Why did Eugene become a priest?

Because he was moved by the condition of the poor whose faith had been weakened or destroyed by the Revolution. Looking at them through the eyes of the Savior urged him to dedicate himself to re-awakening their faith and opening their hardened hearts to redemption.

As the Lord is my witness, what he wants of me is that I renounce a world where it is almost impossible to find salvation, such is the power of apostasy there; that I devote myself especially to his service and try to reawaken the faith that is becoming extinct among the poor; in a word, that I make myself available to carry out any orders he may wish to give me for his glory and the salvation of souls he has redeemed by his precious blood.

Letter to his mother, 29 June 1808, EO XV n. 27.

It was with these words that Eugene had announced his decision to his mother. A year later he repeated the same sentiments of the impossibility of being able to remain an idle onlooker to the sad religious  situation around him:

Do you believe that a man who had a clear vision of the needs of the Church and who, despite the attraction God gives him to work at helping her, and other signs of His will, yet opted to sit back with arms folded, sighing softly to himself about all these evils, but not raising a finger to awaken even in the least degree men’s hardened hearts, would rest in all good conscience? What an illusion… it would be enough if in the course of one’s life one could help even a single soul to work out his salvation to make all one’s labors worthwhile.

Letter to his mother, 4 April 1809, EO XIV n 50

It was an ideal he communicated to the first Oblates:

The sight of these evils has so touched the hearts of certain priests, zealous for the glory of God, men with an ardent love for the Church, that they are willing to give their lives, if need be, for the salvation of souls.



“When a good man is hurt, all who would be called good must suffer with him.”   Euripides

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    It all seems to come back to the Cross, to Jesus on the Cross. Seeing through the eyes of our Beloved Crucified Savior. And then living out from that place and way of being. It was this that led Eugene then to be a priest. It was this way of seeing that would dominate how he lived for the rest of his life. It grew from this, which itself was not static or disconnected from his being.

    The Cross which began as something a little removed from myself – that I would look at as if from a distance to see my Beloved hanging there, for this was no place of grace that he stood proud, but rather a place of defeat and agony, abandonment and death. To this I was attracted – a place still separated from myself, but a place which drew me, invited me to step closer until I found myself at the very foot of the cross looking up into the eyes of Jesus. And then a very dear and wise woman telling me to look at myself, my daily way of being, through the eyes of Jesus on the Cross. Another step closer.

    It has been like an inward spiral, my journey with the Cross. Starting wide and then coming in closer and closer until there is very little separation. Becoming one with. Always focused on the cross. And then moving outward from that point, those points, as did Eugene, moving outward but always tethered, always part of, always in being and seeing through the eyes of our Crucified Savior.

    Dearest Eugene, in coming to know you through your sharing yourself in your writings, through your sons and daughters, I come to know myself. You gathered around you men who were like yourself and asked them to move with you in a most particular way. And for me, your invitation to me to walk with you, with your Oblates, always in service to my Church, not as a priest but simply as the person I am – as an Oblate Associate. Seen through the eyes of Jesus, our Crucified Savior. For you it was the feeling with and responding to the victims of the revolution. For me it with those I walk with and serve in my community, my parish, my Church and in a way my world – those who are victims of one sort or another.

    It is this way that I can serve those who serve. That sounds so holy and yet it’s not, it is simply a way of being. This is what it is like to be ordained by God. Wow Eugene, a great big soft WOW!

    This journey through Advent with you – these daily encounters as we come together give focus to my days. I am grateful beyond measure for how God has led me to you, or you to me. I am grateful as we move, all of us together on this Advent path.

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