Continuing with notes from Eugene’s retreat we find him taking time to address some of the problems that he might have with the priests and the parishes within his diocese.
“Lastly what completes my flock will be the clergy. Will I be well provided for under this aspect? Will I find in them that unalloyed cooperation I have the right to expect? Will they be docile to my suggestions, enter into my views? Will they be my consolation, my crown? To judge by the past, I must expect not precisely a crude resistance which would still be impossible in the currently established order in the Church of France, but difficulties arising from the habit of independence in which they are established. This will give rise to complaints, repugnance, unspoken oppositions which will hamper my path at every step.
However there are indeed reforms to be achieved and certainly I would be doing a bad job if I allowed myself to be intimidated by considerations of a purely human kind. That would be purchasing peace and quiet too dearly, to procure it at the price of culpable concessions. I will have to do battle with egoism, vested interests, lack of zeal, routine, the inaction of leaders, i.e., the parish priests, and insubordination towards them on the part of their curates. […] In conscience I will not be able to postpone making the pastoral visitation of all the city parishes and reforming a thousand abuses and a host of old customs. […] … we are impelled by the same duties, and with God’s grace we will be able to fulfil them and acquit ourselves of them as we ought.
It is not that I would want to overturn everything right at the beginning, no; firmness must always be tempered by gentleness, it is all one could ask for. But it must be understood that it is the business of the bishop to govern, and that he is obliged to give encouragement to the good as to curb all that is bad and disordered. If this principle is not acknowledged, anarchy will immediately follow to the great detriment of souls..” (185:XV in Oblate Writings)
I find myself reading this and thinking of the current bishop we have in our archdiocese. I do not always agree with him and tend to look at him and his job from my own small point of view, and not from what he believes he must live out.
I find myself frequently wanting to tell him how he should think and feel and be – how ‘I’ would have him be as I move from my own small world and way of wanting to be. How do I reconcile with him, how do I continue to love and remain faithful to God in a way that is me?
Eugene will have I imagine faced incredible resistance to his way of loving and shepherding his flock. But then of course so did Jesus by the Scribes and the Pharisees, by the high priests – they crucified him rather than let go of laws and ways of being that they deemed to be the most important way of loving God. So perhaps Eugene was in good company and as we follow Jesus, as we walk with Eugene, we too may more-than-once find ourselves up against some of those laws.