In May of 1837 Eugene began a retreat in preparation for him becoming Bishop of Marseilles. These excerpts are taken from his retreat notes and so will reflect on them over the next few days.
I was already a bishop, it is true, but it was as it were only on my own account. I owed nothing to anybody. No one had the right to demand the service of my ministry; all I was in a position to do was inspired in me only by charity. I was free, in a word. […] I always had a singular fear of this kind of responsibility even in the lower order of the priesthood, that is why on entering into the clerical state, I took up the missionary career, and nothing on earth could have persuaded me to become a parish priest. […] Here I am in fact pastor and chief pastor of a diocese which, whatever one says of it, is not inhabited by saints. It was given me, I would not have chosen it. [p. 2] However, I must attach myself to this people as a father to his children. My existence, my life, all my being must be consecrated to it, I must have no thought but for its good, no fears other than I have not done enough for its welfare and sanctification, no other solicitude than that which must include all its spiritual interests and even in a certain way its temporal welfare. I must in a word consume myself for it, be ready to sacrifice my leisure, my desire, rest, life itself for it. gs)
Upon reading this I thought of a dear friend who had just died. I scarcely knew what to write, to think or to reflect on. I wondered idly if he had struggled as Eugene did when preparing to become a Bishop.
How does one say no to God? How does one say no to the Church? I do not believe it is possible to say no to either and then to live. What a fearsome thought indeed. And so Eugene did not say no to what was being asked of him even though he freely admitted: “I always had a singular fear of this kind of responsibility even in the lower order of the priesthood, that is why on entering into the clerical state, I took up the missionary career, and nothing on earth could have persuaded me to become a parish priest. […] Here I am in fact pastor and chief pastor of a diocese…”
Upon reflection I realise that I have been struggling with a group that I have been called to walk. I feel, rightly or wrongly that I have little or nothing to offer this group save for my presence. It seems so very little. Why do I struggle so much sometimes with where God has called me to be? I most gladly give Him my all and then baulk when he lets me know what that could look like – the reality of it, living it.
Once again Eugene has inspired me, has called me to truth and I am so grateful and joyfull for this gift. I am being called to simply ‘be’.