In response to a request from Fr. Aubert, Novice Master at Aix, Eugene wrote back concerning Fr. Auberts request to also attend a retreat that the novices would be attending.
“I appreciate that it would be to your liking to make a retreat, but I cannot conceive how you can imagine that it is a practical proposition when you are the director of the whole group which is going to make it at the same time as yourself. […] I think it will be a lot easier for you to take time off from your duties at some other time altogether, for you to have the opportunity to turn your thoughts wholly to God, rather than try to do the retreat along with those whom you direct. […] I can see only one possibility, to begin a day before the others, which would be all your own, and to continue on three days afterwards, that is to say the Feast of All Saints, the Sunday and All Souls Day. Since your charges are almost wholly occupied in church during those days, you could easily find a replacement. In my opinion that is the best solution. Those four days, plus the little you glean during the retreat the others are making, will give you enough, and you can, believe me, rest satisfied with that.” (495:VIII in Oblate Writings)
Where there is a will…. But more likely where God wills it – then watch out for it. Here I see Eugene teaching Fr. Aubert to give of himself and remain open to God feeding him as he needs. Fr. Aubert will be needed to hear the confessions of the novices, to counsel them as they need it. How can he possibly do both his duty and at the same time attend to his own nourishment and renewal? Eugene finds the perfect solution or rather the Spirit offers it.
I have given a couple of small retreats to people, have offered and run workshops and have served in ways that surprise me, yet always God finds a way to nourish me. I am thinking particularly of the past Holy Week and Easter celebrations within my parish. Taking part in coordinating Holy Thursday, and in particular the Good Friday service – and not to be outshone – the Easter Vigil – not a lot of big things to be done, just some small coordination so that the service, the vigil is perfect for those in attendance including myself. The Spirit found a way when I was in the midst of lots of ‘doing’ so that I could ‘be’. Once I forget myself – the Spirit takes over and sees to my needs. In truth in making it so that my brothers and sisters are able to pray and celebrate and learn and be where they should be – then I am not left behind. Aside from the joy of watching others grow and become renewed in who they are, always there is new life for myself. God does not abandon those who serve him, those who give there all. There is a particular joy.
There is in all of this a trust in the Spirit and a letting go of myself and my needs. Obedience will always free me up to what I need just as it would have Fr. Aubert.