PAUSE FOR EASTER

Eugene de Mazenod will speak to us again on Monday 5 May. 

Since Eugene has been speaking to us daily from 1 May 2010, there is plenty of archived material that you can refer to on the site.

As a result of my having to be away from San Antonio the Easter pause for this website has had to be extended.

From Oblate School of Theology, I continue to hope that these daily reflections help you on your daily journey. As we reflect on God’s actions through Saint Eugene, may we become more aware of God’s daily invitations in our own lives.

I wish each of you a blessed celebration of the Easter mysteries.

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THE APPROBATION OF THE OBLATES: MAY WE LEARN TO REMEMBER EVERYTHING THAT GOD HAS DONE IN OUR LIVES

Reflecting on the meaning of the approbation for us, Eugene reviews the whole process and sees the work of God at every step. In this long extract from this important letter to the Oblates, Eugene summarizes the events which led to the approbation.:

… but we have found, prepared long in advance, like a formidable fortress which no one was able to remove, a principle established by the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars to no longer approve specifically any congregation but to be satisfied with praising it. This principle had not been set aside by the Pope up to now, the Holy Father being the first to let me know about it;
but also for our eternal consolation, it is the Holy Father who decided to break away from it in our favour and this resolution was put in his head by no one; no, I make a mistake, for it was the Holy Spirit who assisted him was the only one capable to inspire him and direct his will. Thus he insisted on it to the end, directing himself the whole proceedings throughout, speaking on several occasions of the approbation he intended to give to our work which he said pleased him and which he wished to see spreading.
Is there not something supernatural in that? When have Popes ever taken such matters upon themselves? Petitions are presented to them that they do not read; they are sent to the Congregation of which the Secretary makes a report; the Congregation decides and the Pope approves what has been done for or against. Our matter proceeded as usual until the report of the Secretary but the Pope stopped it there and then; far from accepting his report, he let him know that he willed that our Congregation be approved specifically, while speaking highly of our work at the same time. He himself chose the Cardinal ponent to avoid our falling into the hands of some other formalist who might tire us out; he ordered the Secretary to make known to the Cardinal ponent his will in our favor. The Secretary was flabbergasted and did not know what to think, he still has not got over his surprise and never stops saying that he has never seen such a thing. In the meantime, the Archbishop of Ancyra is appointed and one would say that this was in order to support the Pope; in all his audiences, he converses about us with the Holy Father always in the most favourable manner.
The Cardinal ponent is enchanted with the Rule and the Institute, he studies rather than merely reads it, as is proved by the slight corrections that he proposed. The protests arrive. The Archbishop, the Cardinals, the Pope take note and do prompt justice to them without giving me the trouble of replying to them, indeed not wishing me to say a word about them; it was they, it was the Pope himself, who said more in favour of our cause than I could have done.
In order to accelerate sooner an affair which he had at heart, the Pope did not let me ask twice to be authorized to have it dealt with by a special congregation of Cardinals, to which the Archbishop secretary was attached with a deliberative vote. The decision was unanimously in favor. The Pope approved it and confirmed it on the next day. What more do we need? “Video caelos apertos” [ed. I saw the heavens opening]. In the execution of the formalities, there were new proceedings, each more favorable than the other. Whence it follows that if the work did meet adversaries it was in order to show the seal of God; they simply served to show up more clearly his truly miraculous protection for us.

Realizing that our history has been “salvation history” Eugene concludes the with responsibility we have to respond to God’s actions.

Try never to show ourselves unworthy, and let us merit seeing the designs of the mercy of God accomplished in favour of the Congregation and of poor souls.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 20 March 1826, EO VII n 231

 

“To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have traveled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives.”   Pope Francis

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THE APPROBATION OF THE OBLATES: ALL ABANDONED SOULS, WHEREVER THEY ARE, WILL ALWAYS BE THE OBJECT OF OUR ZEAL AND WILL HAVE THE RIGHT TO OUR SERVICES

Eugene has often been described as an apostle with a heart as big as the world. His missionary zeal and generosity only came about in response to God’s zeal and generosity in his own life, and then in the life of the Oblates. As he rejoices with the Oblates because of the Church approbation of the congregation, he constantly comes back to the realization of God’s goodness, as it was shown directly and through the actions of the Pope..

The more I think of our situation, the more I see therein the hand of God and his doings; the same has been perceived likewise by all those who have been the instruments of his mercies towards ourselves. To think that we are the only ones favoured in this manner and that it is the Pope who has done everything!

In looking at his patron and model of religious missionary life, Alphonsus Liguori, (see http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=654), he shows that the similar steps taken by him and the Redemptorists did not bring the same results as God achieved for Eugene.

We have not even had the anxiety which the blessed Alphonse experienced when his Congregation was approved in 1749 by Pope Benedict XIV. First they only wished to approve it for the kingdom of Naples, then refused to approve the Institute: Regulam et non Institutum.[ed. approve the Rule but not the Institute] As for us, the Pope not only approves the Congregation but he founds it: Constituimus.[ed constitutes us, brings the Missionaries into being as Oblates of Mary Immaculate] They first thought we were only asking for France and the Cardinal ponent said to me: “Take that now, the rest will come after”. I was not of his opinion and the matter was resolved as we desired.

When aware of God’s overwhelming and measureless goodness, it is easy to understand why the zeal of Eugene and the Oblates extends to all the abandoned souls throughout the world.

I ought to say that it was enough for me to make the observation that our Congregation would not limit her charity to a small corner of the earth and that all abandoned souls, wherever they were, would always be the object of her zeal and would have the right to her services, for them to accede to my views.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 20 March 1826, EO VII n 231

 

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”     Melody Beattie

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THE APPROBATION OF THE OBLATES: OBLATES OF MARY – PROUD OF OUR DIGNITY AND OF THE RIGHTS THAT IT GIVES US

Responding to the euphoria of the Oblates at the approbation, Eugene reflects on our family name.

May we understand well what we are! I hope that the Lord will give us this grace, with the assistance and by the protection of our holy Mother, the Immaculate Mary, for whom we must have a great devotion in our Congregation. Does it not seem to you that it is a sign of predestination to bear the name of Oblates of Mary, that is, consecrated to God under the patronage of Mary, a name the Congregation bears as a family name held in common with the most holy and immaculate Mother of God?
It is enough to make others jealous; but it is the Church who has given us this beautiful name,

In fact, it was Eugene himself who had changed the name from “Missionaries of Provence” to “Oblates of Mary Immaculate” and then asked the Pope to approve the change. (cf. http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=2298). It is in this sense that the Church “gave” us the name. The Church ratified the inspiration that Eugene had received regarding our name and the identity it gives us. In this sense, our name and our identity belong to the Church, and therefore:

we receive it with respect, love and gratitude, proud of our dignity and of the rights that it gives us to the protection of her who is All Powerful in God’s presence.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 20 March 1826, EO VII n 231

Today these sentiments continue as our Rule of Life shows: “Mary Immaculate is patroness of our Congregation. Open to the Spirit, she consecrated herself totally as lowly handmaid to the person and work of the Savior. She received Christ in order to share him with all the world, whose hope he is. In her, we recognize the model of the Church’s faith and of our own.” CC&RR Constitution 10

 

“When she was asked to become the mother of the Messiah, Mary’s faith enabled her to give a humble and generous response…. Mary’s faith was frequently tested during the public life of Jesus, especially when she witnessed the rejection of her son. At the foot of the cross, her pilgrimage of faith had its moment of most severe testing. Mary continued to believe that, because Jesus was the Son of God. His sacrifice would bring salvation to humanity.”  Pope John Paul II

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THE APPROBATION OF THE OBLATES: CHANGED FOR EVER IN HOW WE EXPERIENCE LIFE AND THE WORLD

Rejoicing with the Oblates on the meaning of the approbation of our Congregation, Eugene points out that we have become “new persons”:

For the rest, what I ask of God, is that he choose for us and send us the people we need to do his work. You are quite right in saying that you all seem to have become new persons: this is truly so. May we understand well what we are!

Letter to Henri Tempier, 20 March 1826, EO VII n 231

May we understand well what we are!” In the “Preface” Eugene had spelt this out clearly:

But it is not enough for them simply to be convinced of the sublime nature of the ministry to which they have been called. The example of the saints and reason itself make it amply clear that the success of such a holy undertaking as well as the maintenance of discipline in any society make certain rules of life absolutely necessary for unity of thought and action among the members. Such unity is a body’s strength, keeping up its fervor and insuring that it lasts.

1818 Rule, Part One, Chapter One, §3. Nota Bene. Missions, 78 (1951) p. 16

 

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” John Milton

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THE APPROBATION OF THE OBLATES: OUR HIGHEST APPRECIATION IS NOT TO SAY WORDS, BUT TO LIVE BY THEM

On February 18, Eugene had written to the Oblates to tell them the good news of the papal approbation of the Congregation. Today he received a letter from Tempier describing the joyful reaction of the Oblates to this. Eugene happily responds:

… it contained many things, many sentiments. I expected nothing less of you and of our dear confreres, in response to the news that I had announced to you in the letter to which you were replying. The goodness of Providence, the evident protection of God were too great, too tangible for hearts like yours not to be moved; and I assure you that I have read and reread the account that you have given me; it has stirred up in my soul renewed joy, consolation and gratitude in response to all the sentiments that you yourselves have experienced.

In this spirit of fraternal unity and communion, he again invites the Oblates to appreciate the marvels that God has done for them and to respond generously. It is a repetition of Eugene’s constant challenge to BE in order to DO.

… Oh! yes, we need to tell ourselves that we have received a great grace! The more closely I consider it in all its aspects, the more I see the worth of this gift. We can never properly respond to it other than by an unwavering fidelity, and by a redoubled zeal and devotedness on behalf of the glory of God, the service of the Church and the salvation of souls, especially the most abandoned, as is called for by our vocation.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 20 March 1826, EO VII n 231

These words echo what Eugene had written eight years earlier in his vision document, which we know as our “Preface.”

Such are the great works of salvation that can crown the efforts of priests whom God has inspired with the desire to form themselves into a Society in order to work more effectively for the salvation of souls and for their own sanctification. To bring all this into being, they must carry out their duty worthily, faithfully fulfilling their splendid vocation.

1818 Rule, Part One, Chapter One, §3. Nota Bene. Missions, 78 (1951) p. 16

 

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”      John F. Kennedy

 

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OUR SACRED CEREMONIES ARE NOT MEANT TO BE A SPECTACLE

Eugene loved attending the liturgies in Rome, and in his journal he notes many minute details about them – especially the papal ceremonies. He usually tried to place himself as close to the front as possible. On Palm Sunday he was irritated because too many tourists had filled the places.

Palm Sunday: I arrived at the Sistine Chapel at nine o’clock. I had some difficulty getting into the enclosure, The whole place was full, but I made my way through the crowd, and the usher let me into the privileged enclosure, where they allow in too many foreigners, who take up all the room, especially English people who behave very disrespectfully. We could dispense ourselves from according them the pleasure of this spectacle, since our sacred ceremonies are nothing else than that for them.

Roman Diary, 19 March 1826, EO XVII

For Eugene the liturgy always had to be celebrated with respect and he was intolerant when this did not happen, and when people did not appreciate its beauty and importance.

 

“The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.”       Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

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FRUSTRATION AT ROMAN BUREAUCRACY

The final step of the approbation process was to present the brief, a document to be signed by the Pope. Eugene hoped to get this done before Easter, but had fallen into the hands of a petty bureaucrat monsignor who prevented the case from going forward. Eugene’s frustration is evident as he lets off steam to Tempier:

The brief of which the text lies soporifically on the desk of Mgr. Capaccini, whom I cannot budge either verbally or by writing…
This is a misfortune which puts me off until after Easter, perhaps even for the signature of the brief. In the meantime, I am continually making useless trips which weary both mind and body. For if this blessed Mgr. Capaccini had taken the text to Arch. Marchetti in the course of the week, they would by now be putting the finishing touches to it and the Pope would be signing it tomorrow…
… My dear, we have to look after ourselves. Mgr. Capaccini decidedly does not wish to move. Yesterday I climbed up to his third floor apartment for nothing. His servant advised me to return this morning at seven o’clock but the embarrassed valet told me his master had left for an audience with the Pope. I took care not to believe him, it was not true. You can imagine what that means when, after having been told yesterday evening that I should return this morning, I found this fine response ready for me. This Mgr. Capaccini is a Prelate di mantellone, that is, second class, an adventurer who makes himself out to be someone because he is employed at many things…. and as he apparently has other matters on hand, deliberately neglects ours without troubling himself about the wrong thus done to us.
I will spare you all the other trips that I have already made this morning, and those which I am going to make soon before my sorry dinner, so as not to throw in the towel, and try, even with little hope, every means in order to get the better of this devious man whose dealings I will quietly speak of only after I have got my chestnuts out of the fire …
… So once more we see our affair going forward but Holy Week is too close for us to hope that it will be expedited before Easter. I will count myself very fortunate if the Pope can sign it before then, because I am always fearful he will fall sick and when the Holy Father so much as takes to his bed, that makes a delay of two or three months.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 16 March 1826, EO VII n. 230

 

“For the bureaucrat, the world is a mere object to be manipulated by him.”     Karl Marx

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MY STOMACH TURNS JUST BY APPROACHING THE DINING ROOM

More on the Lenten fare in Rome! We have seen in past how Eugene’s system just could not tolerate too much oily food.

When Lent is finished, I will have a little more strength for I admit I have never in my life observed a Lent comparable to this one. It happens often that I go through the day with two badly cooked eggs in my stomach and even then it is forbidden to eat them three days of the week. It is beyond me, I cannot overcome the repugnance I have for the stinking oil they use in this house. When they give me fish, I swallow it without seasoning but sometimes it will not go down. I would vomit rather than eat three pieces of another kind of fish pickled in vinegar with spices that nauseate me. Often the soup is disgusting; it is a mixture of cheese, bread and greens; I always force it down my throat; but I compensate myself with fruit, I eat my bread with nuts, almonds and usually two pears with which I am not parsimonious. After all that, in the evening, if I followed my inclination, I would pass up my bit of bread; but I eat it just the same, except on Saturday, because on Sunday morning, I breakfast with chocolate, raw or cooked. In lieu of other penances, I offer this to the good God…
I smile sometimes when I think of the advice that St. Bernard, I believe, gave to his religious on the dispositions with which they ought to go to the refectory. I have little trouble entering into the spirit of this saint, and certainly it is not an act of virtue for me to proceed there as if to martyrdom; my stomach is turned just by approaching the refectory. I have no fear of sinning there by sensuality. In spite of all that, I am very well. I have not been unwell for a moment since leaving France.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 16 March 1826, EO VII n. 230

 

“Sometimes it’s good to remember how bad food can be, so you can enjoy the concept of flavor to the fullest.”     John Oliver

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GELATO AND LENTEN MORTIFICATION

From his writings as a young man, we know that Eugene loved Italian ice cream. Here he is a bit peeved that he sees other priests enjoying it, while he had given it up for lent. It also gives us an insight into his Lenten fast. This was a private entry in his diary and not intended for others to read.

This evening there was a grand reception at the French Ambassador’s for the promotion of Cardinal de Latil… I stayed only a minute at our Ambassador’s to honour our cardinal since I never go out in the evenings to these large gatherings. I soon left to return to my monastery, saddened to see with my own eyes a great number of people, even priests, applying ice-cream to their consciences, in spite of the Lenten fast; it is possible that ice-cream can be considered a liquid which does not break the fast, for it melts in one’s mouth; in my opinion, it cruelly offends the spirit of mortification, from which a person should not dispense oneself so easily during this holy time.
I admit that fasting would cost me less if I took a good cup of chocolate in the morning, a cup of coffee after dinner, an ice-cream in the evening preceded, an hour before, by a glass of lemonade, and finally a lunch. Actually, I would not take as much on a feast day, even on Easter Sunday

Roman Diary, 13 March 1826, EO XVII

 

“Ice-cream is exquisite – what a pity it isn’t illegal.”     Voltaire

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