The Priest in our Family – Fr. Eugene Prevost
by Rita Davidson
When I was told someone in our family had researched my dad’s family tree, I was intrigued. By this time I was old enough to actually be interested in history again, (after the school system had squeezed any interest in learning right out of me.)
I was sent a large book with pages and pages of family trees all tracking back to 16th century. It was so interesting to see how all our family got spread out from here back to there to France. It came with a cd of images of all my grandparents, their parents, and then their parents. Images of people I have never met, and have since passed on, but there they were staring back at me.
When I was told we had a priest in the family, I wasn’t surprised. After all, I remember there was one on my dad’s side all the while I grew up. Both my parents came from large Catholic families with 12 children each, and both their parents were Catholic and so on.
Unfortunately everyone took the faith for granted by the time the 60’s came, and so the great faith of my grand, and great grand parents, was just a watered down version by the time I was born.
But here was this priest, my aunt tells me; he was “special”, so I started to do some research. As Father Prevost wrote so much, he left behind a wealth of information about his own family to make up a biography about him, mostly in his own words.
So, enough about me, let me introduce to you, the priest in our family –
Father Eugene Prevost
Father Prevost was born in August, 24,1860 to a family of 15 children, in St. Jerome, Quebec.
The family was called, “Lions of the North” because they were “zealous and tenacious”. “They (were) men in whom highly tempered steel was transmitted from older generations. Their every characteristic, bearing, demeanor, glance, betrayed manly energy, the pride of the Roman balanced by an inexhaustible generosity of heart.” That in a nutshell describes my own dad, Oliver Prevost. Reading this book was like walking through history with my own father.
In the introduction to his book it describes him as an “extraordinarily holy soul formed by God to carry out an external work supplying the needs of the Church in this twentieth century”. That really sums him up in a nutshell.
As a Youth…
As a youth, he was mischievous stealing pies, and baked goods, and throwing snow down chimney’s seemed a favorite of his. Later, he described his life in letters saying that he knew not sadness, that he knew only joy, that he only met happy people and never saw tears. His life was one of joy. Until he was 17 he lived the life of a happy, young boy, wild and free.
He had such a great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, that he was given special privilege to communicate daily when it was not a custom at all. This later proved to be the driving force behind his fervor all his life.
After being at College when he was 17 he returned home for Christmas thinking he did not want to return. (He was very devoted to his family) So he devised a way for him to get a ’little’ sick by not taking care to be warm in an open carriage during a cold winter, on his way back to College. He ended up very ill, his father returning at full speed on horse to get him. For 5 or 6 days he hovered, in and out of consciousness and when he finally recovered realized what a fool he had been to do what he did. He was left with rheumatism and had to walk with a cane most of his life. But in time, the conversion of his heart made him a more serious, wise and determined young man.
His prayer as he entered his 21st year was:
“O my God, I feel that I am not made for earthly joys nor advanced studies. You wish that I should separate myself from the world and my family. I am unworthy of such a favor, yet speak and tell me what Your will is in my regard. I am ready to follow in the way which You will show me.”
His fervor for Jesus was evident in his writings. So powerful it comes through all his writings. He was known to make great sacrifices and penances such as, “writing the name of Jesus with his blood, twenty one times”.
When he was just 3 months from his profession on account of his poor heart his superiors said that he could not profess. He was was heart-broken. So, they suggested he go to see Don Bosco.
He writes, “I knelt down at Don Bosco’s feet and he gave me his hand to kiss.” They told him their story and Don Bosco replied to him, “You will be professed.” They stayed for dinner with Don Bosco and said he later wrote how Don Bosco, “spoke much and ate little”. He observed, “how a saint eats”, he said.
He was a Mystic and Great Contemplative…
He was a mystic, and a great contemplative. His writings show how Jesus spoke to him, on March 2, 1884 “Jesus spoke to my heart and His words touched me deeply. From the Host in the Ciborium, I heard Him say: “REMAIN AND LIVE IN ME,” and also, “I MUST SUFFICE FOR YOU.” This is just a sampling of his mysticism and his constant conversation with Jesus that is spread throughout this book.
He was a prolific writer, thousands of letters to his family, his personal journals and spiritual instructions all spread out to help souls. It is said, ‘his writings, …came from his heart like sparks of fire.”
Just a few days before his ordinations he wrote, “O Jesus, You are a devouring flame. You traverse the world and the cloisters to seek for victims of Your love. You are the heavenly light which spreads over the world in a thousand sparks, which falling on souls enkindles new fires.”
His love of the Priesthood…
His life of a priest was not one of rest. His great love of the Priesthood moved him to want to do always more. He wrote, “After the soul of Mary, nothing is so beautiful as the soul of a priest, who is in the image of the Infinite beneath the exterior of the creature.”
His Great Sufferings…
But it wasn’t long before his mysteries sufferings began. In 1889, he writes, “Since then I have not ceased to suffer, a suffering difficult to describe, which results from love and union.” And “I have suffered more at this time than during my whole past life. The agony is so terrible that it would cause me to die at certain moments, if I were not supported by the One Who sends it to me and Who desires these torments for me.”
He started an organization specifically to serve the needs of the Priest. Both materially and spiritually, a place they could depend on for their needs much like other organizations take care of other classes in society.
His Work for souls Approved by many Pope’s in his lifetime…
So, he put together a plan for his Fraternity to go before Pope Leo XIII. He got approval and it was founded in Paris in 1901. He had the support of Popes Pius X, as well as Benedict XV and Pius XI.
His Connection to St. Therese and His becoming Postulator of her Canonization…
In 1900 he describes a trip he made to Liseaux to the Convent of St. Therese. In 1899 he had read The Story of a Soul and visited Carmel for the first time. He writes, “From that day I felt a tender love for little Therese. Something extraordinary took place between us, which the future made us understand. Oh ! how dear to me is this child of the eternal fatherland and how near to my heart are her sisters in Carmel! “
He suffered greatly for his work for souls but had great admiration by the Pope’s of his time. “(He) was denounced, defamed and calumniated before the highest authorities in the Church. But each time Father…came forth from the trial with new favors for himself and his religious communities.”
He Founded of the Congregations of the Sacerdotal Fraternity by 1901 had opened his first Oblates of Bethany. He soon after opened Fraternity Houses in Canada, France and Rome.
By 1907 he was made Postulator of the cause of St. Therese of the Little Flower.
Having had a close relationship with her in her life, and continued to work with Carmel to establish his houses. Mr. Guerin was a large supporter of Father Prevost’s work.
Mr. Guerin was, at first, against the cause to raise Therese to the sainthood, but only after Fr. Prevost explained why, did he finally relent.
Pius X was satisfied with Father Prevost’s work in her canonization too. In 1920, He presented to Rome, 200,000 signatures from Canada pleading for canonization of Sister Therese.
His Great Trials…
But it was not long before great trials came his way. First it was misunderstandings, then difficulties with the beatification process, then always fighting for funding for his work, physical ailments and sufferings, falling away of his sister who was a religious, the death of his parents, (whom he adored) and more. He suffered all with courage and resignation.
In 1914 to 1918, during the war years, he began his writing apostolate. He so loved to write he could write “from morning to night.” In 1916 he completed two volumes of Jesus Better Known and More Loved in His Priesthood. He wrote leaflets and pamphlets that reached far and wide into the millions. Pope Pius XI once said to him, “That is a very practical way of disseminating piety. People have no time in our days for books, but they will read tracts, which is a sure way of doing good.”
His Fraternity got canonical status and during the Pontificate of Pius XII he given Pontifical Approbation by the DECRETUM LAUDIS of Pius XII, on June 4th, 1951.
His Great work for souls Coming to an End…
As he aged, he worked selflessly for souls. Both writing, serving, praying, expanding, and suffering the trials that would come his way.
As his end neared it was said he never complained about his sufferings. He simply said, “Jesus on the cross did not have all that,” as tears filled his eyes.
Many times a day he would say: “Acts of love, my child. Love is all that counts.”
He would send someone to the chapel 6 and 7 times a night “to tell Jesus again that he loved Him: or else when he was suffering too much to sleep, he would talk about Jesus. “Let us send Jesus to all those who are sleeping.” He would say.
“He received Holy Communion for the last time on July 31st and asked the infirmarian to make his thanksgiving aloud for him. He was often weak; his feet and hands were icy cold; but, always after an injection, his heart would rally again. Then he had spells of suffocation, violent pains, suffering without respite and without relief. They gave him oxygen every quarter of an hour, put cold water to his lips and on his dry tongue. Ejaculatory prayers were very often repeated with the most tender filial piety.”
After what seemed like he was on his last, barely breathing, he rallied again the next day looking with great love at all who visited him.
Towards noon, he raised his eyes to heaven, took all his breath to speak his last words “Jesus! Love!” and blessed all present in the room. He died by 5:30 that night as the room recited the fifth decade of the rosary.
At the same time an 80 year old mighty oak in the yard, fell in the park outside. It was a sign that a ‘Lion of the North’ had fallen, “asleep in Jesus, Whom he contemplates, loves and will love forever.” He died in France, it was 1946.
One of my favorite quotes of Father Prevost, so full of wisdom for every parent and anyone who has care of souls. I’ll leave this last quote of Father with you, to close this:
He writes, ‘We must fashion saints, and to do that, we must bring men always to renunciation and sacrifice, but on condition that we do so with great kindness. Let us speak more of love and less of sacrifice. Let us not cause them to feel the hand that makes the incisions, and let us bandage the wound as we open it. Let us direct souls less by force and more by attraction and give to perfection an aspect with charms by its beauty and not one which repels by its severity. We should demand a great deal, but without seeming to do so and speak of duties which are imperative, but without harshness. Let us not make too frequent allusions to what is still lacking, but let us encourage rather by referring to the good already accomplished and the distance already covered. Above all, let us be careful not to dishearten and discourage, by reminding people always of their faults and failings, under the pretext of humiliating them and showing them the truth. It is infinitely better to gladden the heart, and incite it to go forward, without so many reflections and examinations on one’s conduct. Let us remember that we must make saints and become saints ourselves; that is the work of a lifetime. Therefore, while urging people constantly to sanctity, let us beware of being too exacting. We must adapt ourselves to men’s souls, temperaments, characters, and their past lives and circumstances, and follow the action of grace in each, without claiming to make it uniform for all.”
Has Father Prevost inspired you? I would love to write a children’s book on him. Share your thoughts with me here:
©Copyright 2013, Rita Davidson All Rights Reserved.
All Quotes taken from, “Serving Jesus in His Priests – Father Eugene Prevost” , George Lapointe, C.F.S., Imprimatur 1950.
Rita is a Catholic wife and mother of seven children. Mark is her ever patient husband. She reverted back to the faith when her oldest was making her First Communion. By then, she had completed degrees in Hairdressing and Make up artistry. She went on to receive a degree in Natural Health and another degree in Art. At age 26, Rita suffered a minor stroke. With no lasting effects, this dramatically changed her outlook on life. In 1996, Rita began ‘Little Flowers Family Apostolates’ to reach out to other families with her new found faith, by creating unique Catholic books and resources.. In 1999, she wrote the bestselling, ‘Immodesty; Satan’s Virtue’. She was editor of ‘The Catholic Health Letter’ for 7 years. She has been a homeschooling mom for 20+ years, and has written for various magazines. She is honored that families have trusted her with their questions, needs and concerns over the years. She continues to write and reach out to Catholic families with her husband, Mark and their 4 boys through http://www.LittleFlowersFamilyPress.com