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?