SHARE THE BREAD OF FRIENDSHIP, FAITH, REFLECTION AND PRAYER

Missionary zeal was not only exercised outside of the community in preaching and celebration of the sacraments, but also within the house when people came to spend time and to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation.

… one must know when it is time to close one’s door As for the Congregation of which you speak, I approve your taking care of them but it is an abuse not to be the master in one’s home. That the men come to confession in the house is all right, but that they come and install themselves at all hours and remain especially during the time for our recreation, that cannot be. There will never be recollection amongst us, never any freedom; oh no! No more of such servitude, this is clearly an abuse, let us not lapse into it again.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Honorat, 13 March 1827, EO VII n 266

In many parts of the Oblate world, our associates experience a sense of belonging to our communities and like to come on a regular basis to visit, to pray with us, to share faith and to share a meal. Wherever I have experienced this relationship, I have been enriched by these times spent together. Eugene also sounds a realistic note of warning in that each one’s rhythm and need for privacy be respected. The Oblate community, just like any family, needs to have it moments to interact in private.

From our Rule of Life:

” Oblate houses and hearts are open to all who seek help and counsel. Priests and religious are always welcome; and other evangelical workers will be received so that they may share the bread of friendship, faith, reflection and prayer. At the same time, the community will also respect its members’ needs and their right to privacy.” CC&RR, Rule 41a

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ONE MUST KNOW WHEN IT IS TIME TO CLOSE ONE’S DOOR

Most of us do not know how to reasonably close our doors and evaluate the requests made on our time and energy.

After the exertions of a hard mission, is it abnormal that I demand that you rest and that I be upset if you get immersed in very demanding work and if I see you disposed to take on yet more strenuous tasks? There are no considerations which are valid.

To help them Eugene wanted the requests for ministry to come to him, and he would be the one to protect them if this was asking too much of the men.

I would have wished you to reply nothing to what they have the indiscretion to ask of you, except to tell them to address themselves to me. We will now permit the children’s jubilee which will tire you much more than you think, but nothing after that. I absolutely insist that you rest and that you study; one must know when it is time to close one’s door.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Honorat, 13 March 1827, EO VII n 266

Rest referred to physical rest, but also to the necessity to study and prayer so as to have worthwhile content in preaching. The invitation of our Rule of Life:

“They will interiorise in prayer what they study and begin to live what they learn, so that they will be credible signs of the message they are to preach.”    CC&RR, Rule 66c

 

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THE ESSENTIAL THING IS THAT YOU PRACTICE PATIENCE INTERIORLY AND THAT YOUR SPIRIT BE AT REST IN GOD

During Eugene’s time, many young people died from various illnesses and infections. The Oblates, always guided more by missionary zeal than by good health sense, were prone to catching chest infections and illnesses like tuberculosis. Eugene encourages patience to those convalescing. Today his advice is just as pertinent and the invitation to let our spirit rest in God in suffering and diminishment is just as important

I leave it to you to judge, my dear child, as to whether I am touched by your pining and your trials; but my grief would be greater still were I to believe you to be too much affected by your state. We are surrounded here by young people like yourself who have vomited blood, not occasionally and in small quantity but very copiously and continuously for fifteen days in a row, but they keep on their way. The deacon Camoin, Rouden, Beaussier are in this situation; so, my dear, you will get better as they do, although somewhat more slowly and with some extra treatment.
The essential thing is that you practice patience interiorly and that your spirit be at rest in God.
I did not forget your anniversary. I was surrounded by our whole family and you know that you are never absent from my heart…

Letter to Marius Suzanne, 20 March 1827, EO VII n 268

From our Rule of Life:

“Our members in distress, those who are sick or the aged among us, contribute greatly to the coming of God’s Kingdom. We will be particularly concerned for them and will surround them with all the affection that binds us together as members of the same family.”    CC&RR, Constitution 42

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WE OUGHT TO FIND OUR HAPPINESS WITHIN OUR COMMUNITIES

Writing to Fr. Courtès, superior of the Aix community, about Marius Suzanne gives Eugene the opportunity to look at the role of community for an Oblate. How tempted we are today to give in to the temptation of only looking outside of our community (or in our computer or television) for happiness. It is a temptation that touches families too…

I revert to the subject of Fr. Suzanne. You are afraid he is bored at Aix. You will admit that is quite wrong for, if I am not mistaken, we ought to find our happiness within the confines of our houses; far from seeking out and taking pleasure in the outside disturbance and relations that circumstances necessitate with persons outside, we ought, if we have the spirit of our calling, to groan, to be upset and do all that depends on us to extricate ourselves from it as soon as possible.
Marseilles would however only present to Fr. Suzanne distractions of this kind, I cannot believe he pines for them. The house of Aix as a community offers all the advantages that we can desire; the priests who live there are virtuous and exemplary, regularity is maintained, much good can be done there, the house is beautiful, the church is devout, all those who dwell therein are devoted to the Society, you yourself are there, for it is not forbidden to consider as an advantage to find oneself close to a veteran brother who deserves in every respect all our confidence and our friendship.
There is more than enough to please a good religious. That will not prevent me from recalling him to Marseilles as soon as he is strong enough to endure the journey.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 8 March 1827, EO VII n 265

 Our Rule of Life reflects Eugene’s ideal:

“A spirit of simplicity and joyfulness marks our communities. In sharing what we are and what we have with one another, we find acceptance and support. Each of us offers his friendship and places his God-given talents at the service of all. This enriches our spiritual life, our intellectual development and our apostolic activity.” CC&RR, Constitution 39.

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EVEN IN ILLNESS ALL THINGS WORK FOR GOOD FOR THOSE WHO LOVE GOD

As Marius Suzanne was convalescing and recovering from his illness, Eugene encourages him with the invitation to turn his enforced rest into a time of spiritual concentration and growth. How much consolation do we seek and recognize in our own moments of tiredness and illness?

... You must be patient, your strength can only return little by little; seek some consolation from God in your condition at not being able to do all you would like for his glory.
Nothing will be lost if you put this enforced idleness to good account for the sake of your own perfection; you know how distracting your outside activities have been.

Letter to Marius Suzanne, 7 March 1827, EO VII n 264

 

“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”   Romans 8:28

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MISUNDERSTANDINGS AND MISTAKES

Eugene’s affectivity led him to be impulsive at times. When he realized that his words or gestures had hurt someone, he would be upset himself and he would immediately make amends.

Yvon Beaudoin explains one of these incidents:

“It is evident from the letters of 1826, that Fr. Suzanne fell ill in June 1826. Although not recovered, he remained superior of the community at Calvaire. In January, 1827, it seems (REY, I, 421) that the Founder, displeased with the lack of regularity of the community, humiliated Suzanne by removing him from his post right in the middle of a Chapter of Faults. He was probably then sent to Aix where he would have stayed before accompanying Fr. Tempier to Nimes from the 8th to the 14th of February… It was on returning from Nimes, February 14, that Suzanne began to vomit blood, during a brief stop at Aix. He was forced to remain there. Fr. Tempier returned immediately to Marseilles to warn Fr. de Mazenod who came “immediately” (REY, I, 423) to see the sick man. After the Chapter of Faults of January, a certain malaise existed between the father and the beloved son. This would explain the end of the paragraph in which the Founder seems to wish to excuse himself for having sent Fr. Suzanne to Nimes. He explains why he had not written at the beginning of the month (Fr. Courtès or others gave him news each day) and why he had not come, as was his custom, to visit the community, the first Friday of the month. He no doubt had not had the time nor had he deemed it opportune to give an explanation on this latter point during his lightning visit of the 14th, immediately after the haemorrhage of Fr. Suzanne.” (Footnote to EO VII n 263)

Writing to Marius Suzanne, during his convalescence, Eugene shows his relief tosee  him recovering :

I was not worried about your health, of which news was given me almost every day, and as my thoughts were at rest on this score, I put off to the next day my letter, which was not easier for me than the evening before. If I did not go to see you on the first Friday of the month as I had planned, it was because I perceived it would upset my uncle a little too much; it is a sacrifice that I had to add to many others of the same kind …

Letter to Marius Suzanne, February-March 1827, EO VII n 263

 

“There is no such thing as emotional incompatibility. There are only misunderstandings and mistakes which can easily be set right if we have the will to do so.”     Dada Vaswani

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THE ONE WHOM YOU LOVE IS SICK

The highly affective Eugene’s pain and concern over the illness of Marius Suzanne is obvious in this passage. The deep friendship between Lazarus and Jesus was an inspiration to Eugene and a model for his own loving relationship with Jesus. It becomes the theme of his prayer for the seriously ill young Oblate.

The health of our dear Suzanne seems so precious a thing to me that we must raise a holy tumult with our Lord. At Mass yesterday and today, I have pushed my pleas almost to the point of profanation, if indeed a Master so good can find it amiss that I let myself go in my trust and uttered boldly: “ecce quem amas infirmatur” [ed. John 11, 3: “Lord, he whom you love is ill”]. I said it more than thirty times during Communion. Magdalene was not more close to him when she asked him, together with her sister, for the cure of Lazarus.
As for us [who] cannot count on resurrection, we ought to insist that he be restored. I think I am raving. Adieu. I embrace you and my poor Suzanne. I pine away. Adieu.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 16 February 1827, EO VII n 262

 

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”   John 11:5

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PRAYER AS AN ACT OF LOVE FOR OTHERS

Until the time that the Oblates began to receive new members in the foreign missions in the late 1840’s, Eugene had a personal relationship with each of his missionary sons. In his correspondence we constantly see how he loved and watched over them with a father’s heart. When one of them contracted a life-threatening illness, Eugene would drop his activities to spend time as much time as possible at his bedside and keep vigil. In the case of some of the young ones who he had known and guided since their adolescence, he had a deeper bond extending over many years. Marius Suzanne was one of these who was very special to him. Unable to be with him at the beginning of his serious illness, Eugene wrote to Hippolyte Courtès:

I write to comfort my heart, being unable to be at the place and beside the bed of our sick one so as to take care of him. I think only of him and it is with more painful feelings than when I see him.
I pray and have prayers said but I would need above all to ask for and obtain resignation. It costs me nothing when it is for my own sake but for you and whatever concerns you it is another matter.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 16 February 1827, EO VII n 262

Struggling to resign himself and accept the situation, he invites others to pray with him.

 

“Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love.”   Saint Teresa of Avila

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MILESTONES ARE STARTING POINTS FOR THE NEXT LEAP FORWARD

Exactly a year had passed since the approbation of our religious family and Rule by the Church in 1826. Eugene writes to the community in Aix to remind them of the day and of the need to give thanks. Celebrating milestones is not only about being grateful for the past – but through reliving the grace of the event in prayer, to be prepared to respond to God’s ongoing invitation to leap forward.

Do not forget that tomorrow is the anniversary of the approbation and ratification of our Institute. We will sing high Mass in our interior chapel before the Blessed Sacrament exposed and we will sing the Te Deum before Benediction. You can be sure that in giving thanks for the gifts granted we will not neglect to petition for the present and the future.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 16 February 1827, EO VII n 262

 

“A great accomplishment shouldn’t be the end of the road, just the starting point for the next leap forward.”   Harvey Mackay

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CENTER OF MISSION: EACH ONE FULFILS HIS TASK FOR THE GLORY OF GOD

Six years after the establishment of the Oblate community in Marseille in 1821, the community at the Calvaire was a growing mission center. From this center of religious missionary life, the Oblates did pastoral work throughout the city, and went into the countryside to preach parish missions. The novices had moved from Aix the year before to be part of the wider community, and in January 1827, five scholastics, preparing for priestly ordination, had come to Marseille as well. It is about these students that Eugene writes

… I assure you they are working, but they do so willingly and with much success.

At this stage there were twelve priests, five scholastics and eleven novices in the house. Seeing how each Oblate fulfilled his specific role in the community, Eugene exclaims:

 It is thus that the whole Society fulfils her task for the greater glory of God.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Honorat, 24 January 1827, EO VII n 260

This ideal of Eugene is the inspiration behind the current initiative of the USA Oblates in establishing various mission centers here:

“A Mission Center is defined as “an apostolic community of approximately 4 – 8 Oblates responsible for a particular institution (parish, Shrine, retreat center, etc.) which also, through community discernment and consensus, goes beyond the institution by serving in a variety of other ministries (for example: campus, prison, youth, homeless, immigrant groups, itinerant mission preaching, education, community organizing, JPIC, vocation , collaboration and networking with other organizations, chaplaincies, etc.).” This idea will continue to evolve and the importance of authentic community life in the actual living out of this concept cannot be emphasized enough.” (Renewing the Province Mission – USA OMI)

 

 

“Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life.”   Pope Francis

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