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

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    As I read my heart begins to sign softly in mists of my heart: Alleluia, Alleluia – give thanks to the Risen Lord; Alleluia, Alleluia – give praise to his name.

    This is not the first time I have read this letter to Father Vincens and reflected on it, yet this morning I see it in a different light. My focus has changed because I am reflecting on it in the light of Eugene’s parting blessing which is so incredibly consoling and comforting. I am touched by his tenderness.

    First Eugene soothes Fr. Vincens’ worries and questions by explaining the steps to take with Confession in order to give absolution (just as Fr. Vincens will do with the penitent before him). Here is Eugene the father, speaking to one of his sons, and so on this day – through others – to his sons and daughters; with a cherished reminder of what we are all about here. “God in his goodness will make up for what is lacking.

    This seems like an extension of our reading and reflection from yesterday. Frank guiding us just as Eugene guided him and others. This is how we become God’s coworkers.

    Thank you Frank for how you guide and console us, reminding and inviting us to go deeper on this adventure with Eugene. I think of Eugene sharing how he became a co-worker of God and modeled that to his family; and how you in turn model that for all of us – that we might do exactly that ourselves. This is how we too become God’s instruments so that God might work through us, becoming ‘Co-operators of the Saviour’.

    The tune changes; “this is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

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