Eugene’s sister, Nathalie, had five children. One had died in 1825 at the age of 12, the other in 1829 at the age of 19 and now the third, Louis de Boisgelin had just died at the age of 27. The family was devastated, and their uncle, Eugene, was urged to take some healing time away with them in northern Italy. He and Father Jeancard (a former Oblate and now a diocesan priest in the diocese of Marseilles) spent two months away in Italy with the family.

The blow which just struck us has thrown, alas! too justifiably, my sister and my niece into a profound melancholy: this state would be dangerous for my niece if it were prolonged; it was therefore necessary to take them from here in order to distract them from their grief. My sister would have with difficulty decided to undertake a journey for which she conceals her own need, although she senses that her daughter can hardly do without it. This last consideration makes her overcome her aversion, but it was necessary for me to take part. I would have wished for all the world not to be reduced to this necessity; but I am not accustomed to listen to my aversions when it concerns the well-being of those who have a right to my affection and to my devotion.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 25 April 1842, EO XXI

That was his personal diary entry. To Father Tempier he wrote:

I undertook this trip only for reasons of charity and due affection for my sister and niece and nephew; far from anticipating the least pleasure therefrom. I had to force myself to undertake it… Nothing is more normal than the sacrifice I have made. The hope of restoring the health of such a charming child who is always so thin and feeble, as well as the desire to distract my sister from her profound sorrow are more than sufficient reasons to impose on a brother and uncle such as I greater sacrifices than the one I am gladly making. though it does cost me

Letter to Henri Tempier, 30 April 1842, EO IX n 762

Eugene used to insist that the Oblates reduce their attachment to their families, and yet he was so attached to his. Was it perhaps because he had suffered deeply being deprived of life with his family during all the years of his adolescence as an exile?

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    One might think that Eugene was making “much ado” about something that was quite normal for families and yet as Frank has suggested he had spent much time separated from his sister during his exile. He also had taken time as he founded his own family, the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and gave himself over to serving the Church and the poorest of the poor. A mighty and full-time job by any standards.

    He loved greatly and so did what he could for all in their times of need and struggle. And it meant sacrifice on his part which he recognized, accepted and carried. We have just come from hearing the parable of the Good Shepherd. How the shepherd left the strong sheep to go and search for the lost ones. I remember a painting I saw of the Good Shepherd – it was of a man on the side of a cliff, lying flat and reaching over to bring up a lost lamb.

    I think of the many opportunities offered to us during this pandemic to love and serve each other, no matter the cost. We see it in the heroic actions of many of our healthcare workers. And we see it in those who go to work early to restock shelves and to serve us; we see it with transit workers who drive the buses with little or no protection so that we might get to work and serve others, that we might be able to go and buy those needed groceries. We see it with friends who are at risk because of age and health who come and help someone who has moved to unpack their items and make a run for groceries at the end of a long day.

    A heart as big as the world! This is what Eugene modelled for us, with his sons and daughters, with the many poor, with the Church, and with his birth family.

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