December 21, 1811, Eugene de Mazenod was ordained a priest in Amiens by Bishop Demandolx, whom he had met at the National Council convened by the Emperor (June-July 1811). He had been Vicar General of Marseille at the same time as Eugene’s great-uncle André and he knew the Mazenod family. It allowed him to escape the appointed Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Maury, whose appointment by Napoleon the pope had many reasons not to recognize. He had prepared intensively for ordination, as we read in his retreat notes.
My Saviour, my Father, my love, bring me to love you; this only do I ask, for I know full well that that is everything. Give me your love.
The language of terror no longer speaks to me; love alone has power over me. I must prepare a dwelling for my well-beloved; it is love, love alone that must bear the entire cost. (December 1-21, 1811, Oblate Writings, 14, p. 214, 223)
This is what he shared with his spiritual father, Father Duclaux, about his experience on the day of ordination:
I am a priest of Jesus Christ; I have already for the first time offered the awesome sacrifice with the Bishop. Yes, it is I, it really is I, the wretched sinner whose turpitudes you are familiar with, who has immolated the immaculate Lamb, or at least he has immolated himself through my ministry. Dear Father, I fancy I am dreaming when I bring to mind what I am. Joy, fear, confidence, sadness, love enter one after the other into my heart. The thought uppermost in my mind and that I get quite lost in is this: so this is how my God in his goodness avenges himself for all my acts of ingratitude, by doing so much for me that, God though he may be, he can do no more. After this, could I ever again be tempted to offend him? Truly this is the moment to reply: it were better to die a thousand deaths. […]
There is only love in my heart. I am writing at a time when my heart overflows, to coin an expression of the Apostle’s in a moment like the one I am experiencing. If the underlying sorrow for my sins, which is always with me, still persists, it is also true that love has changed its nature. […]
I am a priest! You have to be one to understand what it means. Just to think of it sends me into transports of love and gratitude, and if the thought of my sinfulness recurs, love abounds all the more. I shall not call you servants anymore…. You undo my fetters. I will offer you the thanksgiving sacrifice…. What return can I make to the Lord? They are like so many arrows that pierce this heart that has been so cold until this day. […]
Starting with the days preceding ordination and especially after ordination, I think I know O.L.J.C. better. What would it be like to know him as he is! Dear Father, please pray that I do not make myself unworthy of so many graces. I am receiving more than enough to make a great saint…. (December 21, 1811, Oblate Writings, 14, p. 228-229)