IT IS APT

On May 15, 1838 found St. Eugene de Mazenod wrote to Fr. Guigues who was at Notre Dame de l’Osier about Father Dupuy who was no longer an Oblate but who still had strong ties to Eugene and the congregation.

Dupuy is quite wrong in being angry, my dear child, he should not doubt either my affection or my gratitude. I think I have sufficiently proved on every occasion that I will not deviate from those sentiments to which he has a right such that no one in the Congregation can refuse to recognize. But then we do have to wait for the opportune moment in dealing with the things of this world; and must proprieties be neglected? It should have sufficed for Dupuy to know beyond a doubt that I was in the most definite disposition to do for him what my situation allows me to do. Any anxiety in this matter was a hidden offence about which he should reproach himself. It was however proper to let me be the judge both of what was possible and of the opportune moment. […]. When I speak of friends, I mean those who could be judges in this affair, and not certain lay people who have recourse only to their good heart when it concerns those to whom they are attached.” (662:IX in Oblate Writings)

Dear Eugene – I am reminded in this letter of how often I have looked at a situation through eyes that seem capable of only looking through my own needs and wants, through my own struggles and desires.  I do not always have the entire picture.  And I listen to those who I know would back me for have I not already filled them in, leading them in how they would think and then repeat what they had been filled with?  Oh the harm we can do to ourselves.

It reminds me yet again of my relationship with the Oblates.  I am not an Oblate no matter how much heart would wish otherwise.  I am neither clergy, nor ‘religious’ nor a man.  And yet I dare to say that it is with the Oblates that my heart has found a home.  I am a member of the family only because you invited me to stand with you and Tempier at the foot of the cross as you proceeded to make a case for what would grow to be a world-wide family.  I must always remember that I cannot speak for them or demand that they do certain things or be a certain way.  Add to this mix is my immense love for you and for your Oblates.  I walk sometimes a fine line.  Whether it is a line that I have drawn or one already there I am not sure and I don’t suppose it matters.  I cannot quit it for this is the path that my God has led me to, planted me on and walks along side of me.  As you would say dear Eugene – “what more glorious occupation than to…”

I note with joy your love and term of endearment for Father Guigues (my dear child.) My heart turns and beats a little more wildly when I listen to you speak as you do in your letters.  To love without embarrassment or shame – what a wondrous gift.  It is this that I learn from you.  What a gift you are.  I give thanks always to God for leading me to you, for inspiring you to invite me to walk with you.  I am blessed and for a moment I think of the ‘Magnificat’.  This is how you inspire me.  It is apt don’t you think?

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WHAT AM I REALLY SAYING YES TO?

May 7, 1838 found St. Eugene de Mazenod who was by then the Bishop of Marseilles writing to Fr. Mille who was in Notre Dame du Laus.  Specifically the letter was to remind him to rest and to take care of himself.

If I still have any authority in the Congregation, I use it to forbid you to undertake any work whatsoever, be it a retreat, mission, accompanying Bishops, etc.

 I think you are joking in wanting to convince me that I would not be basically wanting in my duty if I were weak enough to concede to your zealous requests. After a job like the one you have done this winter, it would be an unheard of imprudence to require anything else from you than the rest you need.” (661:IX in Oblate Writings)

Dear Eugene; I feel as if you could be speaking to me, reminding me that I need to slow down and pay attention to my health.  My response to you would be along the lines of; ‘where’, ‘how’.  ‘I don’t want to.’  That is it in a nutshell.  I am a little bit driven, and it is not necessarily from pure motives and zeal for God – although there is some of that in it too.

As hard as it is to admit though I have to say that I am scared.  What if I am just giving up and getting old before my time?  I don’t want to give up on myself.  And even more truthfully – I have been a ‘doer’ all of my life.  It is who I am – or is it?  What am I so afraid of?  I feel I am being asked to go deeper into myself, perhaps discover who I am in the eyes of God.

Then there are the dreaded ‘what-ifs’.  What if nobody likes me once I am no longer able to ‘do’ things?  Is my sole worth in what I do?  Will the Oblates still love me or want me around them?  Is what I do my only worth?    And I better look at my other community, my parish family?  What if I have nothing to give them save myself, my presence?  The word trust sneaks into my mind and I am unable to banish it.  Who am I being asked to trust?   God? Others?  Myself?

I can readily admit that I might look a little bit like Fr. Mille.  And I look at you who according to all accounts remained strong throughout your life.  Did you struggle with the times you were ill and had to rest?  Did you struggle with not being able to ‘do’? I think of how over-extended you were when you were young and almost died.  Part of the reason for realizing you could not do it on your own and so he called others to join you.  The beginning of community.

So my fears.  I know I am going to have to walk through them and then just let go of them.

I am sure this was what I had in mind when I answered ‘Yes’ to my Lord’s call.  What have I really said yes to?  Is this what honest obedience might look like?  Better yet – is this what ordinary ‘oblation’ might look like?

Is this what it is like to walk with you my dear St. Eugene?

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