Fr. Jean-Pierre Bernard, 26 years old, had been ordained in 1847 and left for Canada. Within months of his arrival he succumbed to an epidemic of typhus. Eugene received the news and wrote in his diary:

Our very good, very fervent Fr. Bernard is so ill that he received, that very day, the sacraments. I am truly devastated by this news. Could we not permit ourselves some dedication to God and to the salvation of souls by this fervent missionary, with his good hand, his wonderful voice, his robust health! My God, what a new trial! This dear child, since his ordination to the sub-diaconate,  did nothing but grow in virtue. His generosity met every test… He was so happy to sacrifice himself for the salvation of unbelievers!

Eugene’s pain was evident, as was his faith in submitting to God’s will

… All that I fear is that the Lord has found him ripened for heaven and that he is taking this good worker even before he would have been able to carry out everything that his good will was inspiring him to do. This is a major sacrifice which our good God is requiring of me. I am doing everything as though this does not need to be and I am praying with confidence. Who knows if God, in anticipation of these prayers which issue from the bottom of my heart and which my trust in his mercy inspire in me, will not have granted the safeguarding of this precious child? This thought sustains me as I await the first mail from America.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 6 March 1848, EO XXI


Everyone’s prayers were answered and he was restored to health and would spend nearly 40 years as a Missionary Oblate in North America, with a 5 year stint in France.

One can imagine the conflicting emotions in Eugene! The missions to the most abandoned in Canada desperately needed good men, and here was the possibility of a talented young man being cut short just when about to begin his ministry. In the midst of his tears Eugene bows to what may be God’s plan while at the same time issuing heart-rending prayers for his healing. I imagine that these were also Mary’s sentiments as she stood at the foot of the Cross.

“To trust God in the light is nothing, but trust him in the dark – that is faith.” (Charles H. Spurgeon)

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Lay Oblate Associate says:

    I am quite unable to ignore Eugene’s love for yet another of his sons. He is not ignoring their human traits, but loving their struggles and their joys. There are no measurements with Eugene’s love; he is seeing Fr. Bernard through the eyes of the crucified Saviour.

    It is when we see through the eyes of absolute love that we want for the other to succeed and to know the incredible love that Mary knew as she stood at the foot of the cross.

    Eugene’s suffering is evidenced in his written notes in his diary. It is in his writings that I reflect in the deepest part of my being, and how I might bring it into the light. I have sat here this morning for more than an hour, with the Beloved whose very being of that unending love which is outrageously lavish. I try to share this experience but am unable to find the words for it has become about the others and how Jesus and the cross appear and are reflected within them.

    It is in the darkness and the suffering of others that Jesus the Beloved, appears with a light that penetrates the deepest recesses of my heart. And yet I can only try to express what that “is like” as we journey together through Him and with Him and in Him.

    I find myself speaking with Eugene for a moment, exclaiming that I am so grateful, and how I would never want to choose all the riches of the world over being one of his sons and daughters.

    I ask the Beloved to give me more only so that I might share it with others.

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