Eugene wrote to Fr. Tempier sharing some very personal fears and doubts, recollections and insights as he reflected on what the cholera epidemic was doing throughout the countryside. The letter paints a vivid image of how the Oblates were living as they cared for the sick and dying, as well as an intimate sharing of Eugene’s fears for them. But it was the first few lines that my thoughts stayed with.
“My dear Friend, normal life is impossible at this unhappy juncture. My heart and mind are in an emotional state that breeds anxiety that makes it impossible to rest in peace. Prayer is the only course open to me, any other activity is impossible.” (179:XV in Oblate Writings Letter To Father Tempier, at Marseilles August 7, 1835 )
“Prayer is the only course open to me, any other activity is impossible.” This is so often the case with me no matter what I am in the midst of or doing, or trying to do. For I can produce scenarios in my mind that are born mostly out of my fears and doubts, out of my longings and yearnings, out of my trying to prop myself up into someone that I am not. When I recognize what I am doing then I turn to God. I may actually physically stop what I am doing for a second so that I can break the thought and have an awareness that I want to speak with/to God.
So there are times, many of them, when prayer is the only course open to me, not just in the face of something huge like an epidemic or a disaster, but in my daily comings and goings. And it’s not that I think, want or expect my prayers to result in great winged angels flying to my rescue, to lift me up or to present me with a paper that holds all the answers. No – prayer is the only thing open to me because it is only prayer, communion with Jesus that I seem to find true peace, strength, courage, solace, life. It is with my God that I become whole and full of life and love and it is only then do I ‘feel okay or normal’.
Prayer is most often the only course open to me too.