August 25 1837 finds Eugene writing to Father Courtes in Aix to let him know that Cholera has taken possession of Marseilles.  He wrote:

You are well aware of our cruel scourge, I shall not speak of it to you. I only remind you to have prayers offered especially for our Fathers who are conducting themselves admirably as always. […] People come to them as to parishes; not a single night passes without their being obliged to get up and assist some sick person. Till now not one of those whose confessions they had heard, has escaped, but they are very much pleased with their good dispositions.” (635:IX in Oblate Writings)

It is not for their own salvation or peace that the Oblate Fathers got up in the night to go and minister to those who were sick, to those who wished to make their confessions even as they were dying.  And so they went and listened and were instrumental I am most sure in helping those poor soul pass over into a new way of living.  They met our most merciful Lord who had already died for their sins and so were free to look upon him and feel his tender embrace.  While the Fathers themselves would take their leave to return to their beds, praying I am sure that God would spare them each time around.  In this they were most surely Co-operators of Jesus on the Cross for they knew the risks of saying yes to serving as they were needed and then they lived that love out.  It would seem that some of them at least had the joy of knowing that those very persons that they tended to know peace as they died.

I remember a time when I was much younger when I went to volunteer to be with some homeless men in Vancouver.  It was Christmas day, damp and cold outside and they had come in for a turkey dinner.  At the end of the dinner the volunteers would hand each man a paper bag that contained some soap and socks and maybe a pack of cigarettes and would wish them a Merry Christmas.  I remember that they were dirty and they smelled bad and I was pretty sure there was every kind of vermin in their hair and clothes.  But it was as I looked into their eyes that my heart was touched.  I began to give each one a kiss on the cheek and hug them as I said Merry Christmas to them.  Risky for me but not so great as greeting cholera as she took the living.  It certainly was no confession or absolution as the those Oblates gave but it was what I had to give, from my heart.

About Eleanor Rabnett

Oblate Associate
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