TO RAISE HIM IN THE SIGHT OF SO MANY REBELS, AND INVOKE ON THEM HIS MERCY

Eugene continues to share his first experience of division in Christendom with Henri Tempier:

However, I did not wish to deprive myself of the consolation of saying Holy Mass in this land of infidels, and offered the Holy Sacrifice with intentions you can surmise; I avow it was not without some emotion for after all, to offer the holy victim on this thoroughfare of error, to adore Jesus Christ there, to raise him in the sight of so many rebels, and invoke on them his mercy or, failing that his justice, is worthwhile, especially when one thinks of the past centuries and the present disposition of minds. Nonetheless it would be impossible for me to live in such a place; we left as quickly as possible, continuing on our road.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 26 July 1830, EO VII n 349

A few years later he expressed a more tolerant attitude.

“Despite his intransigence on principles and the harshness of his remarks on Protestantism, Bishop de Mazenod is usually understanding and indulgent towards people. In his letter to the Company for the colonization of the North of Africa, February 4, 1839, after having stated his principles, he writes:

The Church is full of love for all people, regardless of their belief. It loves all those whom God has created in his image and thereby called to the knowledge of the truth. It does all the good it can for them in the temporal order as in the spiritual order […]
However, gentlemen, I do not want to conclude from this that we are obliged, when saying anathema to the errors of Protestants, to exclude them. We must at any rate live with them in charity and be on good terms with them in temporal matters, and with respect to their persons treat them as brothers.

Yvon Beaudoin, “Mgr de Mazenod et les Protestants” in Vie Oblate Life 58 (1999), p 523-524

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ALL CONTRIBUTED TO CHILL THE SOUL AND THROW ME INTO A DEEP SADNESS

After visiting the Oblates in ND du Laus, whose communitarian failings had left Eugene in an unhappy state, he reached Switzerland. His first stop was Geneva – in the Protestant part of the country, and he was horrified to experience, at first hand, the effects of the Reformation, whose extent he had never understood before.

…We arrived very early in this capital of error. I can give you no idea of the painful impression that I felt. The sight of the Catholic Church where I hastened to go and adore Our Lord, only served to aggravate my anguish; the smallness of this church, in the center of a city so remarkably well built, its apparent poverty in the midst of so many riches; the thought that the fine building of St. Peter is in the power of the heretics, everybody I met in the streets marked with the sign of heresy, all contributed to chill the soul and throw me into a deep sadness.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 26 July 1830, EO VII n 349

Again, we need to suspend passing judgement according to today’s standards on attitudes of two centuries ago. Let us remember that it took another 150 years after Eugene’s writings for the word “ecumenism” to first enter into Christian vocabulary. So, from the Roman Catholic theological point of view, the only possibility that existed in Eugene’s time was conversion of the “heretics” and “schismatics” to the true faith enshrined in the Catholic Church.

We also need to remember that Eugene had had hardly any contact with Protestantism. His early years were in southern France and then in what is Italy today – both officially totally Catholic, with insignificantly tiny pockets of non-Catholics. We will see some change of attitude later, when he was Bishop of Marseilles and when he was sending missionaries into predominantly Protestant countries.

After having judged with great severity the heresy and the errors in which the Protestants lived, one is surprised to find here and there in the writings of Bishop de Mazenod judgments that are much more moderate and positive. Twice he calls the Protestants “our errant brothers,” and twice “our separated brethren.”    Yvon Beaudoin, “Mgr de Mazenod et les Protestants” in Vie Oblate Life 58 (1999), p 522-523

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I WOULD GIVE MY LIFE A THOUSAND TIMES IN ORDER THAT NO ONE AMONGST US EVER GIVE THE SCANDAL OF NOT BEING WORTHY OF THEIR VOCATION

Having laid out three fundamental way of refocusing our lives according to the spirit of our Mazenodian vocation, according to our state of life, Eugene continued:

Let each judge himself, correct himself or otherwise regard himself as a good-for-nothing. The sentence seems severe but it is certain.
Indeed I would give my life a thousand times in order that no one amongst us ever give the scandal of not being worthy of his vocation.
To preserve ourselves from this misfortune: Deus autem pacis …aptet vos in omni bono.” [ed. …convince, rebuke and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching …may the God of peace provide you with everything good  2 Tim. 4, 2; Hebr. 13, 20].

Letter to Hippolyte Guibert, 29 July 1830, EO VII n 350

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REFOCUS: REGARD THE RULE AS OUR LAW, THE SUPERIORS AS GOD, OUR BROTHERS LIKE OUR OTHER SELVES

Regard the Rule as our law, the superiors as God, our brothers like our other selves.

Letter to Hippolyte Guibert, 29 July 1830, EO VII n 350

Always mindful of the command of Jesus to love God totally, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, Eugene’s lifelong focus was that “charity is the pivot on which our whole existence turns.” It is not surprising that his dying wish and command was: “Among yourselves, charity, charity, charity.”

Here we have the three guidelines to help us to refocus when we realize that our community or group life is not as it should be.

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REFOCUS: REGARD THE RULE AS OUR LAW, THE SUPERIORS AS GOD

Regard the Rule as our law, the superiors as God, our brothers like our other selves.

Letter to Hippolyte Guibert, 29 July 1830, EO VII n 350

The expression, “Regard… the superiors as God,” may sound very surprising and, perhaps, we are tempted to think almost blasphemous. Our current Rule of Life clarifies what Eugene wanted to communicate:

“Our Superiors are a sign of the Lord’s loving and guiding presence in our midst.” CC&RR, Constitution 81

The Missionary Oblates were born because God wanted us to exist in the Church. Eugene never wavered from the conviction that God had called him and had entrusted to him the charism of his missionary family. In this way, the community superior was to be regarded as having a God-given function, and represented and reflected the presence of God in the community. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20)

Our Rule of Life continues on the role of the community superiors:

 They call us to live up to our Oblate vocation and provide us with the support we need. In a spirit of co-responsibility, they lead the community, making decisions, supporting initiatives and implementing policies, according to the spirit and norms of the Constitutions and Rules. Superiors must know how to delegate authority as well as assign responsibility. CC&RR, Constitution 81.

A question: would the coordinators of our various Mazenodian groups see an invitation to be something of this in their ministry to their groups? It would be great to get a reaction…

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REFOCUS: REGARD THE RULE AS OUR LAW

How to correct wrong directions in community life and refocus?  Eugene gives guidelines, which continue to be beacons for us today.

Regard the Rule as our law, the superiors as God, our brothers like our other selves.

Letter to Hippolyte Guibert, 29 July 1830, EO VII n 350

“Regard the Rule as our law.” Each religious and missionary group has a particular focus on the Gospel, which is expressed and put into practice through its Rule of Life. The only way in which we can truly be what God wants us to be is by following this Church-approved Rule to which we, as Oblates and in a customized form as Associates, have made a public commitment. (cf. http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=1285 )

The Constitutions and Rules set out a privileged means for each Oblate to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. They are inspired by the charism lived by the Founder and his first companions; also, they have received the approval of the Church. Thus, they allow each Oblate to evaluate the quality of his response to his vocation and to become a saint.” CC&RR, Constitution 163.

 

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WE ARE MERE SERVANTS OF THAT WHICH WE HAVE RECEIVED AND LIVED

Charity for our neighbour is again an essential part of our spirit. We practice it first amongst us by loving each other as brothers…

As a missionary family, whatever we do and say is a reflection and fruit of the quality of our community life.

and as for the rest of mankind, in considering ourselves only as the servants of the Father of the family
commanded to comfort, to aid, to bring back his children
by working to the utmost, in the midst of tribulations, of persecutions of every kind,
without claiming any reward other than that which the Lord has promised to faithful servants who have worthily fulfilled their mission.

Letter to Hippolyte Guibert, 29 July 1830, EO VII n 350

“Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” Luke 17:9-11

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DON’T FIND FAULT, FIND A REMEDY

Charity for our neighbor is again an essential part of our spirit. We practice it first amongst us by loving each other as brothers

Eugene spells out how to express this fraternal love. Firstly by working to maintain a spirit of unity among ourselves:

by considering our Society only as the most united family which exists on the earth,

A practical way of achieving this:

by rejoicing over the virtues, the talents and other qualities that our brothers possess just as much as if we possessed them ourselves,

and

in bearing with mildness the little faults that some have not yet overcome, covering them over with the mantle of the most sincere charity, etc.;

Letter to Hippolyte Guibert, 29 July 1830, EO VII n 350

How sad when we focus on finding fault with one another without looking for the good first. Henry Ford had some good advice: “Don’t find fault, find a remedy.”

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OBLATION AND LIVING A LIE

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart… and love your neighbor as you love yourself” are the words of Jesus. Eugene made them his (and ours) by using the word “oblation” – our vocation is to give ourselves totally to God in love, and to the service of one another:

Charity for our neighbour is again an essential part of our spirit.

However, he adds a condition:

We practice it first amongst us by loving each other as brothers

If we cannot live in charity among ourselves, we have nothing to offer to the world, except a two-faced lie: “do what I tell you, but do not imitate what you see me doing in my personal and community life.”

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”   I John 4:20.

 

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LOVE HOLDS EVERYTHING TOGETHER

After his strong words regarding the duty to live by the spirit of the Rule of Life, Eugene stressed that the cement that keeps the Oblate body together is love:

Charity is the pivot on which our whole existence turns.

Charity begins with God, and our call is to give everything to God in loving oblation.

That which we ought to have for God makes us renounce the world and has vowed us to his glory by all manner of sacrifice, were it even to be our lives.

The way in which Oblates express this love for God is by means of our consecration in religious life through the vows:

It is in order to be worthy of this God to whom we are consecrated that we have vowed to renounce ourselves by obedience, riches by poverty, pleasures by chastity.

Then Eugene points out that it is the actual living out of the practice of renunciation of self through obedience that leaves a lot to be desired.

I have no complaint about this last article. I have little to say about the second, but the first is not understood by certain individuals. Whence the disorders that I have had to deplore. Let us not cease to meditate on this point that is so important; that we are not religious by observing it as badly as we have up to now

Letter to Hippolyte Guibert, 29 July 1830, EO VII n 350

It is this charity in obedience, in oblation of self to God for others, that makes us truly religious.

This does not apply only to religious. As lay members of the Mazenodian Family, what does this say to us? All who are united by the charism, are called to oblation in whatever way of life we have. The charity of oblation is the pivot of each relationship and action… The cement that holds our Mazenodian spirituality together.

“The call and the presence of the Lord among us today bind us together in charity and obedience to create anew in our own lives the Apostles’ unity with him and their common mission in his Spirit.”  CC&RR , Constitution 3

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