OUR OBLATE VERB: TO PREACH

If we ask which is the verb that Eugene founded us to do, it is “to preach.” It sums up the reason for our existence: to preach the Gospel to the poor, to bring the most abandoned to know God’s salvation. For this reason, he insisted on proper training and preparation for preaching.

We must seek only to instruct the faithful, to be attentive to the needs of the greater part of the audience, and we must not be content to break the bread of the Word of God for them, but also to chew it for them.

1818 Rule Part 1, Chapter 3, §1

The young Oblates were taught to chew the Word of God as the foundation of preparing sermons, and were given opportunities to practice breaking the Word in church.

… We are having our sub deacons preach on Sunday and I assure you that the two I have heard these last two Sundays have pleased me very much. Mille was excellent and Clement very good. I would not have expected it had they not told me in advance that I would be pleased. Next Sunday will be the turn of Pons, and on Christmas Day, Paris, and the second feast will be Mille again who has not yet begun to write his text, which shows you that he composes with great ease.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 14 December 1829, EO VII n 340

Just in case the Mazenodian Family members think that this refers only to priests and deacons, let us remember that the vocation of each of us is to proclaim the Word of God through the quality of our words and actions in our daily lives and activities. As members of the Mazenodian Family, our verb is “to preach” – and in order to do this we need to chew the Word of God and be permeated by it each day. (cf. http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=1368 )

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A PAUSE FOR THE WEEK

 

I will be involved in a retreat for priests in a place with no internet access.

During this time, may I invite you to revisit some of the entries of St. Eugene Speaks at www.eugenedemazenod.net

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17 FEBRUARY 1826: THE CHURCH RECOGNIZES THAT EUGENE’S FOUNDATION IS A GOD-GIVEN CHARISM FOR US TODAY

The following day, Eugene wrote this good news from Rome to his Oblate brothers in France:

My dear brothers, on February 17, 1826, yesterday evening, the Sovereign Pontiff Leo XII confirmed the decision of the congregation of Cardinals and specifically approved the Institute, the Rules and Constitutions of the Missionary Oblates of the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary, and accompanied this solemn act of his pontifical power, with most admiring words for those who happily form this Society from which the head of the Church indeed expects the greatest good.
Everyone is stupefied at this. Even those called upon to contribute with their votes to the execution of the very emphatic will of the Pope, are surprised by the unanimous agreement of views and especially with the imperturbable resolution of the Holy Father, whom nothing has been able to deter from the first thought with which the Holy Spirit inspired him on the first day that I knelt at his feet and presented to him the plan of this enterprise which now we can call divine…
The conclusion to be drawn from this, my dear friends and good brothers, is: we must work, with renewed ardour and still more total devotedness, to bring to God all the glory that stems from our efforts and, to the needy souls of our neighbours, salvation in all possible ways; we must attach ourselves heart and soul to our Rules and practice [more] exactly what they prescribe to us…
… In the name of God, let us be saints.

Letter to the Oblates, 18 February 1826, EO VII, n. 226

Today:

“On October 7, 2016, at the gathering of Chapter members with the Holy Father, the message he delivered and his presence with us created a holy encounter. We experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Everyone was filled with immense love for the Congregation and with hope and joy for our future. That visit with Pope Francis made me relive the words our Founder penned on August 15, 1822 referring to “…our dear Society. It seemed to me that what I saw, what I could put my finger on, was that within her lies hidden the germ of very great virtues, and that she can achieve infinite good; I found her worthy, everything pleased me about her, I cherished her rules, her statutes; her ministry seemed sublime to me, as it is indeed. I found in her bosom sure means of salvation, even infallible, such is how they looked to me” (Selected Texts p. 119). These words of Saint Eugene bless us today.”

Father Louis Lougen OMI, Superior General

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I NOT ONLY LOVE YOU VERY MUCH, BUT SHARE WITH YOU SO WILLINGLY ALL MY THOUGHTS

Writing to Father Henri Tempier, Eugene reveals something of his heart and the importance of warm relationships.

I confine myself to uniting my feeble prayers to yours in order to draw down upon you all the blessings that I could wish for myself, and that is not remarkable because I have never considered you other than as one who is identical to myself, that is why I not only love you very much, but share with you so willingly all my thoughts, while being surprised nevertheless that independently of our inter-related positions, you have so much trouble sharing yours with me.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 6 October 1829, EO VII n 338

Fr. Yvon Beaudoin comments:

It is not easy to sum up Father Tempier’s life which is so replete with different things. We can say, however, that his most important role was the part he played at the Founder’s side.

Fr. Henri Tempier OMI

During the first years of his priestly ministry at Aix (1812-1815), Eugene de Mazenod did not have a true friend who was able to lessen his cares and to share his great designs, as he candidly says this in a letter to the abbé Forbin-Janson of September 12, 1814. 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 (Mazenod to Tempier, October 6, 1829) and that in the Congregation people counted on Tempier as much as they did on the Founder (Mazenod to Tempier, August 15, 1822).

http://www.omiworld.org/en/dictionary/historical-dictionary_vol-1_t/998/tempier-fran-ois-de-paule-henry/

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I LEARN ABOUT THINGS AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN DONE

Fr. Yenveux, who had collated many of the Founder’s letters commented on this one: “Rev. Fr. Tempier, not having informed in time the Rev. Fr. Superior General of the date of the annual retreat at the house of Aix, and having asked Rev. Fr. de Mazenod to come and hear his retreat confession, the latter admonished him paternally that too often he only told him of things after they had been done, which is contrary to the deference due to superiors”.

The letter has interesting sentiments. Eugene, probably short on patience because of his convalescence and family suffering, was usually inclined to micromanage everything in the Oblate Congregation (we were only 30 then) and was irritated by Henri Tempier’s laid-back attitude of not keeping him informed. “Father Superior” he may have been, but this letter also shows that they were close “Oblate brothers” and this is what was important.

I cannot be annoyed with you about anything, even when you fail in some duty, because you do it rather by distraction or by some sort of habitual independence that your position has given you ever since you joined the Society. Notwithstanding such reflections, I must say I would have left unhesitatingly this very day in order to be with you, had you not let me know that your retreat which began on Sunday would last only four days. I thought I would arrive only after you had made your confession and would thus be of no use to you; so I have not stirred.
I confine myself to uniting my feeble prayers to yours in order to draw down upon you all the blessings that I could wish for myself, and that is not remarkable because I have never considered you other than as one who is identical to myself, that is why I not only love you very much, but share with you so willingly all my thoughts, while being surprised nevertheless that independently of our inter-related positions, you have so much trouble sharing yours with me.
Make a resolution once and for all to be less tight-lipped with me. I learn about things after they have been done. This manner of acting is diametrically opposed to the idea that one ought to have of deference and subordination, understood even in the mildest sense.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 6 October 1829, EO VII n 338

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OUR LOVING SAVIOR SANCTIFIED OUR TEARS WHEN HE WEPT AT THE DEATH OF LAZARUS

Continuing his journal reflection on the anniversary of Nathalie’s death, Eugene reflects on his grief.

But we who loved you so tenderly, we who looked forward to years of happiness in the sweet flowering of our common affection, 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. Faith, faith alone, and the hope of meeting you once again in the bosom of God can sweeten our sorrow.
Oh my God, how weak I am! Why is my heart still so worldly? Should it feel anything other than the purest joy when it thinks of the triumph of a soul which is so dear to it? Not so! Nature is there to make us feel the full weight of its oppressive might, piercing sensitive hearts so deeply with its sharp sword. Indeed there would be good reason to reprimand myself for being like this, or at least to regret it, if our loving Saviour Jesus had not previously sanctified our tears and approved of our sorrow when he wept at the death of Lazarus whom he was nevertheless to raise from the dead.

Diary, 14 November 1838, EO XIX

This is one of my favorite texts of Eugene (one of many!). Here I am drawn by the beauty of his personality because he was not afraid of expressing his feelings. He was a sensitive man of the heart. One Good Friday he had shed tears because of the tenderness of the love of his Savior whose outstretched arms showed a heart broken on the Cross for him. Many times in his prayer he had shed tears, overwhelmed by the Savior’s undying love for him.

Humanly, whenever someone close to him died he could not contain his grief and heartbreak, despite being a man of deep faith.

It was okay to weep – because Jesus had also wept at the death of the close friend whom he loved.

 

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.”   Washington Irving

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FAITH, FAITH ALONE, AND THE HOPE OF MEETING YOU ONCE AGAIN IN THE BOSOM OF GOD CAN SWEETEN OUR SORROW

Nine years later, on the anniversary of the death of his niece, Nathalie, Eugene reflected on that event in his journal

November 14: A painful anniversary! The angelic Nathalie. If I was thinking of you during the holy sacrifice, it was only to thank God for the all the virtues with which he adorned your beautiful soul, and the glory which he has called you to share. I contemplated you in heaven where you reign since your creator called you there to take you away from the malice and corruption of this world where you appeared only briefly to make your passing regretted by all those who knew you.
But we who loved you so tenderly, we who looked forward to years of happiness in the sweet flowering of our common affection, 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. Faith, faith alone, and the hope of meeting you once again in the bosom of God can sweeten our sorrow.

Diary, 14 November 1838, EO XIX

 

“Let no one weep for me, or celebrate my funeral with mourning; for I still live, as I pass to and fro through the mouths of men.”   Quintus Ennius

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STRENGTH IN ORDER TO ACT WITH FREEDOM OF SPIRIT AND SEEMING SERENITY WHEN MY SOUL IS IN UTMOST DESOLATION

Eugene continues to share with Henri Tempier, his confidant, the aguish he was living as he assisted his niece at her deathbed.

So I confirmed, by a superhuman effort which upset my whole being, the vague understanding which she had that her end was close; she wished me to administer her the last sacraments; what a duty to fulfil!
I have necessarily to remain beside her; our Rules prescribe that we go, several times a day if necessary, to the sick persons in our care who are in danger; I stay right at my post and perform my ministry, but am very much in need of God’s assistance. I expressly bid you to let the Capuchin Sisters know my niece’s condition, so that they may pray and obtain for her the graces which she needs in this terrible moment; strength, courage, confidence in God.
As for me, I will need resignation when the fatal moment arrives, but for the moment, a surpassing strength in order to act with freedom of spirit and seeming serenity when my soul is in utmost desolation. Our sick girl is ever a model of patience which she exerts to the point of heroism.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 28 October 1829, EO VII n 339

Nathalie died a couple of weeks later on November 14 at the age of 19.

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THE ROLE OF CONSOLING ANGEL

For two months, Eugene was at the home of his sister, convalescing and also performing “the role of consoling angel” (Rey I p 478) to his 19-year-old niece, Nathalie de Boisgelin, who was dying.

He describes the situation to Fr Tempier, and shares his anguish:

She confided to me that even if she desired it on the one hand, she was extremely repelled by it on the other because Purgatory made her horribly afraid and she trembled in all her limbs just at the thought that on leaving this world she would be separated from God, since in Purgatory one cannot see God while going through cruel expiation of one’s sins. She wept while speaking thus to me.
Judge for yourself my position. Obliged, by duty of conscience, not to divert her mind from the death which she told me must be very close, and to suppress in my heart all the anguish and havoc that the sight of her did to me! You will know that I neglected nothing to inspire in this beautiful soul the amply justified motives of confidence which she ought to entertain.
But martyrdom on the rack, or iron claws or fire are nothing in comparison with the torments that conversing with her thus for half an hour made me feel. I cannot conceive how my heart does not burst on such occasions when I am forced to contain it while behaving and speaking as if no upheaval was going on within me.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 28 October 1829, EO VII n 339

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WHEN WILL MY ANGUISH END?

In the midst of a letter to Fr. Jeancard, in which he discusses Oblate affairs, Eugene has a moment of personal sharing that reveals the level of his suffering.

When will my anguish end? Since All Saints 1828, I have not spent a day that has not been steeped in bitterness.

The illness and death of Marius Suzanne and the subsequent sickness and near-death of Hippolyte Courtès had so weakened him that he had fallen dangerously ill himself and nearly died. Months of slow convalescence in Grans were continued as he transferred to his sister’s home in St. Martin de Palliéres.

The past, the present, the future are alike in weighing down my heart; I do not conceive how I can exist. However my strength returns and seems to stay proportionate with my need to sustain such great trials. I have been in pain all the time I have lived … am better since being here; but they nag me to get out of this mood.
What would I go and do elsewhere? The doctor absolutely does not wish me to be occupied. Ah! if the good God had wished to permit that I die when all accounts had been settled, how much grief he might have spared me,

A dark moment of depression in his life, made worse by the serious chest illness of his 19 year-old niece, Nathalie – the reason why he spent some months at his sister’s home.

but may his holy will be done, I say this with entire submission, in spite of all the revolting of a nature deprived of all its most legitimate affections. But I have not taken up my pen to discourse with you about my sorrows.

Letter to Jacques Jeancard, 26 September 1829, EO VII n 337

Even in his darkest moments, Eugene’s faith in the light of the Savior never wavered. He had been embraced by Jesus on the Cross, and he recognized and lived his response of oblation in every situation.

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