In four moments, Fr. Emmanuel Hirschauer proposes a discovery of Fr. Marie-Eugene’s teaching about the human person in its corporeality by commenting on the joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of Jesus’ life.
“Drink a little wine for thy stomach’s sake” (1 Tm 5,23).
Fr. Marie-Eugene (Henri Grialou) was born in Aveyron (Southern France), in 1894. As the grand-son of farmers, he was rooted in this region where modest and hard-working families lived from livestock farming, agriculture, craft trades and somewhat later mining. He grew up with his feet on the ground ! The family relationships are full of love and this had a profound effect on the young Henri, who said much later that he had been « shaped by love from an early age ». He recalled :
JI remember that when I was quite young my mother simply adored me. I was two or two and a half. I slept in the next room. On Sundays she used to call me from her bed : « Ricou, ricou ». I was a stout little boy. « Come, come ». I climbed on her bed. She wanted to eat me up, kissed me, I felt I gave her a lot of joy (G. Gaucher, La vie du Père Marie-Eugène de l’E-J [noté : GG], p. 16, note 7).
On the back of a picture enclosed in a letter to his sister, Berthe, we can read the text of a resolution taken by the young Carmelite Fr. Marie-Eugene :
only give love, even when this love is not accepted
To show affection to everybody and more than ever to you in particular (…). When you come closer to God you realize that in order to imitate Him you have to do like Him : only give love, even when this love is not accepted or might be misunderstood » (Fr. Marie-Eugene, letter to Berthe Grialou, 13 March 1923).
Supported by a solid judgement, Fr. Marie-Eugene was guided in all his missions by the intelligence of the heart which grants a right place to affection and its expressions. Witnesses report :
He came to me while I was having breakfast. I was struck by the extremely beautiful look in his eyes… by a sort of joy he was radiating, by the affectionate trust he immediately expressed to the persons he met. At that time, I did not at all know whom I was in front of : his past, his name, his works, his foundation, Notre-Dame de Vie, were hitherto unknown to me » (P. Philippe Vercoustre, o.p., ; GG, p. 310).
He showed charity and delicacy to the most humble, to the small ones. I think of what he did for me, a small one. He did not neglect me although I was not worthy of special attention. It shows that he was a man of faith who cared for everyone, even for those who are not particularly gifted. He surrounded those ones with a particular, delicate and attentive care » (Testimony by Fr. Pandreau).
As Fr. Marie-Eugene was appointed Visitor of the French Carmelite sisters, he met all the nuns, caring about the spiritual well-being of the communities, recalling the exigencies of the Carmelite life and at the same time asking for a modernization of their installations : simplification of domestic work, improvement of hygiene conditions and adaptation of certain rules to the more vulnerable members were on the agenda. (GG, p. 196).
Spiritual motherhood encompasses all.
To be attentive to all the needs of a person, without losing sight of his/her physical well-being is specific to a mother. Fr. Marie-Eugene often mentioned the motherly tenderness of the Virgin Mary who takes care of all our needs :
We ourselves feel her immense maternal love embracing us. Let us give to this love the immense homage of our confidence and self-surrender. Let us entrust to Mary our whole being – body and soul – for our mother does not make distinctions between our needs : her spiritual motherhood encompasses all. Let us surrender all to this love, whatever may be the circumstances in which we find ourselves. (P. Marie-Eugene, More Mother than Queen, p. 17).
Fr. Marie-Eugene was always concerned whith the whole person : his/her well-being begins with body and sensitivity. Called up at the beginnng of the Second World War – he had been a Carmelite and a priest since 1922 – Lieutenant, then Captain Grialou looked after his troopers with great care. At their group home the soldiers could find beverages, books, watch films, listen to music, attend theater-plays (GG, p. 162). A military subordinate declared : « For me, Grialou this the good God”. (GG, p. 162)
Later, one of Fr. Marie-Eugene’s missions was to receive in his Convent of Petit-Castelet (Oct. 1955–July 1957) persons wishing to make a retreat. For those retreatants he wanted « the welcome to be good, warm, with good beds, warm blankets, well prepared and abundant food, nicely presented, and all that would make 75% of the success of the retreat. » (GG, p. 215) !
Fr. Marie-Eugene wanted to offer everybody a helping hand to encourage us on the way to God :
My child, I am quite willing, as far as I can, to give you the spiritual direction you need and you ask me for. I am glad you have recovered your physical forces which are necessary to accomplish your maternal tasks and which are also a help to make out the reasonable share between the exigencies and the phenomena of spiritual life. Therefore grant yourself the rest which you need. (Fr. Marie-Eugene, Letter to a mother, 18 May 1947, Père d’une multitude, p. 121).