Eugene wrote to Fr. Guigues at Notre Dame de l’Osier on October 8th 1835, speaking as the Superior General of the congregation, speaking to one of his local superiors.
“I know this here by experience. People vie with one another in their admiration for the regularity, good order, piety that reign in the house. It is to the point that of all the many priests who have passed whole weeks here, there hasn’t been one who wanted to receive the least thing over and above what the community eats on fast days of the Rule, that is to say, they have all followed our Rule with a wonderful fervour. They find edification in everything: the silence that reigns in the house, the punctuality at all the exercises, the office, the small refectory penances. So be always what you ought to be and never let the presence of strangers bring you to make changes in anything, whether it be in the Rule or in our customs. If one can find in your house no more than a group of priests living under the same roof, as pastors from the surrounding neighbourhood might do, you will be guilty before me, before the Congregation and before God; and the people for whose sake you surrendered your Oblate way of life will go away but little edified and certainly deceived in their expectations. And so I recommend you to be quite rigid on all of this, I want none of your expediency or human respect. Everyone knows who you are, so be worthy of your vocation and strive to accept its every least demand.” (547:VIII in Oblate Writings)
What I am hearing here is ‘be true to who you are’ – don’t change to accommodate visitors – that is don’t change in your prayer life and way of going about your days in community because you have visitors who might not fully know or understand your way of life. To me it says ‘do not throw everything away to make others comfortable’.
There have been more than enough times in my life when I have changed what or how I was doing something because of what I thought another would expect or want to see. I would change how I spoke or how I dressed because of how I thought I was expected to be. Never did I ask the other, or offer an explanation as to why I did what I was doing. Nor did I ask them what they thought about me, how I lived and worked. My own insecurities led me to act and be as I ‘thought’ they would expect or demand.
Today I am much stronger in who I am, but sometimes it all sneaks up on me and I have to stop and ask myself why I am doing or saying a particular thing in a particular way. More often than not it comes from my own insecurities. It can be hard sometimes to remember to be true to myself.