In the past few months I have found myself struck by all that Eugene experienced at the hands of the French government and the seemingly abandonment by the Church during the “Icosia Affaire”. So much so that I went to another source on this topic – the writings of a Canadian Oblate, Al Hubenig, who I have had the privilege of meeting and talking with several times. His book is called “Saint Eugene de Mazenod – Living in the Spirit’s Fire”. Towards the end of chapter 5 which is titled ‘Trials of an Apostolic Man’ there is a section with the sub-title ‘What Eugene de Mazenod Gained from the Calvary of Icosia’. Using the later writings of St. Eugene Al relates how profoundly was Eugene transformed in his sharing with Christ the road to Calvary and the Cross.
So I want to spend the remainder of the week in going deeper how Eugene’s life was transformed as a result of that period of his life.
Al Hubenig wrote: “The troubles surrounding Eugene de Mazenod’s episcopal appointment had a profound and positive effect on his life. It had been a bitter and painful experience, and yet it had been beneficial too. Indeed, he came out of it profoundly changed in mind and spirit. In the retreat he made in 1837, before taking possession of the see of Marseilles, Eugene de Mazenod wrote the following in his journal.
‘The episcopacy, which heretofore I could only consider as a fullness of the priesthood with which I had been favoured, and as the complement of all the graces the Lord had deigned to grant me in the course of my life, now appears to me as it was meant to be by the constitution of the Church – a relationship to the flock. In others words, it is the heaviest burden with which a weak mortal can be charged.
I have always singularly dreaded that kind of responsibility, even in the lower order of the priesthood. That is why, upon entering the ecclesiastical state, I undertook to be a missionary; nothing could have made me decide to become a parish priest. In agreeing to be a bishop I remained consistent, since I wished to be a bishop in partibus, which gave me the double advantage of not having any responsibility or care for a diocese and, at the same time, being in a position to do greater good for the Church in virtue of the consecrated character with which I had been invested…’
It is the brutal honesty of Eugene as he looks at himself, how well he knows himself and writes of that in his retreat notes which tugs my attention and heart. I am reminded of an Oblate sharing his own dread and difficulties in saying yes to leadership within the community, and how he finally said yes to God, to the Church and to his own community. Like Eugene though, he said yes and spent his life living it more fully with each step he took. It is a way of being that I have been graced to witness over and over again.
There have been times in my life when I was reflecting, or when someone would say something to me that would trigger an immediate response/reaction in my heart. I have felt like I have been called to do a particular thing, to take something on, to co-ordinate something within my parish, to live a very specific way of life and my initial reaction was often “oh please God no”. Even as I was discerning the call to become an Oblate Associate there was a period of fear and dread, of tears and struggles, of saying ‘oh please God no’ while at the same time saying out loud, ‘yes’, ‘okay’. ‘Tell me what you would like me to do.’
All that only to realise at a later date that indeed I had balked and stamped my feet with God, even as I began saying yes to him. Like a dance.
 Alfred A. Hubenig, OMI: Saint Eugene de Mazenod – Living in the Spirit’s Fire, Chapter 5: Trials of an Apostolic Man