I again spent time this morning with Eugene’s April 27, 1835 letter to Bishop Frezza, Secretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Affairs in Rome as he wrote about his reflection on what we now refer to as the Icosia affair.
“Provided God be exalted, what does it matter if one remains humiliated, overlooked, abandoned by nearly everyone? I pray that in the eyes of men I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated. Ever since I came into the world, God has led me by the hand; he has had me accomplish so many things for his glory, that I had reason to fear pride if men had perceived them and shown gratitude towards me; it is better for me that they be unjust and ungrateful; in this way God will be my sole reward, as he is already my sole strength, my only hope..” (177:XV in Oblate Writings)
Here I seem to be standing in the reflection of the Cross – one with it. It is how I see Eugene in his words. I think of Jesus on the Cross – not laughing at it for it was unbearable for him as a human, even though he was/is the Son of God and the Son of Man. I pause as I realize anew that I too am a child of God – would my life be any less than His. So there is Jesus on the Cross and when I look at the reflection of that – there too is Eugene on the Cross – something he has readily and already said yes to – but as he lives this experience of being Bishop of Icosia and yet recognized and seemingly supported by none. This is not simply a matter of floating on a title. He, his being, his very human being is dying inside – he his dying to himself, to the Church and to all others.
And yet! He, I am sure (I know this from reading Paul’s letters and from my own life) means every word of it – because God is his all and he speaks of “God will be my sole reward, as he is already my sole strength, my only hope.” Eugene lived this out fully – even while hurting and struggling with how he was being treated. I think this is what we used to call – offering it up for God, or for others. This is living what I call the “both and” – it is not ever ‘one thing or another’. This too is my life, and yours.