An entry from Eugene’s diary refers to the rivalry between the cities of Marseilles and Lyon as to which was the most important city. Lyon claimed to be the first French diocese, while Eugene differed and believed that Marseilles was.

Letter from Fr. De Bussy. He excuses himself from coming to give us the pastoral retreat this year. He offers himself for the following year. Letter to this Father to accept his offer even while complaining about having been forgotten this year.

Letter to Fr. Maillard to accept Fr. Guillermet, who will come to give the retreat in the place of Fr. De Bussy. I joke about the preference accorded to him in Lyon and, far from recognizing the proud motto of Prima Sedes Galliarum,[ed “First (episcopal) seat of the Gauls – The Bishop of Lyon was the Primate of France”]
I claim that all the rights of priority belong to me because, if our Phoenicians [ed. The Phoenicians, originating from modern-Greece, founded Marseille in the sixth century before Jesus Christ] had not been converted to the faith when Saint Pothin disembarked on our shores, it would have stopped here, but already the friend of Jesus, our great Saint Lazarus, sat in the midst of his people, etc.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 16 July 1844, EO XXI

Eugene was always convinced that Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, had arrived in Marseilles with his sisters and was the first Bishop of Marseilles. According to the legend, the Mary referred to was Mary Magdalene (and not the sister of Martha and Lazarus of the Gospel) and hence the great devotion to her in southern France. She is believed to have lived and died not far from Aix en Provence and Marseilles.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    A small smile escapes my lips this morning as I read of the rivalry between the bishops of Marseilles and Lyon – it reminds me of some the ‘church’ jokes that we hear from time to time about a “priest, a Lutheran pastor and a rabbi” as they each try to best the other. There are also jokes made up between the rivalry between Jesuits, Franciscans, and Oblates. They are meant to be funny without harming another and often the outcome depends on who is telling the story.

    Sometimes small gems of truth and history can be found within them and used to teach us about truth and history, and about the character and charisms of those mentioned in the stories.

    There is a gift to learning about this side of Eugene, as it sheds light on him and we see how truly human he was, multi dimensional as a person, as a man, priest, founder, son, and friend. We begin to relate to him in a greater way and perhaps to be able to see parts of ourselves in him.

    As we get older there can be areas of life that we learn to relax with, to slow down and enjoy. It happens (but is not always confined to) in the second half of our lives.

    We meet this side of Eugene with smiles of joy as he recounts in his diary his ongoing conversation with God; sharing with us so that we can reflect and even share with others our own internal conversations between ourselves and our Beloved.

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