How often in my past life had my wounded, tormented heart taken wings for God from whom it had turned away!
… I could then, and also on some other instance, perceive the difference. Never was my soul more satisfied, never did it feel such happiness
Retreat Journal, December 1814, O.W. XV n.130
What God-choices had Eugene made in his life? At the College of Nobles the 9 year-old had received first communion and confirmation and manifested a lively sense of faith. In Venice, his admiration for Don Bartolo, and all he received from this family, would almost not have given Eugene any choice but to adhere to the strict religious expectations required of him. The way in which he lost his religious fervor in Palermo and in the initial years of his return to Aix, makes one wonder at how deeply he had integrated it as a child and adolescent. As time passed in Aix and he became disenchanted with his lifestyle, the solid foundations received in Turin and by Don Bartolo appear to re-emerge. We see the young adult now making adult decisions and choices and making this foundation his own. He needed the “sight of the cross” with its conviction of the enduring love of God for him to be the impulse to say his definitive “yes” and never turn back.
Seven years later he continued to affirm: “Never was my soul more satisfied, never did it feel such happiness.” It was a serenity that would never leave him, and would become the goal of his missionary life: to lead others the “sight of the cross” and to his same experience of resurrection serenity and conviction, regardless of difficult circumstances.
Eugene’s ministry and invitation continues to you and to me today. If we allow him to lead us constantly to the sight of the cross, his same experience of resurrection serenity and conviction will be ours, regardless of difficult circumstances.
“Through the eyes of our crucified Savior we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know also the power of his resurrection” C4
I sit in awe and wonder – the power, the life, the invitation that the sight of the Cross has upon us. It is never forced upon us and yet once experienced we are utterly powerless to ignore or reject it. It becomes somehow an integral part of who and what we are bringing humbleness as it sears our very souls and then takes up residence in our being. Transformation that never ends.
Frank has written “He needed the “sight of the cross” with its conviction of the enduring love of God for him to be the impulse to say his definitive ‘yes’ and never turn back.” That my God should die for me! That I gather the God-given courage to look up and into and through the eyes of my crucified Saviour, knowing somehow that I am in the midst of being forever changed!
I think of past Good Fridays, where I was able to be a part of a small group (for it can never be done alone by only one’s self) who carried a large wooden cross up the from the back of the church to the front and then held it so that others could come and adore, reverence, touch it. The simple memory of this brings tears to my eyes for it was a gift of such magnitude to be able to hold that cross for others, it was so very humbling that it caused me to look through transformed eyes at each and every person as they approached the cross. I felt myself filled with a love that was not my own, something much greater than I could ever hold. What started as “I” became “we”.
How strange it is that God should give to me, to us, the gift of Eugene and yet it is not strange at all. This beloved saint who opened his heart for all, opened the door of his heart’s family where my own small heart could find a home. I think of the image of that statue of Eugene at the General House in Rome where he appears to be striding forward with one hand holding the cross and reaching out as he seems to move forward. I am, in my mind’s eye walking beside, behind him, wearing my small cross, not moving so purposely as Eugene but standing tall in the dignity and beauty that only living with that cross can bring.
And so today begins as we move forward, our beings greeting the day as we see through the eyes of our crucified Saviour.