it a part of the life of the ocean. Sometimes those tides are small and gentle and almost un-noticeable until years have passed and someone notices that the water I now gently lapping at a doorstep.

    Yes I am excited this morning because if I stop and look this is what my entire life has been about. And I want to say to Eugene – look at what you have shown me through our writings and your sons. I want to say to Frank – look at what you have taught me and how you have guided me. I want to say to my community – look at what you have helped to carry me through.

    I am like a small child this morning as I run to face God and show him a fistful of the sands of my life that have washed in with the tide. Look I want to say – those years where I did not consciously see You but only those who no one else wanted to love or be with and so I volunteered to be with them because I knew their pain. Those years were not meaningless and I had not ignored You, I just didn’t recognize you in the midst of it all. There is excitement and joy within me as I forget about the sands and throw myself into an embrace of tenderness and safety, of all that I really want. It is how I will give thanks.

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