Before I interrupted the chronological exploration of St Eugene’s letters in  we were reading the events of 1832. The anti-religious government had decided to suppress the Diocese of Marseilles once Bishop Fortuné de Mazenod would pass on. In order to ensure an episcopal presence in Marseilles for the sacraments, a plot was hatched between the Pope and Marseilles to ordain Eugene as a Bishop-visitor to North Africa, with the titular diocese of Icosia. This happened and Eugene returned to Marseilles, where he did episcopal ministry for his aging uncle undisturbed or so he thought…

A letter had arrived, nine months after his episcopal ordination, summoning him to Rome to meet the Pope, and giving no reason for the urgency. Eugene responded:

The Holy Father has put my obedience to a severe test: to set out and set out immediately, to leave the diocese in the middle of the pastoral visitation, to set out I might say notwithstanding an uncle very advanced in age, who in his old age leans on me and relies on my judgment in the government of his diocese, the length of the journey, the expense, family opposition, and who knows what besides? I have thought it my duty to impose silence on all these considerations at the voice of the Sovereign Pontiff who invites me urgently to set out immediately to receive some news which touches the good of the Church.
Short of coming on the wings of the wind, it would not be possible to hasten faster than I have done. As soon as your letter and that of the Cardinal prefect of Propaganda were delivered, I booked a place on the first steamship ready to depart.

Letter to Bishop L. Frezza, secretary of the Congregation for Ecclesiastical Affairs, in Rome, July 1833, EO XV n 171

Eugene recognized who the Pope represented for him in faith and he responded immediately, at great personal discomfort. Today the Pope continues to represent for us an important dimension of our faith understanding and expression.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Just when we think everything is okay and running rather well – it is then that our lives can be interrupted and turned inside-out. This probably happens to all of us at least once during our lifetime – with colleagues and bosses, with superiors in our communities, our parishes and our Church, our faith and our families.

    The interruptions can be great or small, easy or difficult. Do we react and strike out or do we try to respond as best we can? A change with our Superiors or our bosses or our teachers… How many times have we wondered why God would allow such changes to take place? Why should our journeys be interrupted when we are doing so many good works, and most surely a great job?

    Late last fall I was hit by a car – and the axis of my world seemed to change. Dealing with trauma both physical, emotional and spiritual. Trying to deal with the demands and requirements of the insurance system which I do not understand and which seems to relentlessly try to wear me down even as my wrist and hand slowly recover. With the weather being bad and my need to recover I began to feel isolated – even with so many wonderful people praying for me and offering to drive me to and from the hospital and treatments. Even my prayer life was interrupted and some days was a struggle.

    I return to Eugene who at the time had no idea of what is to come: “The Holy Father has put my obedience to a severe test…” “…at great personal discomfort” – we know what is coming, what happened and how Eugene continue to grow in love and wisdom and become the saint that he is. Looking at his fidelity helps me to continue on. The ‘voice’ of the one who speaks might change for each one of us. It is not the test, the fire that we seem to undergo that makes the difference. It is I think, all in how we respond.

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