July 1835 found Eugene writing to Fr. Henri Tempier in Marseilles where the cholera epidemic was approaching. It was in Aix and Toulon and Eugene feared for those in Marseilles, suggesting that he could go there and be with them as they ministered to the sick.
“My dear Father Tempier, your letters become more and more distressing. […] On this last count, I really need to have daily bulletins about the locality where you are living through a daily newspaper, like the Gazette. I hope you won’t have neglected to procure me this gloomy consolation … I am in such anguish to know that you are once again in the danger-zone that I would like to go and share it with you, for your own consolation and mine. […] We are going to pray for you everyday; tell my uncle how much I feel for him, for you and all our friends; the misfortune of so many families touches me deeply. Say just one word and I’ll be there.” (523:VIII in Oblate Writings)
I guess I had thought that the cholera epidemic was over, just as I had at one point thought that the Icosia Affair was over but it seems not.
Eugene’s first thought was for his dear friend Fr. Henri Tempier and that in his proximity might put him in close danger – he wanted it seems to go and share that with him. Have I known a love as great as this? Perhaps in a way but to a lesser degree for I do not believe that I have ever been presented with a situation so dire. The greatest or perhaps closest was with a dear friend; I had asked God to take some of his pain to hold it for him but then later on just to be there – not so much to take it away but just so that he would not be alone with it. The memories are still so vivid. I think of a particular group that I minister to and with – I am there so that they are not alone and I will walk with them and their pains and longings, anger and joys. How very great is love that it would transform us thusly. This is what Jesus did for us and here we come back to co-operators of the saviour – on the cross with Him. How great is our God that we can be one with Him!
So how do I accompanying others? How do I love and walk with them – most particularly in their times of distress and pain? Do I run from the pain, try to pretend it does not exist or do I simply hold it with them in my heart – not carrying it for them but rather with them.
This love that the good Lord bestows upon us is much larger and wider than ever I could or would have imagined.