The Oblates used to write to Eugene explaining their successes and difficulties during the preaching of the parish missions and asking his advice. The newly ordained Father Vincens was struggling with the sacrament of reconciliation.
You wouldn’t have experienced those problems you speak of if you had been able to serve your apprenticeship with some experienced veteran.
Eugene’s explanation refers to the practice in the missions given to the village parishes to use the sacrament of reconciliation as a means to spirit growth and accompaniment. The penitent came for the first time and confessed the sins committed. Receiving advice on how to achieve a change of life, the penitent would come a second time and would receive absolution for those issues that had been worked on.
The first session with the penitent having to be concerned with the principal points, e.g., the first and sixth commandments, you base your judgment on that. You tell yourself: I will absolve this man unless he does not amend his life at all. When he comes back again, although you don’t recognize him, if he has amended his life you give him absolution on the strength of the first judgment you made at the time he confessed. As to the problem you have over not being able to arouse contrition sufficiently in each penitent, this preoccupation would vanish if you made use of our invaluable service for the act of contrition, it is one of our most potent methods, it is proper to our Congregation and up to now has always proved infallible.
Eugene concludes by reminding the young Oblate that it is God’s work that he is doing, and to rely on God’s accompaniment.
But don’t worry. God in his goodness will make up for what is lacking. Goodbye, my affectionate greetings to you and your companions together with my blessing.
Letter to Ambroise Vincens, 17 January 1835, EO VIII n 503