Eugene was away from Marseilles, but was involved in giving all possible support and advice to his uncle the Bishop in his war against the laws preventing the Church’s influence on religious education.

But I would wish to be at Marseilles to arrange everything with the Bishop and yourself, I would like to be there also to watch out for the dangers that you indicate to me

Letter to Henri Tempier, 24 June 1828, EO VII n 304

Bishop Fortuné wrote many letters rallying the Bishops of France to act collegially in their responses. Eugene’s influence was recognizable in many of these. Leflon explains:

“Certainly the bishop’s letters, the result of collaboration, betray hands other than his own beneath his personal signature. … taken as a whole, they sometimes bear the more concise and more distinguishing stamp of the uncle, and at other times, the more prolix, cumbersome, involved and disorderly style of the nephew.” (Leflon 2, p 302)

Trying to downplay Bishop Fortuné’s opposition, the Prefect attacked Eugene and Tempier’s influence: 

The prefect of the Bouches-du-Rhone department, time after time, pointed out and deplored the provoking uncooperativeness of the Bishop of Marseilles. Each time, however, he was careful to excuse the “octogenarian prelate, who was of a kind and peaceful nature,” by imputing Fortune’s “extremist measures” to the young priests of his entourage “whose zeal far outstrips their good judgment”; particularly his nephew who controlled him. Villeneuve- Bargemon was by no means mistaken in attributing a preponderant influence over the mind of the aged bishop to Father de Mazenod; however, rather than accept without any reservation the common opinion that the vicar-general completely dominated his feeble negative uncle, the prefect should have used, particularly in the affair of the ordinances, at least a minimum of discernment. Justice, as well as wisdom, demanded it.  (Leflon 2 p 300-301) a

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Eugene’s zeal did far outstrip his good judgement I suppose – if I measured it by the same stick of Villeneuve Bargemon and even by the same stick that is used today to measure how we are expected to act. I think of St. Francis, and further back to Jesus and then St. Paul and the other apostles. I am sure the same or something similar was being said about all of them. And not just the men, perhaps about Mary and Joan of Arc and then closer to today with Dorothy Day and Catherine Doherty.

    I can remember first meeting St. Eugene de Mazenod, and then coming to recognise his life and way of being, his passion and his ‘all for God’. He talked about leading others to become saints and I was hooked with that one instruction. Eugene ‘dared’ and ‘risked’ – he was certainly no ‘smouldering wick’. He was not perfect, but that all makes it easier to love and follow him, for I do not feel so alone or different from him with all of my own imperfections and woundedness. And that zeal is a part of his spirit, his charism that he shares so generously with all of us.

    Zeal can sometimes be used as a bit of a ‘put-down’ or even an insult and so is heard as being something other than a compliment. I think of it as being passionate, alive, a way of being from which the doing then follows. Zeal seems to walk hand-in-hand with freedom. I think I would be happy if ever I heard someone say that I was zealous.

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