We have been following the difficulties experienced by Eugene on many fronts. Finally, in August 1835, some hope appeared of resolving the conflict between the French government and Eugene over the issue of his having been appointed Bishop of Icosia by the Pope without having received government approval. Consequently, he had been deprived of his rights as a citizen and was in danger of being expelled from France at any moment.

The opening came from two events. The first was that Father Guibert had gone to Paris on business for the seminary he was responsible for in Corsica. Guibert was a friend of the Queen and thus had access to the King to be able to plead Eugene’s case.

The second opening came from an assassination attempt on King Louis Philippe on 28 July. There were many victims, but the King was unharmed. For the first time since the 1830 anti-religious government had taken power, the Minister of Worship approached the Bishops in the King’s name to ask that prayers be ordered in all churches for the victims and that a Te Deum be sung in thanksgiving for the safe deliverance of the royal family. This was the first time in 5 years that there were signs of a decrease of hostilities.

Eugene saw the possibility of reconciliation with this change of attitude.

My dear friend, reflecting on your letter of yesterday, it has to be acknowledged that it is through orders from higher up that these overtures have been made. In the light of this it has to be presumed that there is an intention to bring about a reconciliation, and that one could count on finding attitudes of goodwill, at least in these first moments.

Eugene sees this as an opportunity to approach the King to bring an end to his painful situation:

And so I think it would be to the point for my uncle to write in his own hand to the King, to put an end to the persecution that is weighing upon me. … I think that there would be good reason for us to reproach ourselves if we did not try in this way to bring about a cessation of this state of unjust oppression. If we don’t succeed, it will be a set-back, but we will have done what prudence and wisdom suggest. Not that I can promise myself in consequence that I shall be left in peace. I would not ask for more than to lead the life that I have been leading these last two months, during which I compete in exactitude of performance at all the exercises of our communities with the least of the novices. But isn’t it my duty to safeguard myself against the possibility of a still more fierce persecution?

Letter to Henri Tempier, 17 August 1835, EO VIII n 534

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Eugene has not only had to live through the vicious attacks on his person and way of living; he has also had to endure what seems like betrayal and abandonment by the Church whose silence has been deafening. It is a lot to ask of any man.

    I notice that the Minister of Worship is not demanding prayers in the king’s name, but rather asking for them. Indeed it is a perfect time for the bishops to speak out and ask for prayers to be said in gratitude for the safe deliverance of the royal family and for the many victims as a result of the assassination attempt on the king.

    I look at what is being done in the background by Fr. Guibert and think that his work might produce better results than that of a letter demanding change. I think of how it is in my own life when I am struggling with someone – it is sometimes difficult for me to recognize the goodness and gifts of that person in the midst of their humanness and brokenness. And when a personal friend of both of us shares with me the other’s good points and gifts – well how that helps me to recognize the goodness in the one I am struggling with; how that helps me to recognize their poverty and yes their gifts too. It helps me to see them with eyes of love and to not give in with the idea of striking back in any way especially when they are experiencing vulnerability.

    As I see it, Eugene writes to Henri Tempier because he trusts in him and is obedient to him. Yes, Eugene suggests what he would like to have done – but it is not in the tone of an order or command, but rather in a question. He is trying to work it all out by sharing with his dearest friend everything that is going through his thoughts. He is seeking guidance and help.

    It is not just the eyes and heart of my enemy which must change, but mine also.

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