When the Church of the Mission opened its doors to the general public, then the anger of some of the pastors came to the fore. This was particularly the case of the pastors who were Gallican in approach and disliked Eugene’s affinity with Rome and the Pope. Some of these had cooperated with the Revolutionary governments and sworn allegiance to France and not to the influence of Rome. Even though they had recanted after the fall of Napoleon, Eugene remained a sign of contradiction for them.
They expressed this in attacking the Youth Congregation. An example came on 6 April 1817 with the confirmation of 26 congregants. Eugene narrates this in the Diary, speaking of himself in the third person as the “Director”:
The young congregants who were to receive the sacrament of confirmation went on retreat in the house of the Mission three days previously, in the usual way. They were quite numerous and the Congregation deserved sufficient consideration to have His Lordship the Bishop of Digne come and confirm them in the Congregation’s chapel, as he raised no difficulty over going indeed to the poor house. Truly pitiful reasons, which I flinch from putting on paper out respect for his person, deterred this Prelate from accepting the invitation made him by the Director with the agreement of the Rev. Capitular Vicar General.
So we had to go to the Cathedral where the parish priest of St. Jean so far forgot himself as to insult publicly the Director who happily managed to contain himself and not react to his insults so as not to give rise to a dreadful scandal on such an occasion. The grievance of the Rev. Parish Priest of St. Jean was the refusal of the Director to send the congregants to the parish to join up with the street-corner scamps hurriedly assembled not without a certain amount of difficulty on the occasion of the confirmation.
The Director had refused only after consulting the Vicar General; he was therefore acting perfectly correctly and had no reason to expect to find himself accosted in this shocking way right in the choir of St. Sauveur’s packed with children from every parish who were waiting for the moment to be confirmed. The Director, after the good Parish Priest had said at the top of his voice that he would jolly well teach him his duty, that he would summon him before the Promotor and other such pleasantries, – the Director, assisted by a special grace, made no reply and passed on, but as there was an oversight and no place was provided for the congregants although he had taken the precaution of giving advance notice the night before, he spoke directly to the Vicar General asking him to be so kind as to see to it.
The Rev. Vicar General had them placed around the altar where these youngsters who had been prepared with such care presented an enchanting picture of piety that was in strong contrast with the scandalous dissipation of all the other children who could only kept quiet with a few slaps and cuffs. This shocking behaviour went so far that half-way through the Prelate’s Mass, the Rev. Vicar General who was assisting him turned round towards the priests and told them out loud to control their children and put an end to the noise.
As soon as the congregants had received the sacrament of confirmation, they retired behind the High Altar and stayed there until the ceremony was over. The Director addressed them from time to timer to raise their hearts to God and steer them away from the distractions the uproar in the church could have occasioned. But it can be said that this help was practically unnecessary, so intent were they on being recollected of their own accord, so attentive either in prayer or in reading the book we had taken the precaution of having them bring. I can affirm that on that day they surpassed themselves.
The Director thanked the Lord for it as a compensation that helped him put out of his mind the unpleasantness the morning’s events had brought him. We must not omit mentioning that the congregants were practically the only ones who had the happiness of taking communion at the Bishop’s Mass […]. The young men came back to the Mission two by two accompanied by the Director and another missionary. Their retreat continued until the evening […]
Diary of the Aix Christian Youth Congregation, 6 April 1817, O.W. XVI