My dear children,
I, a man of the XIXth century, want, by this letter, to reach you in your times of the XXIth where, in this period of Lent 2020, you are going through a global health crisis. With my life experience, I would like to share this with you:
As a young priest in 1814 in Aix-en-Provence, my heart is bleeding today with you in front of so many anguished “poor people with many faces”, so many isolated or carefree young people, so many rebellious prisoners. On this subject, do not forget that I contracted typhus from Austrian prisoners of war and that, I owe healing thanks to the incessant prayer of young people in front of the Statue of our Lady of Grace.
As Superior General of a missionary Congregation, my heart is bleeding today with you before this pandemic which affects all continents: after Asia, now Europe, and already Latin America and Africa. To date, I see that more than a third of humanity is confined because of this virus.
As Bishop, my heart is bleeding today with you in front of the disarray of the People of God who cannot come together and celebrate. However, in 1848 – in quite a different circumstance certainly – remember that I had exempted the Christians of Marseilles from Easter Mass to allow them to go to vote! You? You are lucky to have the Internet! So, including praying and celebrating, I repeat: “for new needs, Charity invents new means”!
Like a Pastor too, I had to face the cholera epidemic of 1837 which ravaged our dear city of Marseilles. Being in the countryside at the time of the arrival of the plague, I immediately returned to the diocese to live these dark hours with the people of Marseilles, Les Marseillais. I remember a newspaper headline saying, “The future is in our hands.” Certainly, this is true. For you today, it is in the hands of experienced health professionals, researchers, cashiers, police, authorities … But the future is primarily in the hands of God. So, my turn to tell you, “don’t be afraid”; and with another message dear to my Oblate sons: “But pray my dear children, God will hear you in no time”; our Lord Jesus Christ, full of tenderness and mercy, lets himself be touched. He will not abandon you.
I share with you the grief and mourning of all those who have already lost a loved one, victim of this scourge. Myself, I was very hard hit by the death of my most faithful servant at the bishop’s house during the cholera. Again, this loss made my heart bleed. At the end of the epidemic, I celebrated a solemn service at the cathedral for all the victims.
One more piece of advice: invent the means to take care, to show interest and to have concern for the families hit by this terrible epidemic, for families and isolated people, confined on their own. It is important that no one is forgotten.
Finally, remember that at the beginning of the epidemic of 1837, my first gesture was to go up to Our Lady at Notre Dame de la Garde, to celebrate Holy Mass there and to ask Our Good Mother to intercede for us with her divine Son. So, my dear children, today also turn to her, with the same confidence.
Charles Joseph Eugène +
Wednesday, March 25, 2020, on the feast of the Annunciation.
Bernard Dullier, omi