The foundation of all Christian spirituality is a relationship with Jesus Christ. In Eugene’s life there was no doubt about this as he passionately committed himself:

You, you alone will be the only object to which will tend all my affections and my every action. To please you, act for your glory, will be my daily task, the task of every moment of my life. I wish to live only for you, I wish to love you alone and all else in you and through you. I despise riches, I trample honors under foot; you are my all, replacing all else. My God, my love and my all: Deus meus et omnia.

Notes made during the retreat in preparation for priestly ordination,
December 1-21, E.O. XIV n.95

Eugene’s objective was to live every aspect of his existence as an expression of his ideal “to live only for God” through his vowed commitment, which he called “oblation.” He articulated this in a lifestyle of service to others as an Oblate.

Fernand Jette’, a former Oblate Superior General beautifully described this relationship:

Adherence to Jesus Christ was a distinguishing feature of Eugene’s whole life. It was an experiential encounter with a person, the person of Jesus Christ, and the living relationship established between the two expressed in an ongoing fashion. This friendship showed itself through the events and grew through the pains and joys of life.   “Jesus Christ” in the Dictionary of Oblate Values http://www.omiworld.org/en/dictionary/dictionary-of-oblate-values_vol-1_j/1050/jesus-christ/


“Spirituality is understood to be the way of life of a people, a movement by the Spirit of God, and the grounding of one’s identity as a Christian in every circumstance of life.”   National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry – USCCB

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As we explore our understanding of Mazenodian spirituality, I need to pose the question: “What do I mean by using the word spirituality”? Eugene himself gave me the answer when he wrote:

You, you alone will be the only object to which will tend all my affections and my every action. To please you, act for your glory, will be my daily task, the task of every moment of my life. I wish to live only for you, I wish to love you alone and all else in you and through you.

Notes made during the retreat in preparation for priestly ordination, December 1-21, E.O. XIV n.95

“I wish to love you alone and all else in you and through you” gives us the method. Eugene’s spirituality is built on his God-centered focus. We can call his spirituality the way in which his experience and understanding of God, himself and his world was expressed in action. Using Philip Sheldrake’s definition (quoted below) as a guide, we can say that to study Eugene’s spirituality is to explore how his understanding of God, the human person and the world were expressed in a set of values, in a style of life and in spiritual practices as the context for transformation and mission.

“I wish to love you alone and all else in you and through you” gives us the content of Eugene’s spirituality and the direction to follow. In the following weeks we will explore Eugene’s experience of God and how this was expressed in the “all else” of every aspect of his life understood “in God” and “through God.”

To complete the picture, this Mazenodian spirituality has been lived for 200 years, and we also need to explore how it has been understood and lived by the religious and lay members of the Mazenodian family for two centuries.

“I wish to love you alone and all else in you and through you” poses a question to each of us today – what is my basic understanding of my spirituality?


“In Christian terms, spirituality refers to the way our fundamental values, lifestyles, and spiritual practices
reflect particular understandings of God, human identity, and the material world
as the context for human transformation.”       Philip Sheldrake

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For five years “St Eugene Speaks” has been working through the letters of Saint Eugene de Mazenod in a chronological manner. As we prepare for the bicentenary of our foundation, I have been asking myself how best to focus these daily reflections to help us to benefit from the anniversary in a deeper and more transforming way.

I am tired of hearing people expounding that there is no such thing as an “Oblate/Mazenodian Spirituality.” I totally disagree with this statement, and would like to take time to reflect on our spirituality as it has been expressed and lived in 200 years of our existence as Oblates.

What do we mean by “spirituality?” It is a fashionable concept these days, and there seem to be as many definitions as there are persons who talk about it in all sorts of contexts. Spirituality is all about how our understanding and experience of God is the foundation and guiding principle of our daily lives. It is the “spirit” that gives meaning to our lives.

Eugene was conscious of this “spirit” in his personal life and in the life of the Oblates at all times. Writing to his closest collaborator he explained:

First companion of mine, you have from the first day we came together grasped the spirit which must animate us and which we must communicate to others

Letter to Henri Tempier, 15 August 1822, EO VI n 86

As we journey with Eugene, let us take some time today to reflect on the question, “What is the spirit that animates me?” What holds everything together in my life?


“Spirituality has to do with our experiencing of God and with the transformation of our consciousness and our lives as outcomes of that experience…”   Richard McBrien


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Eugene, writing in the third person, as the “Director”, for the official Diary of the Youth Congregation spoke about the importance of his baptism anniversary on 2 August.

The Reverend Director reminded the congregants that the next day would be his birthday, but that this commemoration had no value in his eyes. What is infinitely more precious for him is the anniversary of his baptism which took place on August 2, 1782. He begged all the congregants to help him thank God for so great a grace, for which he declared he can never be grateful enough and asked them to join their prayers with his, which stand in need of this support if he is to summon up the hope of seeing them accepted by God.

Diary of the Aix Christian Youth Congregation, 31 July 1814, O.W. XVI,

The next Diary entry refers to this event:

A number of congregants thought they could find no better way of following the Director’s wishes than by coming and assisting and uniting themselves with the Holy Mass he offered this morning in the chapel of the Congregation.

Diary of the Aix Christian Youth Congregation, 2 August 1814, O.W. XVI

 “Rituals, anthropologists will tell us, are about transformation. The rituals we use for marriage, baptism or inaugurating a president are as elaborate as they are because we associate the ritual with a major life passage, the crossing of a critical threshold, or in other words, with transformation.”        Abraham Verghese

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In the references that we have to Eugene’s birthday, we see them as occasions for reflection on his life and its direction. Two examples from his diary:

August 1, 1841. Nothing special today, except that I am ending my 59th year. Thus a person draws near to the end almost without being aware of it. We grow old only one day at a time; but then your anniversary comes to remind you that you are one year older. Each year the number increases and the result is astonishment…

Journal, le 1 aout 1841, EO XX

Then ten years later:

August 1, 1851. Today I begin my 70th year. How many and how great the graces since the day of my birth…

Journal, le 1 aout 1851, EO XXI

“God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”     Voltaire

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Immediately after the vacation period, the immediate preparations for the international Oblate Charism Congress began here at Oblate School of Theology (one of the 8 centers for the simultaneous event throughout the OMI world). The congress has been an amazing success, both at the internet live-streaming level for three hours per day, and at the local level for the region for the remainder of the day.

After the congress I will be doing a full time period of Founder and charism animation for the members of our Mazenodian Family. It is during this time that I will prepare the new series of “Saint Eugene Speaks to us” reflections for publication.

Looking forward to journeying with Saint Eugene towards our bicentenary through these reflections.

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Adieu, my faithful and dear companion, son, brother and cherished father ….

Letter to Henri Tempier, 21 October 1828, EO VII n 313

In his writings we become aware that Eugene was always conscious of being the father of the Oblate family. Henri Tempier, despite being so close to Eugene, was regarded as a son by him. Tempier’s letters to Eugene always showed his filial affection. Yvon Beaudoin tells us:

“Father Tempier, for his part, was always deeply attached to the Founder and worked together with him with unflagging devotedness. Though on account of his cool and quite reserved temperament he only rarely expressed his sentiments, he manifested his friendship in his activity, day in and day out, particularly in his role as admonitor and confessor, as councillor and collaborator in the service of the diocese of Marseilles and the Congregation…

After the liturgy of Holy Thursday, April 11, 1816, the two friends made a vow of mutual obedience. This was no vain ceremonial gesture on their part. Father Tempier always obeyed the Founder, at times in a heroic degree – in particular, by remaining vicar general of Marseilles from 1823 to 1861 against all his tastes – but he also had the courage to give orders to his superior in serious situations ‑ as in the case of a grave illness in 1829 ‑ 1830 and during the negotiations of the Icosia affair in 1835.”

Yvon Beaudoin, “Henri Tempier” in the Oblate Historical Dictionaryhttp://www.omiworld.org/dictionary.asp?v=5&vol=1&let=T&ID=998


“A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.”   Frank A. Clark

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Concluding a letter to Henri Tempier, Eugene expresses who Tempier was for him:

Adieu, my faithful and dear companion, son, brother and cherished father ….

Letter to Henri Tempier, 21 October 1828, EO VII n 313

 Tempier, throughout 45 years, was to be Eugene’s “faithful and dear companion.”

When he was 26 and entered the seminary, Eugene had written:

 I have always longed for a friend, but I have never found one, at least one such as I am seeking; it is true that I am hard to please for as it is my nature to give generously I expect the same in return. 

Self-evaluation written for his spiritual director in 1808, O.W. XIV n. 30

 As a young priest, he was to find this friend in the person of Henri Tempier – but more than a friend, he had found a faithful companion with whom, he could share his ideals. Yvon Beaudoin tells us: “His encounter with Father Tempier in 1815-1816 brought him what he was looking for and even more. Besides sharing plans and giving comfort in troubles, Father Tempier, a man who was calm, pondered and much less emotional than the Founder, tempered the outbursts of the Founder’s character and helped him ‑ at times also replacing him ‑ perseveringly to accomplish all his plans and undertakings.

Bishop de Mazenod had a real affection for and always esteemed this collaborator and friend from whom he kept no secrets. He wrote to him often, entrusted all positions of trust to him, openly admitted to him that he considered him as one identical to his own self.” Yvon Beaudoin, “Henri Tempier” in the Oblate Historical Dictionary http://www.omiworld.org/dictionary.asp?v=5&vol=1&let=T&ID=998

Tempier had understood the God-given spirit of the Missionaries from the very beginning.

First companion of mine, you have from the first day we came together grasped the spirit which must animate us and which we must communicate to others; you have not deviated in the slightest from the path we resolved to follow; everyone knows this in the Society and they count on you as they count on myself.

 Letter to Henri Tempier, 15 August 1822, EO VI n 86


“A blessed thing it is for any man or woman to have a friend, one human soul whom we can trust utterly, who knows the best and worst of us, and who loves us in spite of all our faults.”   Charles Kingsley

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Borzaga - Mass

Eugene’s own experience of living “all for God” – oblation – made him sensitive to all manifestations of this in others. How proud he must be when he sees so many of his Oblate sons giving their lives in the supreme act of oblation. Mario Borzaga’s act of oblation, together with his catechist, in Laos was the highest expression of “all for God.”

This picture of the young Father Mario Borzaga celebrating Mass reminds us of Eugene’s own first Mass, which had as his intention:

Final perseverance, and even martyrdom or at least death while tending victims of the plague, or any other kind of death for God’s glory or the salvation of souls.

One of the intention for which he offered his first Mass, E.O. XIV n.100

 Eugene touched death when he was serving the Austrian prisoners in Aix, but never became a martyr. Instead he was led to understand that oblation for God and others called him to a different martyrdom: giving his life in charity for others. Thirty five years later, it is clear that this remained an ideal for him.

I have all my life desired to die a victim of charity. You know that this crown was withheld from me right from the first days of my ministry. The Lord had his designs since He wanted to trust me to give a new family to His Church; but for me it would have been a greater value to have died of the blessed typhus which I had contracted while serving prisoners.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 12 September 1849, E.O. X n.1018

 Mario Borzaga died a victim of charity in his service of the Laotian people. Mario was not the only son of Eugene to give his life for the people of Laos, the cause of five of his Oblate martyr companions is also awaiting the Pope’s recognition.

If we are inspired by Eugene’s charism, we too are called to a life of being “martyrs of charity” in our everyday lives.


“Love is all, it gives all, and it takes all.”   Soren Kierkegaard

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We have just received the joyful news that Pope Francis has approved the beatification of another son of Saint Eugene, Father Mario Borzaga OMI and his lay catechist Paul Thoj Xyooj, killed in hatred of the faith in Laos in April 1960.

Born in Trent (Italy), 27 August 1932, Mario entered the diocesan seminary to be a priest. During that time a visiting Oblate came to the seminary to speak about missionary life, and Mario understood that God was calling him to becoming an Oblate missionary.

He made his perpetual oblation on 21 November 1956 and wrote:

“I have understood my vocation:
to be a happy man,
even in the effort to identify myself
with the Crucified Christ”

Ordained Priest on 24 February 1957, he wrote to the Superior General of the Oblates:

“I want to tell you, first of all, of my joy for having achieved the priesthood in the bosom of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate; a joy so alive at this moment being ordained few days ago.  With regards to my future religious life, I am at your complete disposition. If however I am permitted to express my desire, I ask humbly to be sent a missionary in Laos. I do not want to completely presume of my strengths and therefore, conscious of my weakness and insufficiency, I entrust myself completely to your prudent judgment”.

Letter to Fr. Leo Dechâtelets OMI, Superior General, 2 March 1957

Sent out as a missionary to Laos (South East Asia), on 31 October 1957, he wrote in his diary:

“We missionaries are made to be this: to leave is a normality, to go is a necessity! Tomorrow the roads will be our homes; and if we shall be compelled to anchor ourselves into a home, we will transform it into a road that leads to God”.  

From his personal diary, 1957


Borzaga catechistHis brief existence – he was never to reach his 28th birthday – came to an end in the solitude of the forest, along a track in the mountainside, while he was returning from an apostolic journey with his catechist. They were put to death by a group of communist guerrillas, thus interrupting forever on this earth, the marvelous dream of this young missionary, but fulfilling his dream of making of his life a total oblation – the highest destiny of a son of Eugene de Mazenod, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate who understood the implications of bearing this name.

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