Can I forget the bitter tears that the sight of the cross brought streaming from my eyes one Good Friday? Indeed they welled up from the heart, there was no checking them, they were too abundant for me to be able to hide them from those who like myself were assisting at that moving ceremony. I was in a state of mortal sin and it was precisely this that made me grieve…
Blessed, a thousand times blessed, that he, this good Father, notwithstanding my unworthiness, lavished on me all the richness of his mercy.

Retreat Journal, December 1814, O.W. XV n.130

One can change one’s ways because of fear of punishment or because of love. A change brought about by love is more likely to endure. Eugene shows this conviction powerfully in the retreat he did just before his priestly ordination:

In any case, I have never needed the idea of hell to bring me to God; I have never been able to bring myself to dwell on it in my acts of contrition. When I ignored God, fear of hell did not hold me; now that I have come back to him [by a quite different road than fear of hell], even were there no hell I would want to love my God and serve him all my life.

Retreat notes before his ordination, December 1811, O.W. XIV n.95


As we look at the cross with Eugene, he invites us to see only God’s love – and through the loving eyes of our Crucified Savior to look at ourselves and those around us as we really are.

“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”   Victor Hugo

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Yes! My heart responds to Frank’s opening words. Because the love of the Cross conquers the death of sin. Eight words that I have been fearful of saying aloud. Imagine to link the Cross and ‘love’. But what a magnificent truth. As with Eugene it is not the fear of hell that led him to the Cross but rather the love itself.

    When I first joined AA some of the ‘old-timers’ would speak of how AA had ruined them for them being able to go back to life of comfort and ease in drinking. They had all received a taste of life without the alcohol and/or drugs and would never be able to return to that in the same way again. It is that way with the Cross. The love that it awakens within me is beyond all that I would have thought possible.

    I have for many years, silently in my heart, hoped, dreamed, prayed that I might be able to love God, to love Jesus with a love so great as to console him on the Cross. But how could I possibly give back to God that which emanated from him in the first place, me – little and very ordinary, me who he had died to save. A few years ago as I sat before a large crucifix in a garden I experienced that very thing. I found myself holding my crucified saviour in my arms and I was kissing the many wounds on his forehead, the lashes on his back, his poor broken body. And then it was time to give him back to the Cross. What an immense and impossible gift to receive – to be able to love and soothe and hold my Lord, to love back in a way. Earlier this month, again sitting before the very same cross in the very same garden to look up and somehow find myself able to focus most clearly on the eyes of my crucified God, to look through them in a way that was somehow different than just saying the words.

    Like my conversion experience 35 years ago and hearing God say my name, my experience and love of the Cross has forever changed me. There is a small part of me that understands in the most intimate of ways what Eugene meant when he said that the Cross would be the sign of who we are. The Cross changes the whole focus. To touch it, to see it, brings us back deep into our hearts, to the core of our being. God. No longer just an event of the past, living in the now. It is for this reason that we stand at the foot of it, with Our Lady and all of the apostles and saints who have gone before us.

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