The 1848 Revolution had not only had political consequences, but had affected the Missionary Oblates. Eugene wrote to Fr. Faraud in Canada:

You will have learned that an unexpected revolution has saddled us with a republic which up to now has done us no good and much harm already if only in terms of stagnation instead of prosperity. We were making wonderful progress, our houses were multiplying and the number of vocations increased each day. But now that financial resources are failing, we have to stop this growth for lack of the ability to feed and lodge so many people. It is really a shame!

For the same reason I find myself forced to postpone the sending of new missionaries to the beautiful island of Ceylon where Fr. Semeria is stationed with Frs. Keating and Ciamin, as well as a lay brother. We could do marvels in that country for the conversion of 1,100,000 infidels and the instruction of 150,000 Christians but it takes not less than 2000 francs per person for the voyage and the Propagation of the Faith suffers from the great upheaval which has ruined all the industries, restricted all sources of capital and in consequence diminished all revenues.

Letter to Fr Henri Faraud, in Canada, 10 May 1848, EO I n 95


A very clear illustration of how the Oblate charism lived out in the mission was always in relation to the prevailing political and social situation. This is why every 6 years, in a rapidly changing world, the Congregation has a General Chapter to ask the question: “Which are the new faces of the poor today” and how can we respond realistically with the means at our disposal.

“The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.” (Vatican II Gaudium et Spes 1)

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The good Lord has preserved us in the midst of a real danger, and many of our Fathers have nobly accomplished the duty of charity that circumstances imposed on them: they offered their ministry to the wounded of whom most unfortunately have died. Today we had a solemn service for all the National Guardsmen who were victims of this ambush.

Letter to Fr Vincens at l’Osier, 1 July 1848, EO X n 981

Bishop Eugene wrote in his diary:

The ceremony was very imposing. 

He had been dissuaded from acting as mediator in the riots in Marseilles, but his friend Archbishop Denis Affre (nephew of one of Eugene’s former teachers at St Sulpice) had tried to mediate in Paris

Alas! my spirit was so very preoccupied. The death of the archbishop of Paris, concerning which we received the definite news this morning, filled my soul with grief at the same time that I was deploring the loss of these good people fallen under the blows of the rioters.

I consider the death of the archbishop of Paris as a great misfortune for the Church in the current situation.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 1 July 1848, EO XXI

Hubenig explains:

Cardinal Denis Auguste Affre, the Archbishop of Paris, tried to make peace between the army and the workers behind the barricades in the Faubourg St-Antoine and fell victim himself to the carnage. If anyone among the hierarchy of France understood the emerging social order, if anyone saw that the problem was unjustifiable destitution and not simply destitution, it was Affre. While still just a priest he had already written prophetic articles about justice that made clear distinctions about the root causes of poverty. As the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, he, more than any of his episcopal colleagues, could verify that his perspectives were true.

(Living in the Spirit’s Fire  page 166).


“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:3)

An invitation to go out of our way to meet the needs of others – to give up something of ourselves, our resources and talents to respond to those in need.

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On June 22, the Feast of Corpus Christi, Eugene wrote:

During the service, someone came to bring me several very alarming warnings. The rebellious workers had constructed barricades, the main army and the national guard were under arms, etc. I wanted to complete the office of this important day. Upon return to my residence, I learned successively about the disasters of the day. It was only very late that the barricades were removed with the loss of several men.

Our Fathers of le Calvaire and of the Seminary went to the environs of the place of battle in order to give absolution and Extreme Unction to the wounded in danger of death.

I had been tempted to present myself as a mediator, but I was deterred from this by assurances that the rioters would fire upon me. I thus settled for praying to God for everyone.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 23 April 1848, EO XXI

Hubenig narrates:

The closing of the ateliers on June 22 sparked massive riots. Known as the June Days, they raged for three days in Paris and spread to many other parts of the country. The army suffered a thousand fatalities, while several thousand workers died in the clashes. In Marseille, where the riots flared fiercely, Bishop de Mazenod cancelled the Corpus Christi procession, stating, “French blood which ran in the streets of our city has covered it with a funeral veil.”

Living in the Spirit’s Fire  page 166


“How do we stop violence, looting, and riots? The way that we stop that is by making sure that people have the things that they need to thrive.”  (Alicia Garza)

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A revolution is always a sorrowful thing. We accept all things from the hand of God. He will give us the strength to support the trials which are in store for us. Double your prayers for us that we who are going to be in the thick of it may be benefitted by your peaceful serenity in serving God well and the Church.

Letter to Fr Augustin Gaudet in Montreal, Canada, 29 April 1848, EO I n 94

Hubenig continues to give us the background to the events of 1848 in France.

“In Marseille, Émile Olivier set up a government arbitration board to settle workers’ complaints, the first of its kind in France. Perhaps the most daring measure of the new government, however, were the subsidized ateliers nationaux – socialized national workshops meant to allay the hunger of the poor in Paris. The brainchild of socialist Louis Blanc, the idea was meant to give work to some fifty or sixty thousand unemployed men and women in a wide range of worker-run industries, all at two francs daily. Unfortunately, lack of preparation, planning and technical know-how, combined with outright bourgeois sabotage, damned the project to failure almost from the beginning.

By the end of May the workers had grown increasingly frustrated. They had given the government three months during which they were prepared to tighten their belts more, but they wanted to see results. When their lot became even worse because of panic in the economic and industrial sectors, the mood became ugly.”

Living in the Spirit’s Fire excerpts from pages 165 – 166.


“When the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century brought a rapid increase in wealth, the demand of workers for a fair share of the wealth they were creating was conceded only after riots and strikes.” (J. Orr)

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The violence of the day before having been suppressed, Bishop Eugene led a thanksgiving service. The city and its inhabitants were under the protection of “la Bonne Mère” (the Good Mother) whose sanctuary was on the highest hill of Marseilles.

I went up to the sanctuary of N.-D. de la Garde to say a Mass of thanksgiving for having been preserved, along with our whole city, placed under the protection of this Good Mother, from the catastrophe that the villains had prepared for us.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 29 April 1848, EO XXI


“Let us entrust to her intercession the daily prayer for peace, especially in places where the senseless logic of violence is most ferocious; so that all people may be convinced that in this world we must help each other, as brothers and sisters, to build the civilization of love.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

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In 1826 Eugene went to the Pope with the Rule which the Oblates had been living for nearly 10 years to ask for approbation.

At that moment, the Church was not approving new congregations, but as Eugene was kneeling next to the Pope and talking enthusiastically about what the Missionaries were doing in France, the Pope, at a certain moment, closed his eyes in prayer. Reopening them he said “I want you to go to the Cardinals with this Rule”
The next day the Pope told the Cardinal “This society pleases me, I know the good it does and I wish to favor it.” In prayer he had discerned the work of God in the Oblates.

Saint Eugene writing immediately to the Oblates in France, with the joyful news of our recognition by the Church, wrote these words about the Rule.

They are not an unimportant detail, they are no longer simple regulations, merely pious directions; they are Rules approved by the Church after most minute examination.

Thus it was on the 17th of February that the Church officially recognized that it was the Spirit of God that inspired these Rules, and that the work of Eugene de Mazenod and the Oblates was not a human creation. It was a group that had been brought about by God. It was a recognized charism in the Church.

They have been judged holy and eminently suited to lead those who have embraced them to their goal.

The Rule is the way we live the Gospel: in the light of our charism of evangelizing the poor and most abandoned.

They have become the property of the Church that has adopted them. The Pope, by approving them, has become their guarantor.

Our charism does not belong to us, but to the Church. The Constitutions and Rules are our expression of the charism and they belong to the Church and not to us.

He whom God has used to draw them up disappears; it is certain today that he was merely the mechanical instrument which the Spirit of God put into play in order to show the path he wanted to be followed by those whom he had predestined and preordained for the work of his mercy, in calling them to form and maintain our poor, little and modest Society.

Eugene realized that he has been an instrument of God in bringing the Oblates and our Rule to birth.

While it is the Rule of the Missionary Oblates, it captures the spirit of St Eugene and is thus the foundation of the spirit and mission of our Mazenodian Family, who are an integral part of the charism.

Happy Feastday to each of you!

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Alerted that the angry citizens, furious with the result of the elections, which they attribute to the influence of the bishop and of the clergy, are to come tonight to smash the windows of the episcopal residence and to insult me. I will not leave my residence for this and I am ready and waiting.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 27 April 1848, EO XXI

The next day he wrote:

God has just saved us from a great misfortune. It was something quite different from breaking windows that the scoundrels under the orders of certain agitators had in mind.

The plot, which has now been uncovered, was to set fire to the port and the bishop’s palace, and while help was on the way, the conspirators intended first to plunder the Pawnbrokers’ Shop and then the whole town. Theft and murder would have accompanied this horrible disorder. The conspirators had gathered in a house located in the crossroads parallel to the Avenue des Capucines. It was there that the National Guard, who had already arrested some of those on their way to the appointment, seized a large number who were armed to the teeth and equipped with incendiary torches. The newspapers are full of details of this atrocious conspiracy

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 28 April 1848, EO XXI


“What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by an assassin’s bullet. No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled or uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people.” (Robert Kennedy)

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April 23: Holy day of Easter. General elections. No episcopal office nor High Mass. I went to vote for the first time since I have been bishop.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 23 April 1848, EO XXI

Despite the progressive euphoria of the Republican Party, the more influential classes had swung to the right and the conservative Party of Order won an overwhelming victory. The majority of the clergy in France had also supported this swing, including Bishop Eugene. Louis Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon I, became the President of the Second Republic.


“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, ‘Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,’ be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. (Deuteronomy 17:14 -15)

“Organising free and fair elections is more important than the result itself.” (Fatos Nano)

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On the Sunday of the General Elections, the faithful will do their utmost to reconcile the duty of hearing Mass with that of casting their vote; those for whom this would be impossible are exempt from the obligation to hear Mass, on the grounds of the paramount importance of their electoral duty. The parish priests will explain this article to them, and will schedule Mass at the most favorable times.

Pastoral letter from the Bishop of Marseilles, on the occasion of the general elections and the forthcoming opening of the National Assembly, March 20, 1848


Fr. René Motte OMI commented on this:

“The elections were held in the chief town of the canton. This obliged the inhabitants of the villages to spend a lot of time going to the voting center and returning home, by cart or on foot. This is why Bishop de Mazenod exempted from Sunday Mass those who could not observe the double obligation, Sunday Mass and voting. Now this Sunday, April 23, 1848, was Easter Sunday. And we know that for Bishop de Mazenod Easter is the center of the liturgical year.

We can admire the freedom of St. Eugene who puts the responsibility for the poor, and thus their dignity, before the observance of a religious rite, even if that rite is of primary importance, the Easter Sunday Mass. This example is also an invitation to reflect on the scale of values that directs our lives: the dignity of the poor before a serious law. One must be truly free to make this choice.” (Unpublished writing)

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We urge you all to do so, confident that this great act of your social life will be performed in the sight of the Lord, with a spirit of duty and according to the impulses of a conscience strongly dominated by a brotherly love for one another, without exception.

Pastoral letter from the Bishop of Marseilles, on the occasion of the general elections and the forthcoming opening of the National Assembly, March 20, 1848


Bishop Eugene did not suggest any candidate to be voted for; the choice was a matter of personal conscience. But what enlightens and guides the conscience is the call to charity.

“The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” (Lyndon B. Johnson)

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