Beginning in 1812, I had introduced to this seminary… the zealous association which I had known in the seminary in Paris.

Diary of 20 August 1838, E.O. XIX

On December 7, 1810 Eugene was admitted to its ranks in Paris. It was at a time of turmoil in the seminary with the harassment of the Sulpician formators by the Napoleonic government, and their eventual expulsion. The role of the Association was more necessary than ever in order to maintain a spirit of piety and fervor in the seminary. At the meeting of 21 October 1811 this concern was expressed in the decision “that the members would redouble their zeal and fervor to such an extent that their example of regularity would be powerful enough to maintain the spirit of piety and the most exact fidelity in observance of the rules, standing proof against all the breaches in discipline, ill-will or lukewarmness might open up.”

At the same meeting Eugene was entrusted with the task of reading through all the minutes of the previous meetings of the Association so as to draw up a list of decisions that had been made. Once he had done this a supplement to the rule was drawn up. Eugene was then elected Permanent Secretary of the Association – a group that continued to play an important role in the seminary once the Sulpicians had been removed and during the year that he and other newly ordained priests were the directors of the seminary.

Pielorz writes: “Once the decision was taken to revive the original thrust of the association, Eugene drew up a supplement to the general Rule. This supplement was nothing other than a synthesizing all the decisions taken by the Association from the time of its foundation until 1811 and an adapting of them to the requirements of the new circumstances. Our attention was drawn to the exercise of the coulpe, taken from the Rules of Saint Philip Neri, the obligatory monthly retreat, special prayers for the departed associates and the annual renewal of the consecration to the Sacred Heart, because these practices show a close resemblance to the very ones Abbé de Mazenod would prescribe in the Constitutions and Rules of the Missionaries of Provence” (PIELORZ, The Spiritual Life, p. 307).


“If you want to change attitudes, start with a change in behavior.”   William Glasser

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Beginning in 1812, I had introduced to this seminary… the zealous association which I had known in the seminary in Paris.

Diary of 20 August 1838, E.O. XIX

Pielorz describes this Association in Saint Sulpice, quoting from its rules:

This secret association, similar to the Aa of the Jesuits, made up of five – eight at the maximum – members had as its goal “to train up in the seminary a very pious corps of ecclesiastics who were perfect observers of the rule and who through their example, their advice and their prayers provide support for the maintenance of intense fervour in the community.” It organized the most fervent among the seminarians… To capture all hearts and draw them to the love of Christ, the associates set as their goal to communicate to others by a piety that was “relaxed, open, from the heart, serene, constant, loving, filled with holy joy, kind, charitable, patient, gentle, which accommodates to everything, bends to suit each one and lends support to everyone.”

PIELORZ, The Spiritual Life of Bishop de Mazenod, 1782-1812, Selected Oblate Studies and Texts, Vol. II, Rome, 1998, , p. 305.

This quality of being close to people so as to slowly but surely influence them and journey with them to deepen their relationship with God, was to become the model used by Eugene when he worked with groups. A year after having left the seminary, he had used this principle in establishing the congregation of youth in Aix. Not only were the youth to work for their own personal growth and salvation, but through the quality of their lives they were to be like yeast in the “dough” of the world so as to be a source of transformation and growth for others:

Art. 3. The congregationists, whose state of life ensures that they live fully in the world, will seek to behave in such a way as to edify all those with whom they have family ties and others with whom they have contact.

Statuts, Chapitre XII §1

The Oblate vocation was also that of being yeast in the dough of the world so as to be instruments of Gospel transformation. Two hundred years ago when Eugene was approaching people to join his group of Missionaries, he had written to one:

Ah! if we could form a nucleus, there would soon cluster round it the most zealous elements in the diocese.
Think a while about that before the good God. You know that we must have, in order to do any good in our regions, people of the country who know the language. Oh! do not doubt that we will become saints in our Congregation,…

Letter to Hilaire Aubert, 1815, O.W. VI n 3


“Transformation in the world happens when people are healed and start investing in other people.”   Michael W. Smith

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Writing about the death of Father Marcou, Eugene had recalled the association at the Aix seminary founded by Eugene as a young priest:

Beginning in 1812, I had introduced to this seminary where I made my annual retreat, the zealous association which I had known in the seminary in Paris. The association was continued in the seminary in Aix. Marcou was too fervent not become a member. He performed intelligently and successfully the task which is imposed on each member of the association. He achieved greater results than all the others put together. Several seminarians told me that it was due to his resourceful charity that they did well in the seminary.

Diary of 20 August 1838, E.O. XIX

Eugene’s conviction about the Church’s need for good priests was expressed in his participation, when he was studying for the priesthood in Paris, in the highly secret Pious Association of the seminary that aimed at the promotion of the spiritual progress of its members and, through them, of the whole seminary community. This association significantly molded Eugene’s future approach and methodology in working with groups and especially in forming the Oblates. Its aim was to form a small group of people who, while working at their own transformation, would quietly have a strong transforming influence on the whole community like yeast in dough. (cf


“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”   Viktor E. Frankl

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On the anniversary of Father Marcou’s death, Eugene’s reminiscences led him to recall his exemplary last days.

Fr. Marcou lived only for a few more months, gradually fading away and resigned to being the victim who made his sacrifice to God.
My sorrow was so great at losing such a precious man and was shared by all our confreres, that I suggested trying to tempt the good Lord to work some sort of miracle to save him and at the same time contribute to the cause of canonization of the holy person whom we would invoke. I brought the community together and having recommended our intention to the intercession of Blessed Alphonsus de Ligouri we went from the chapel to the sick room to arouse his faith. I then took a tiny piece of the relic of the Blessed which I had brought back from Rome and had the sick man swallow it in a spoonful of water. But the Lord had other plans. He wished to reward his servant prematurely. The moment approached when he was to take possession of the glory of heaven.
I had the sick man brought to our country house at St-Just where we thought he would be better. On the day when we were celebrating the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, I was assisting my uncle at the pontifical ceremony when I was told that the frequent lapses into the unconscious were a sign that the end was near. I left the altar to go in haste to St-Just and found the good priest weak enough to administer the holy Viaticum to him without delay and he received it with his usual fervor. I also gave him Extreme Unction. The patient revived somewhat but I was all too aware that the end was near. I went to visit him every day during that last week of his holy life.
On the 20th of the month, feast of St. Bernard I did not leave his bedside. I remained there to inspire good thoughts and to suggest feelings appropriate to his condition. A few words were sufficient to set his heart aflame and he had to be made to keep silence when he wanted to express the consolation and happiness he felt, in a loud voice. “Oh how happy I am to die in the Congregation!” he would say, remembering the blessings that God had given him.
His only suffering was to witness my sorrow which I could disguise only with difficulty. He was too well aware of the tender affection I had for him since his childhood not to understand the torture I felt and so he frequently spoke tenderly to me which increased my suffering and tore at my heart. His father was present but all his thoughts focussed on supernatural things. When his father came near to speak some words of hope in his own way, the good priest responded only by smiling at him and showing him the crucifix.
While I was speaking to him and while his sweet smile and his invocations let me know how my words were penetrating his heart, suddenly he fixed his eyes on high and raised his arms as if to let me know where he was about to go. He cried out with an exclamation of joy which I am unable to describe but which I still clearly remember. He cried: “beautiful heaven” and breathed his last, leaving me convinced that God had come to reveal to him the place he was to occupy. That was the way in which this perfect model of Christian charity and apostolic zeal ceased to live here below and his memory must live with us alongside that of Suzanne, Arnoux, etc.

Diary of 20 August 1838, E.O. XIX


“When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die… the world cries and you rejoice.”   Native American saying

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On the anniversary of Father Marcou’s death, Eugene’s reminiscences led him to recall his dedication and zeal in spite of his illness

Fr. Marcou still had the strength to come back to Marseilles where I found him on my return from Rome. His condition was desperate; his chest was so affected that there was no hope of recovery. He was convinced, however, that he could still work for the salvation of souls and he was certainly not the one who was least pleased about the success of my journey to Rome where I had just obtained approval for the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary to be recognized in the Church on an equal footing with other Congregations. Fr. Marcou, although quite weak, wanted to be present at the general assembly which I had called to give an account of my mission and of all the good God had done for us. This good priest could scarcely contain his joy because he always expressed the feelings of his beautiful soul  in a lively way. He even came down to the church to renew his vows with all the other members of the new Congregation which had been canonically established. His name is inscribed in the register where we all signed the minutes of this memorable meeting. That was the last important act of this life in which he sealed his consecration to God and the offering of his whole being which he had made throughout many years.

Diary of 20 August 1838, E.O. XIX


“It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we’re alive – to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.”   Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

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On the anniversary of Father Marcou’s death, Eugene’s reminiscences led him to recall his priestly ministry

He had scarcely been raised to the priesthood when he launched out on the missions where his love for God and for his neighbour caused him to work wonders. Alas! It must be said that it also caused him to do imprudent things. He soon wore himself out by forcing himself to undertake tasks in the diocese of Nimes where my supervision could not moderate his zeal. In fact that zeal was encouraged rather than moderated by the example of the Superior I had assigned to him, and whose wisdom nevertheless equals his piety and his talents. But the sight the deplorable condition of these poor Catholics in the midst of the seductions of Protestantism, and the blessings which the Lord was pleased to pour on their ministry, caused them to overstep the bounds of moderation. The task was too great and Fr. Marcou’s health suffered as a result. Besides, the lack of attention on the part of the nursing staff in Nimes seminary where he went for treatment, was his undoing. They poisoned his system by giving him milk to drink. This accident of fate worsened his illness and made it incurable.

Diary of 20 August 1838, E.O. XIX

 The Oblate Historical Dictionary gives further details:

Father Courtès wrote a brief obituary for Father Marcou. After giving a few details about the life and the illness of Father Marcou, he concluded with these words: “He was a man of ordinary talents, but full of humility and dedication. He was capable of rendering the most valuable assistance. In a spirit of regularity and obedience that was wholly edifying, he carried out the duties we were then obliged to fulfill at the general hospital at Aix. He took part in several parish missions… Father Marcou’s education was inadequate, but he had the eloquence of the heart. His desire to be useful to the Church and to us drove him to exhaust himself during a retreat that he was giving in Nîmes and the spitting of blood that began at that time, aggravated by a stomach ailment, brought on by a kind of accidental poisoning by people who served him a milk potion in a bowl containing verdigris [a green or greenish blue poisonous pigment resulting from the action of acetic acid on copper] led him to the grave…”

Yvon Beaudoin, “Marcou, Jacques Joseph” in the Historical Dictionary I,


“Never let your zeal outrun your charity. The former is but human, the latter is divine.”   Hosea Ballou

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On the anniversary of Father Marcou’s death, Eugene’s reminiscences led him to recall the origins of Fr Marcou’s Oblate vocation journey.

After several years in the youth congregation and the practice of virtue, he entered the seminary. His piety became well known. He brought to that community the spirit which he had learned in the youth congregation, a holy zeal for spreading good. He succeeded in gathering around him a little group of fervent seminarians.
Beginning in 1812, I had introduced to this seminary where I made my annual retreat, the zealous association which I had known in the seminary in Paris. The association was continued in the house in Aix. Marcou was too fervent not become a member. He performed intelligently and successfully the task which is imposed on each member of the association. He achieved greater results than all the others put together. Several seminarians told me that it was due to his resourceful charity that they did well in the seminary.
The Lord rewarded his zeal by strengthening the resolve which he already had when entering the seminary to be associated with the work of the Missionaries whom I had united in the society while he was still only a member of the youth congregation. He had always kept his intention to do so hidden from me. I got to know about it only on the day when he came to ask me insistently to accept him as a member of our society. Convinced of the excellence of this vocation, he had persuaded one his fellow students whose good qualities he admired, to follow the same road to perfection. [ed. Father Jacques Jeancard – later to be Eugene’s auxiliary bishop in Marseille]. It was after having made this conquest that he came to see me and he was ever so pleased to see my surprise and the happiness which I experienced.
He did his novitiate in the spirit which one would expect from a soul such as his.

Diary of 20 August 1838, E.O. XIX


“I think the only kind of acceptable evangelization is the evangelization of good example.”   Andrew Greeley

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On the anniversary of Father Marcou’s death, Eugene’s reminiscences led him to recall an incident involving him when he was a member of the Aix youth congregation

An incident which recalls the lives of the saints occurred one day when, as was customary for the members, he came to see me. He was beside himself, carried away by a holy anger. He quickly explained to me the reason for his fury. He had just met some depraved creatures who used language to him which he rightly judged to be scandalous. He was more than angry. Not content with having responded by striking them vigorously with his umbrella, he regretted not having struck hard enough. In order to discourage them from returning to the attack, he wanted to return to the place where he had met these miserable wretches and promised to give them a lesson they would not forget. The only way in which I could persuade him not to do so was by pointing out that it would be sinful to give these unfortunate villains occasion to offer further insult to God. At that time Fr. Marcou was about fifteen years old.

Diary of 20 August 1838, E.O. XIX


“My dear brothers and sisters,take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speakand slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”James 1,19-20

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Following Jacques Marcou’s death, Eugene had written: “I weep for a brother so precious to our Society.” Twelve years later, in his diary, Eugene recalled the death and the meaning of the young man’s life for him.

August 20: Mass for our ever beloved Fr. Marcou who died in St-Just on this same day.1 wish I had time to recall the virtues of this excellent priest, but I must hurry. He was one of the first seven who made up the youth congregation which the Lord inspired me to found in Aix in 1813. His ardent zeal which was evident at the time of his first communion made me choose him as the leader of that first special group. He never let me down and he constantly gave the example of scrupulous fidelity to the regulations which I had given to the congregation in which he was responsible to see that they were observed by the other members. As the membership of the youth-movement increased he continued in his watchfulness as leader and his spiritual zeal spread among his companions a great love for the congregation in which they learned to be virtuous.

Diary of 20 August 1838, E.O. XIX

“I did nothing to deserve God’s love; in fact, I was living as an orphan, without hope. Yet God chose to pursue a relationship with me, and through the death of his son Jesus, I was adopted into God’s family.”   Steven Curtis Chapman

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After the death of Father Marcou, Eugene contacted all the Oblates to remind them of their community obligation to pray for the peaceful repose of their deceased brother.

I will give you some day more circumstantial details. You know that besides the Mass of requiem which ought to be sung in all our houses, you have five masses each to say for our holy one who is gone, the office of the dead and all the indulgences, good works, etc., during eight days. Be sure to fulfil all these duties…

Eugene’s strong sense of community shows in his conviction that our deceased Oblates continue to be part of our communities through their intercession and example

We will find it difficult to replace such a member; for the rest, I invoke him in our needs and already I like to be persuaded that he has obtained a grace for me which I asked for through his intercession.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Honorat, 21 August 1826, EO VII n 251

Today this spirit and this obligation continues to apply in our Rule of Life:

“We will keep alive the memory of our deceased and not fail to pray for them, faithfully offering the suffrages prescribed on their behalf (cf. Appendix)” Constitution 43, CC&RR

The Appendix includes the following prescriptions:

Suffrages for the Deceased

1. When an Oblate dies, the Superior General shall be notified at once; he in turn will inform the entire Congregation so that the deceased can be remembered in our community and personal prayer and in the celebration of the Eucharist.
2. Each Oblate priest shall celebrate one Mass and each Brother attend Mass upon the death of the Superior General or of a former Superior General, or of any member, novices included, of the Province to which he belongs. It is recommended that this Mass be a community celebration.
5. Once each month every Oblate priest shall celebrate Mass, and each Brother attend Mass, for all deceased Oblates.


“There is no death, daughter. People die only when we forget them,’ my mother explained shortly before she left me. ‘If you can remember me, I will be with you always.”   Isabel Allende, Eva Luna

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