I am delighted to be able to announce that the Kusenberger Chair of Oblate Studies at Oblate School of Theology is offering an academic program in Oblate Studies. A dream comes true…


Initially offered only online, asynchronously, the courses will consist of lectures, reading, assignments and the opportunity for group interaction.

The entire certificate may be completed in four semesters, or it may be taken in either a more intensive or more relaxed manner.

The goal is eventually to offer all the courses in English, Spanish, and French.


Courses will be offered in the following areas:

 1/ Saint Eugene de Mazenod. The historical background, life, and the key aspects of his spirituality, charism and mission
2/ The historical expansion and development of the mission of the Oblate Congregation from 1816 to the present.
3/ The charism and the Constitutions and Rules
4/ Oblate religious life and spirituality
5/ Oblate mission today
6/ A research project


Those who complete the certificate will be able to:

  • acquire in-depth knowledge of the constitutive elements of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate: the founder, history, Constitutions and Rules, spirituality and mission.
  • understand the historical foundation and comprehend the theological development of the Oblate charism, spirituality and mission, so as to deepen their sense of participation.
  • critically reflect upon the contemporary mission of the Oblates in the Church.


  • Students who successfully complete the program requirements of 12-credit hours will be awarded a certificate.
  • Those who take the program at the graduate level, fulfilling the appropriate additional requirements, earn credits applicable toward the M.A. Spirituality or Theology or M. Div. program, with the appropriate differences and requirements.
  • The courses are also open to any qualified students who wish to register for enrichment non-academic purposes. They will be expected to do the reading required to participate in the classes.


For further information see https://ost.edu/oblate-studies/
For registration and cost please refer to the webpage: https://ost.edu/admissions-aid/

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We have seen that when the Pope had been released, the people of Aix had expressly disobeyed Napoleon’s orders and flocked to greet the Holy Father as he passed by their city. Eugene was one of them. It was a dangerous gesture, in time of persecution, and hence Eugene gave himself a different identity in the letter and passed himself off as a woman who was writing.

The narrative is quite long, but expresses the excitement of the first time that Eugene had any contact with the Pope:

I am feeling well, apart from a sore on my heel, which I developed while escorting the carriage of the Holy Father. I was holding on to the door which, as you know, is very close to the wheel; but, that’s only a minor thing. I was only too happy to be able to hold on to that spot for such a long time, in spite of the inconvenience.
On Monday, the 7th, at 8 o’clock in the morning, we were alerted that the Holy Father would arrive at noon. The rumor spread like wildfire and immediately all shops closed down. In spite of the wind which was acting like an enraged schismatic that day, everyone ran out to meet him. Not only did big fat women like ourselves brave the wind; even the youngest and frailest little misses ran pell-mell with the rest of the population out beyond the city limits where the Holy Father was expected to pass.
Those who had given the orders that he was not to make any stops or even pass through any city if it were possible to avoid it, evidently failed to realize that the inhabitants knew how to get out of the city. The fact remains that only the dying remained behind.
As soon as the Holy Father appeared, a great shout went up from all sides: “Long live the Pope; Long live the Saintly Pope!” They took hold of the bridle, stopped the carriage and then practically carried both the carriage and the horses. It was an immense crowd and yet it wasn’t an unruly one. The joy, love, and respect expressed with all the warmth typical of Southern temperaments were so clearly portrayed on all faces that the Holy Father wept as he kept watching them, and blessing them.
I cut through the crowd until I reached the door of the carriage and I remained there until the horses were changed at a station outside the city. My old crony, the one you met at Grenoble, was with me. She lost her shoe and both of us lost our bonnets in the shuffle. We didn’t get them back until after we returned home. What a picture that carriage made, bearing the most precious person in the world and moving along through fifteen or twenty thousand people who kept shouting words of affection that would have touched the heart of any good father. It was positively thrilling.

Letter to Madame Ginod, 10 February 1814 (Paris, Arch, de la Sainte-Enfance). Forbin-Janson papers.

This Mme. Ginod was evidently a fictitious addressee, used as a cover up for his friend, Forbin-Janson.

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In February 1814, the Pope was released from his imprisonment. Napoleon had expressly forbidden that the Pope pass through the city of Aix because he did not wish him to receive any popular acclamation. Nevertheless the people of Aix flocked to see him to express their solidarity with his suffering and their joy at his release. Eugene was one of them.

When his dreams of military supremacy failed, Napoleon was obliged to free the Pope. The Pope left Fontainebleau on January 23, 1814 and, in stages, made his way back to Rome. On February 7, he passed through Aix. at midday. The people of Aix went out in their thousands to greet him. His vehicle had quite some difficulty making its way through the crowd. On their knees, the crowd shouted: “Long live the Pope,” and asked for his apostolic blessing. Abbé de Mazenod went even further. He gained a position at the carriage door and lost his hat. His foot slipped off the footrest and, as a result, abrasion from the carriage wheel inflicted a scratch on his heel. The coach stopped at the Orbitelle gate without entering the city. After a change of horses, the coach left for Tourves, near Toulon. That is where the Pope was to pass the night. (Eugene to Forbin-Janson, February 10, 1814).

Abbé de Mazenod decided to follow the Pope. He leaped aboard a vehicle and followed Pius VII right up to Tourves. He had the good fortune of being admitted to the papal apartment, to speak with the Holy Father and to receive his apostolic blessing. (JEANCARD, Mgr Jacques, “Mélanges historiques”, p. 235)


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Having just outlined the evil situation in which the young people found themselves, Eugene saw the urgency of responding to Napoleon’s attacks, despite the personal danger this would entail from him from Napoleon’s police. The central thrust of the newly-ordained priest’s ministry for the next few years would be to establish a support system to attempt to preserve the youth of Aix from the evils with which they were threatened:

Must one, a sad spectator of this deluge of evil, be content to bemoan it in silence without supplying any remedy? Certainly not. And should I suffer persecution or be destined to fail in the holy enterprise of raising a barrier against this torrent of iniquity at least I shall not have to reproach myself with not having made the attempt.
What means are to be employed to attain success in so great an enterprise? None other than those employed by the seducer himself. He felt he could succeed in corrupting France only by perverting the youth, it is towards them that he directs all his efforts.
Very well, it will also be upon the youth that I will work; I will strive, I will make the attempt to preserve them from the evils with which they are menaced, that they suffer already in part, inspiring in them early-on the love of truth, respect for religion, taste for piety, horror of vice.

Diary of the Aix Christian Youth Congregation, 25 April 1813, EO XVI.

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On his return to Aix in the middle of 1812, Eugene’s early priestly ministry was conducted under the cloud of Napoleon.

It is not difficult to grasp that the immoral Napoleon’s plan and that of his infamous government’s is the total destruction of the Catholic religion in the States he has usurped. An obstacle to the decisive execution of his devilish strategy for this deplorable project seems to be the attachment of the majority of the oppressed peoples to the faith of their fathers. He is reduced to awaiting the effects of time and of the methods he employs in the meanwhile to arrive at his goals.

To achieve his ambitions, Napoleon focused on winning the hearts and minds of the youth.

Of all methods the one he counts on most is the demoralization of the youth.
The success of his measures is frightening. Already the surface of France is covered with colleges, military schools and other establishments where irreverence is encouraged, bad morals are at least tolerated, and materialism is promoted and applauded.
All these dreadful schools are filled with pupils whose parents’ avarice gives in to the attraction of a free place or a half-scholarship, or the hope of an advancement that is promised only to the clever. Empty places are filled with unhappy victims whom the tyrant pitilessly snatches from the bosom of their families and forces to drink of this poisoned cup, where they must find the origin of their inevitable corruption. Already the work is to a large measure accomplished. The 15-year old pupil of a college, the pupil of a preparatory or military school or polytechnic, a page, etc., all alike are become impious and depraved, and leave almost no hope of their return to good living, to good religious and civic principles. They are trained to recognize no other god than Napoleon. The will of this new providence that promises them no punishment for their vices and advancement for their ambitions is their only rule of conduct, the only motivation for all their actions. And so one sees them fly at the least sign from their idol wherever his voice calls them, ready to commit every crime that it pleases him to exact of their sacrilegious devotion. This is a terrifying picture but a true one and I could embellish it still more without fear of being accused of exaggeration. Apart from what is evident to everyone’s eyes and can be seen by everyone, I have in my possession a thousand proofs for my argument.
The evil is at its height and we are moving forward swiftly towards total collapse if God does not come very quickly to our help…

Diary of the Aix Christian Youth Congregation, 25 April 1813, O.W. XVI,

Eugene was to respond in a decisive way, at the cost of personal danger.

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Fr. Pielorz tells us about Eugene’s responsibility in the Seminary as a result of Napoleon’s actions:

Father Émery, a fearless defender of the Pope against the encroachments of the emperor, set the tone for the seminary. A furious Napoleon ordered him to leave the seminary in June of 1810 and on October 8, 1811 simply decreed the dissolution of the Society of Saint Sulpice. The directors were forced to leave the seminary before the end of 1811. As a result, the seminary became the diocesan seminary of Paris.

The departure of the directors brought on the appointment of their replacements. Fr. Jalabert, the vicar general of Paris, took direction of the seminary in hand. Among the most zealous of the seminarians, they chose the replacements for the other directors. So it was that… Abbé de Mazenod became master of ceremonies…. But he carried out his functions for only ten months, from January to October of 1812. At the beginning of November, he returned to Aix to take up his apostolate for the poor and the most abandoned souls.


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Yvon Beaudoin narrates the events that Eugene was connected with as a seminarian in Paris and the Roman cardinals, who had been stripped of their insignia and who were only allowed to wear black cassocks:

In June 1810, Napoleon exiled to the provinces, stripped them of their purple and confiscated the goods of at least thirteen cardinals who refused to attend his marriage to Marie-Louise, archduchess of Austria. Eugene worked in conjunction with several seminarians to replenish the coffers of these confessors of the faith. In a June 19, 1810 letter to this mother, he wrote:

The Emperor, after imprisoning the Pope, exiling the Cardinals, dispersing them in pairs in different towns of the Empire, stripping them of their insignia as Cardinals and confiscating all their property, has turned his attention to the Congregation of St. Sulpice which he drove out of the seminary… (EO XIV n 70)

The Pope steadfastly refused canonical recognition of the bishops appointed by Napoleon. Many sees remained vacant. In 1811, the Emperor summoned the bishops of France and Italy to an imperial council with a view to legislating that canonical recognition could be granted by the metropolitan or the dean of the bishops of a region. The council held only one plenary session, the session of June 17, at which Eugene was present as one of the masters of ceremonies…. The bishops resisted the views of the Emperor and he dissolved the council on July 10.


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Yvon Beaudoin fills in the background for us:

On May 1, 1804, Napoleon succeeded in having the Senate bestow upon him the title of hereditary Emperor of the French. For all intents and purposes, he re-established the monarchy that the Revolution had destroyed. At the time, he was so popular that by means of a plebiscite the people approved the vote of the Senate. The feasts of consecration and of crowning in the presence of Pope Pius VII on December 2, 1804 were carried out with solemnity. The Emperor took up residence at Les Tuileries and held court there like the kings of old.


When Napoleon came to power, he accommodated the Church, but controlled it for his own purposes. It was during this period that Eugene became a seminarian in Paris.

The relations between Rome and Paris were good for a few years. But, having defeated several coalitions, Napoleon wanted to impose the Concordat on all countries where he held sway, especially in Italy, Austria, Belgium and Holland. The Pope opposed this, refusing at the time to grant canonical recognition to the new bishops and by so doing practically rendered the Concordat inoperative. The French troops then seized Rome and the Pontifical States were annexed to the Empire by a decree of May 17, 1809. Pius VII, without mentioning Napoleon by name, excommunicated all those who took part in this action. The Pope was subsequently brought to Savona, Rivière de Gênes, where he stayed for four years and the Italian cardinals were dispersed as far away as Paris. http://www.omiworld.org/en/dictionary/historical-dictionary_vol-1_n/867/napoleon-i/

Eugene learnt to work clandestinely for the cause of the imprisoned Pope, who had excommunicated Napoleon, whom Eugene referred to as “the abominable tyrant, enemy of everything that is good.”

In July of 1808. Pius VII responded to these vexations by a bull of excommunication. But Napoleon forbade its publication in France. Mr. Émery succeeded in getting his hands on a copy and had it transcribed by Abbé de Mazenod to have it subsequently distributed in France. From that time until June of 1810 when Napoleon forced Mr. Émery to leave the seminary, Eugene was a member of the committee dubbed the orium where in the greatest secrecy, documents issued by the Pope or certain cardinals were transcribed. They were then distributed throughout France by trustworthy individuals. If they were taken in flagrante delicto , these volunteer scribes were liable to very severe penalties.


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In order to understand the actions and the charism of Eugene de Mazenod, we need to spend some time understanding the historical and political situation in which he lived and to which he responded.

In 1802 Eugene’s time of exile ended and Napoleon (who had become ruler in 1799) made it possible for him to return to France to live with his mother. Yvon Beaudoin narrates (http://www.omiworld.org/en/dictionary/historical-dictionary_vol-1_n/867/napoleon-i/:

Napoleon became aware that he needed the support of the Church. He drew up a Concordat with the Holy See which was signed on July 15, 1801 and promulgated April 18, 1802. In virtue of this concordat, the clergy gave up their right to the property they owned, but the state committed itself to see to the sustenance of the bishops and the priests as employees of the state. The government appointed the bishops, but it was the Pope who granted them canonical installation. Priests who had emigrated were allowed to return and the churches were reopened.

In Eugene’s writings of this period, he never mentions Napoleon by name, but in 1802, he stated his frank opposition to the Concordat and, on this occasion, stated that the Pope “si è sporcificato”, that is, he dishonoured himself, stooping to gestures of baseness. (LEFLON, I, Eugene de Mazenod, trans. Francis D. Flanagan, o.m.i., p. 233)

Upon his return to France in 1802, Eugene had a more accurate view of the situation and the advantages provided by the Concordat. In the course of his trip to Paris in 1805 with a view of obtaining a passport for Sicily, he wrote his father on August 14:

Tomorrow … is the day of the Assumption, a big feast for many reasons […] There will be horse races; then illuminations and fireworks, for as well as the feast that the whole Church solemnly celebrates, it is also Napoleon’s birthday. Thanks will be given to God too for the success of the concordat, and with good reason; any Catholic with an iota of zeal for the good of religion should join his thanksgiving to those of the Church in France. Religion had been given up for dead in this kingdom; and if the peace accorded to the Church had not enabled its ministers to protect the young, I mean the nascent generation, from the contagion which had affected all age-groups, but especially those we call the children of the revolution, all those of 18, 20 years of age would be ignorant of God’s very existence.

(Oblate Writings I, vol. 14, no. 10, p. 18-19)

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Yvon Beaudoin writes:

It was on July 12, 1790 also that the decree of the civil constitution of the clergy, was issued. It was sanctioned by the king on August 24. By the decree of November 27, 1790, the new bishops appointed by an assembly of active citizens were obliged in the future to ask for canonical installation, no longer from the Pope, but from the archbishop. Moreover, the bishops, parish priests and public servants were obliged to swear that they accepted the Constitution. As a result, the clergy split into two camps: those who swore acceptance of the Constitution and those who did not swear to accept it; they were known as recusants. On March 10, 1791, Pope Pius VI condemned the civil constitution of the clergy. It was in the wake of these events that the recusants were persecuted and many of them left the country; churches were closed and a systematic dechristianisation was set in motion. Charles Auguste André de Mazenod, vicar general of Marseilles, and Fortuné, the vicar general of Aix, great uncle and uncle of Eugene, both of them recusants, left Provence in September of 1792 to join their family in Turin. During almost all of the reign of the First Republic, Eugene was in Italy. He says very little about it, but he often mentions Napoleon.



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