I include a large part of Eugene’s letter to Fr. Tempier on July 31, 1835 only because it gives light to the inner struggle and sorrow that he was experiencing. This is due part to his having been stripped of his citizenship, and in deference to the King of France – Rome’s request that he leave his post as Vicar General to the Bishop of Marseilles. He had no real post or position save that as Founder and Superior General of his congregation, not even being allowed to serve the poor as he has done for so many years.
It was always instinct that bore me towards those I love, whom I sensed to be in some way at grips with death. I frankly confess that I wasn’t moved by any other desire. […] In short, my only choice was between the affection that bore me towards you and duties of another order which bade me watch over the common good of the family… […] There lies all the difficulty; and so there is a violent conflict between my heart and my head; the latter, since it could not let itself be influenced like the former, fought against being convinced. What a cruel perplexity!
As to my position vis-à-vis Marseilles, it has been made absolutely clear, my ties were broken by my resignation and the appointment to the office of vicar general of my successor. I’m not the pastor of the people of Marseilles, and I don’t ever want to be; what does their opinion matter to me? […] I do not want to become the pastor of Marseilles, never with a capital N. My present attitude is that the diocese of Marseilles has no greater claim on me than any other.” (528:VIII in Oblate Writings)
Although we know that in the end Eugene was appointed as Archbishop of Marseilles, he was unable to escape the struggle that happened at this time in his life. I can only imagine the anguish of this man who loved so dearly the people, in particular the poor people of his country and those in the Provence area of France. They were dying from the cholera epidemic by the hundreds each day and his congregation did not want him to be in harm’s way of the epidemic. At the same time the French government did not want Eugene to be anywhere near to his home in any official capacity – and it appeared that Rome was ceding to the government’s wishes.
I ask myself who do I know that might be struggling thusly – be it a friend or family member, a co-worker or fellow parishioner, a member of one of the many communities that I belong to? Who do I know who is showing somehow that they are hurting badly and that I have no power of any sort to ease their pain or change their course? If all that I can give is my presence – to sit and be with and love and prayer for and with. Perhaps hold and hug? It doesn’t seem like a lot and yet it would allow them, when ready to simply give words and a safe place to vent what they are going through. It doesn’t seem a lot but perhaps that is exactly what I am called to do.