On September 19, 1837 Eugene wrote to Fr. Courtes in Aix on how to give up the hospital chaplaincy at Aix.
“… This should be achieved at any cost because there is too great a disadvantage in going against the over-all attitude of a Society. […] We cannot pretend that this ministry belongs among the activities of our Congregation. On the contrary, the isolation of the person who is assigned to it makes it formally opposed to the spirit and letter of our Rules. Hence we must apply all our skill to ease our members’ spirit even more than their body; it is useless deluding ourselves that we can persuade them.
So much so for the principle. Now will you succeed by the means you wish to use? I doubt it. The hospital authorities will well agree to give the chaplain of the mentally sick only a tiny recompense, but then, not only will they not take any steps to ask his Grace the Archbishop for another chaplain other than you for the hospital, on the contrary, they will do everything possible to keep you. It is directly from his Grace the Archbishop that you must obtain this betterment by making him consider the inconveniences that arise for community men who are obliged to live separated from their community. Such a thing is unheard of in any Order or Congregation...” (642:IX in Oblate Writings)
I sometimes find that as I read Eugene’s letters I jump to conclusions before I reach the end. Or I begin to ask needless questions – again before I reach the end. But if I can persevere (through my own inadequate tendencies) then the answer will be given.
Community – this letter speaks so directly to community life. And for those who God has called to live in community – then we should not aid or abet anything that would lessen that community way of life or kill it outright. I used to wonder (many years ago) if perhaps those who were running to join a community (usually of sisters, but also those who would join male congregations) – I used to wonder if they weren’t running from life, to hide from wounds or responsibilities. I know – it was probably something that I heard or picked up somewhere or better yet that I might have seen in myself, but still I thought those things. Clearly I did not understand or know or recognize some of the ways of love.
Community – that which my being seemed to hunger for even as I was being nourished by it.
There is more to community than just belonging to a family or congregation. We must somehow take part in it, be a part of it, giving and taking, living and growing. I readily admit that I do not know how some of the missionaries who are on their own manage it. Perhaps though it explains the immense joy I have witnessed with those very community members when they have an opportunity to come together and be together, to relax and share, eat and pray and be.
God has given me much. Once I was able to let go of some of my preconceived fears and ideas of what community was and should be – I was able to begin becoming a part of in a most wonderful way of life.