Armand Natal de Boisgelin, son of Jean-Marie de Boisgelin and of Adélaïde Laurans of Peyrolles was born in Aix-en-Provence on December 16, 1782. On November 21, 1808, he married Eugénie de Mazenod, Eugene’s sister. On January 21, 1809, Eugene, a seminarian in Paris, wrote to his mother: “My sister tells me that she is always more happy with her Armand and of the rest of the [Boisgelin] family. You have no idea how happy that makes me […] You have not told me whether grandmother is as happy as you of the choice you made and that you are so pleased at having made. She was so fearful of not being able to find a marriage for Eugénie in Aix.”
The newly weds lived on the first floor of the Boisgelin manor on Quatre-Dauphins street until the death of Mrs. de Boisgelin in the summer of 1813. On that occasion, a dispute arose between Armand Natal and his family about the inheritance. After a long legal process, he inherited, it seems, the Boisgelin castle at Saint-Martin-de-Pallières (Var). He used to go there often and bore the title of Marquis of Saint-Martin. Mrs. de Mazenod planned to have Armand and Eugénie inherit the castle and the landed property of Saint-Laurent du Verdon as well. During his life, Eugene often wrote that Armand should pay more attention to Saint-Laurent “for the sake of his children.” He did not find that he was a good enough business head, but he wrote to his father on June 17, 1814: “My brother-in-law Armand is by far and away the best [of the Boisgelin], the most honest of men and best fellow one might get to know.”
The relationship between Armand and Bishop de Mazenod always seemed to have been friendly and candid. Bishop de Mazenod often wrote to Armand to deal with matters of business or things to do with his nephews. On January 26, 1843, he wrote him a harsh letter because Armand refused to bestow on his son Eugene the name of Boisgelin-Mazenod.
In 1848, Armand and Eugénie went to live at the Boisgelin mansion with their son Eugene. Bishop de Mazenod had bought this mansion a few years earlier and bestowed the inheritance of it upon Eugène de Boisgelin. Armand and Eugénie had five children: Nathalie, Caroline, Louis, Césarie and Eugène. The Marquis Armand de Boisgelin died a victim of a stroke on June 29, 1853.
Nathalie de Boisgelin was born in the Boisgelin mansion on April 24, 1810. On June 17, 1814, Abbé Eugene de Mazenod wrote to his father in Palermo: “Nathalie who is four years of age is doing well. She is full of life and lovability. She is already reading rather well.” In a letter to Mrs. de Mazenod on November 19, 1822, Father de Mazenod endeavoured to convince his mother to send Nathalie and Caroline to be educated by the Sacred Heart nuns of Grenoble, under the direction of their cousin, Mrs. de Coriolis. He wrote: “I am the father of these children just as you are the mother […]; there are incalculable advantages to be gained from the best education that is being given in France.” They were at Grenoble in 1823-1824 and then, it seems, followed Mrs. de Coriolis to Paris in 1824-1825. Nathalie returned to Aix in the spring of 1829, but was stricken with tuberculosis and died at 19 years of age on November 14, 1829. Father de Mazenod spent almost two months at her beside and gave her the Sacrament of the Sick.
He marked this anniversary on his calendar every year. On November 14, 1838, he wrote once again: “A painful anniversary! The angelic Nathalie […], how can we be consoled at your loss? This feeling is just as alive and as bitter as it was on that heart-rending day when you were taken from us […] O my God, how weak I am! Why is my heart still so worldly?” Oblate Writings I, vol. 19, p. 237 and 238) Nathalie’s remains were laid to rest in the funeral chapel of the Oblates and the Boisgelin in the cemetery at Aix (JM, April 21, 1845)
Caroline de Boisgelin was born at the Boisgelin mansion on January 25, 1813 and was baptized by Abbé Eugene de Mazenod. August 19, 1813, Father de Mazenod wrote to his father in Palermo: “Caroline is the most beautiful creature one could imagine!” She followed Nathalie to Grenoble in 1823-1824 and then to Paris in 1824-1825. Stricken with tuberculosis, she died in Paris at the age of 12 years on June 25, 1825. Father de Mazenod was at Paris at the time with his uncle Bishop Fortuné. Bishop Fortuné gave her First Holy Communion and the sacrament of Confirmation. Father de Mazenod took this loss very hard. On June 25, he wrote to Father Guigues: “As for me, I am at my wits’ end. I go, I come. I would like to be with her; when I am there, I cannot remain there…”
She was buried on June 28 at Calvaire du Mont-Valérien. On that day, Father de Mazenod wrote to his mother: “I weep, but gently, while submitting myself to the will of God.”
Louis de Boisgelin was born on November 21, 1815 at the home of Mrs. de Mazenod on Papassaudi street. When he was a child, he was not of robust health. In September of 1817, Father de Mazenod wrote to this mother: “I could not console myself if my nephew has a hunchback or had rickets.” On December 14, 1825, he added that Louis was subject to fits of epilepsy.
Initially, Louis attended the school of the Jesuits in Aix, then, in the autumn of 1828, he was sent to the Jesuit college at Fribourg. On October 8, Father de Mazenod wrote to his mother: “It is a question of shielding him from corruption of the age and to make him a good Christian; we should brook no expense to achieve this end.” On the occasion of his trip to Switzerland in the summer of 1830, Father de Mazenod went to see him. He wrote to him a few times. He found that his nephew was not very demonstrative and offered little in terms of news. On September 3, 1831, he wrote to his nephew: “In our family, we make no apologies for our feelings, we give a great deal, but we also exact something in return. The hearts of the Mazenods and the hearts of the Joannis family melded together in your mother’s breast and mine and that is the most precious inheritance we could leave behind.”
In the autumn of 1833, Louis returned to Aix where he remained for a few years. They sought a marriage partner for him. He was a friend of the young Forbin d’Oppède and would have agreed to marry his sister Augustine, but Augustine’s father opposed the marriage. They also looked for work for him. In the spring of 1837, his father accompanied him to Paris. The Marquis of Saint-Aulaire brought him with him to Vienna as secretary of the ambassador of France. He only stayed there two months. At the end of June, he announced his set purpose to enter the Jesuit novitiate. Tumult erupted in the family! His father and mother consented to it, but Mrs. de Mazenod refused to give her consent. Bishop de Mazenod would have preferred to see him as a diocesan priest, one destined for some high function in the Church, but he recognized that it was the case of a great grace which “carried on the priestly order in the family.” Armand accompanied his son to the novitiate at Avignon in September of 1837.
In August of 1838, Louis came to spent a few days of vacation with his family and received the tonsure and the minor orders at the hands of his uncle. He returned in September of 1840 and, stricken ill, he came back in September of 1841. The whole family gathered at the castle of Saint-Martin from September 7 to September 16. Bishop de Mazenod wrote in his diary on the 16: “At the castle, we led a community life. It was edifying to see gathered around me so many Christian friends who united in their persons the charm of virtue along with the most gracious qualities. Our good-hearted eighty-year-old mother, model of patriarchal virtues, so meticulous in all her religious devotions, praying along with my sister her breviary with a recollection and devotion that was admirable. My sister, a genuine angel in her devotions, a strong woman sorely tried in the crucible of tribulations and bearing up with heroic courage, a courage that did not cancel out her feelings, the cruel loss of her children so worthy of all our most bitter sorrowing. My brother-in -law, the most gallant man I know, whose only lack is to be granted what the Lord has just granted to the prayers of his virtuous wife and of us all, to see him practice the religion that he has always honoured with his deepest respect. What shall I say of my nephew, Louis, so holy, so spiritual, so accomplished. And what about his brother Eugene who has won the hearts of everyone and who so well demonstrated before us all that the praise heaped upon him by Father Pillon, the rector of Brugelette college, was richly deserved. As for Césarie, all those who know her will not contradict me when I say that she is as loveable as she is good, that her spirit, her heart and her character make her a perfect individual. The happiness of seeing myself surrounded by people so dear to me was very perturbed and mixed with bitterness upon seeing the state of suffering of our poor Louis.” (Écrits oblats I, 20, p. 258-259)
Louis, like his older sister, was stricken with tuberculosis. At the beginning of February of 1842, with Father Tempier and Armand, Bishop de Mazenod went to spend a few days with the Jesuits at Avignon at the beside of the sick Louis who died on Holy Thursday, March 24. Bishop de Mazenod wrote in his diary under the date March 25: “So it is, there you have in heaven the one who would have been our consolation on earth…!”
Césarie de Boisgelin was born on September 11, 1818. She studied for a few years at the boarding school of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart in Paris where she was in residence during the Revolution of July, 1830. She was deeply affected by the death of her brother Louis on March 24, 1842. In order to take her mind off her sorrow, Bishop de Mazenod accompanied Césarie and her mother Eugénie on a trip to northern Italy from April 25 to June 28, 1842.
Césarie married Marquis Charles de Damas at Albano near Rome. Charles was the son of Roger de Damas, a general in the service of the King of Naples whom the de Mazenods had known in Naples in 1798. The marriage was presided by Bishop de Mazenod on August 7, 1845. The newly weds went to live in the Damas’ castle at Cirey (Haute-Marne). Bishop de Mazenod often wrote to his niece and visited her a few times, especially in September of 1849 to baptize Gabrielle, the second of their six children.
Eugène de Boisgelin was born on December 19, 1821. In 1837-1838, he spent one academic year at the institute of Mr. Poiloup in Paris. In the autumn of 1838, he did not want to go back there because as a result of a foolish prank on his part he was severely punished by Mr. Poiloup. Consequently, he was sent to the Jesuit college at Brugelette in Belgium under the directorship of Father Delvaux, a friend of Bishop de Mazenod’s “whose heart,” wrote Bishop de Mazenod, “is like mine.” Eugene did not come home for summer vacations in 1840 because the budget provided for him by his uncle “did not permit him to pay anything beyond his board and the incidentals he needed.” Eugene returned to Aix at the end of the 1842 academic year.
From 1841 to 1847, Armand and Bishop de Mazenod sought a marriage partner for him. Several projects of this nature failed because the young ladies involved were not rich enough or because Eugene was hard to please. He only wanted to marry a girl he already knew, a girl who was a musician, etc. Finally, Bishop de Mazenod blessed Eugène’s marriage to Angélique Sallony in his episcopal palace on November 25, 1848. As a wedding gift, the Bishop gave him the Boisgelin mansion which he had bought a few years previously. Eugène and Angélique had seven children.
Bishop de Mazenod appreciated Eugène’s consideration and help on the occasion of the death of Mrs. de Mazenod in December 1851 and of Armand de Boisgelin in June of 1853. In 1854, he obtained for him the title of Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great. Eugène inherited the title of Marquis of Saint-Martin-de-Pallières. He really liked his uncle. He was present at his death and attended his funeral and the transfer of his remains to the new cathedral of Marseilles on May 7, 1897.
Bishop de Mazenod had a deep affection for his nieces and nephews. It was he and Mrs. de Mazenod who paid all the expenses of their education. He often gave them gifts and he visited them a few times either at Cirey, at Saint-Martin-de-Pallières or at Aix. He hosted them a few times at his country house of Saint-Louis near Marseilles. For example, on May 22, 1849, he invited Eugène and his family to come for a visit and wrote: “I will profit from the occasion to spend some time with the people whom it is always painful not to have with me. That is a lifelong sacrifice I have never been able to get used to.”
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i