PAUSE FOR CHRISTMAS

I wish you a Blessed Christmas and every blessing during 2019.

There will be a pause until the end of January. During our pause I invite you to consult the many reflections on this website which have been published since 2010.

I also invite you to consult the actual writings of St Eugene online.

You can find theses in chronological order at http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?page_id=2362 

Thanks to the generous work of many, this chronological version is now complete.

On our OMIWORLD site you will also find the volumes in digital form, as they were originally published in book form:  https://www.omiworld.org/our-charism/founder/writings/ 

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CELEBRATING THE DELIGHTFUL NIGHT OUR LOVABLE SAVIOR IS BORN IN A STABLE

Eugene was ordained to the priesthood on 21 December 1811 and celebrated his “First Mass” on Christmas Eve. He invited his mother to be united with him in a special way.

Dear mother, be one with me on Christmas Eve, join in the holy mysteries in Aix while I celebrate them for you in Amiens, in the most fervent of; let each of us for our own part speak our minds to our good Master who assuredly will be quite unable to say no on such a wonderful day…

Letter to his mother, 8 December 1811, EO XIV n. 96

After his ordination, the custom was to spend more days in retreat in preparation for celebrating Mass for the first time. On the day of his ordination had written in anticipation:

I leave you now, dear, darling mother. I have three days still to get used to the idea that I am a priest and prepare to celebrate the divine mysteries on the delightful night our lovable Saviour is born in a stable…

Letter to his mother after his priestly ordination, 21 December 1811, EO XIV n.97

How am I preparing to celebrate the delightful night our lovable Savior was born in a stable?

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PREPARING FOR CHRISTMAS WITH SAINT EUGENE

One of the privileged moments of prayer for Eugene was to be able to unite himself with those he loved in the presence of God. In our Oblate tradition we have come to know this exercise as “oraison.” As a seminarian in Paris he wrote to his mother one Christmas morning describing how united he had been with her during Midnight Mass, despite the distance that separated them.

Dearest Mother, do you really think that I was not beside you last night? How could I fail, meditating as I was on the holy Mother of God, who had just been filled with consolation on giving the world its Saviour, and at the same time had to experience so vividly the poverty, weakness and misery to which she saw her Divine Master reduced for love of men, how could these tender sentiments fail to draw me close to you?
Indeed yes, darling mother, we spent the night together at the foot of the altar, which for me represented the crib in Bethlehem; together we offered our gifts to our Savior and asked him to come to birth in our hearts and strengthen us in all that is weak, etc.
You know my heart all too well, since it was formed from your own, so you will have a very clear understanding that it is as active and goes through the same feelings as your own.

Letter to his mother, 25 December 1809, EO XIV n 37

Who are the people I want to unite myself with before the crib in Bethlehem this year?

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200 YEARS AGO: COMMUNITY PRAYER: THE SOURCE OF ALL MISSIONARY SUCCESS

It seems surprising that as the sixth ministry Eugene puts the community prayer of the Breviary:

All the priests, oblates, and novices are bound to recite the Divine Office in common, according to the rite of the Holy Roman Church, at the hours prescribed by the schedule.

The surprising part is not that the Missionaries must pray regularly, but that this is seen as one of the MINISTRIES of the Missionaries. In other words, the time given to praying the Breviary is as important as any one of the other ministries.

Apart from the personal sanctification that Eugene never stops stressing (“be” in order to “do”), the community prayer is other-centered in that it is a ministry done for the good of the whole Congregation and its mission.

The Institute regards this exercise as the source of all the blessings which must pour out upon all the ministry of the whole Society.

1818 Rule, Part One, Chapter 3, §6 Divine Office

Praying the Divine Office, the Liturgy of the Hours, is an act of the Church and for the good of the whole Church, of which the community of Missionaries is a cell.

Two clarifications on the text:

– One of the ends of the Missionaries was to make up for the disappearance of the Orders, whose foundation was built on singing the Divine Office at various moments of the day – hence this initial insistence. As the Oblates became geographically more widespread and their ministry more varied in small groups or individually – it was the spirit of this part of the Rule that had to be maintained in their individual prayer: praying the Breviary was a ministry for the welfare of the mission of the whole Congregation.

– Eugene used the word “oblates” to denote all those who had professed their first vows and were not yet priests (i.e. scholastics – seminarians). This was 8 years before the Congregation took the official name of “Oblates” for all its members.

The Liturgy of the Hours is the prayer of the Church, the spouse of Christ. In it, we praise the Father for his wonderful works and invoke his blessing on our mission. Each community will ordinarily celebrate part of the Hours in common. Where possible, the faithful will be invited to join us in this public prayer of the Church. CC&RR, Constitution 33

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200 YEARS AGO: ALWAYS CLOSE TO THE PEOPLE AROUND THEM – ESPECIALLY IN SICKNESS AND DEATH

The church of the Oblate Mission house in Aix was never a parish. The community was young, dynamic and obviously attracted many people to their services –either in the church or in the various ministries of the Missionaries in the city. Eugene felt a sense of responsibility to these persons, particularly in the case of serious illness and the approach of death.

Art. 1. When those under the care of the missionaries fall sick, we will prepare them for the reception of the last sacraments as soon as possible. Indeed, one should not wait until the benefactors and friends of our Society are in danger of death, before showing them our gratitude and sincere affection in Jesus Christ.

The Missionaries had the responsibility of praying with them and bringing them the sacraments, but it did not end there because they continued being united with them:

We will pray for them many times each day; we will offer the Holy Sacrifice; they will be given a full and complete share in all the good works, prayers, Masses, and penances of the Society. In a word, we should provide all we can for their spiritual and also temporal needs, if it is for the glory of God.

In the case of the dying,

Once the sick under the care of a member of the society have received the last sacraments, their confessor will visit them often, even every day or several times a day, if he judges it to be necessary.

1818 Rule, Part One, Chapter 3, §5 the dying

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200 YEARS AGO: PRISONERS – ABANDONED BY SOCIETY AND THE CHURCH

The common theme running through all the descriptions of the ministry of the Missionaries was this infallible rule:

We are never to lose sight of one of the principal ends of our Institute, which is to help the most abandoned souls.

As Eugene unfolds the ministry of the Missionaries in the 1818 Rule, he applies this principle In the fourth category: evangelizing the prisoners :

For this reason, the unfortunate inmates of prisons have a rightful claim upon the charity of the Society.

The response of the Missionaries was

we will try to meet their needs, as far as circumstances permit, by frequently visiting them and by teaching them their religious duties, at least on Sundays, when we can get into these places of detention.

Among this category of abandoned people, the Missionary was to pay special attention the “most abandoned” of this group, those condemned to death – abandoned and shunned by society, and sadly by the Jansenist church too. The Missionary was to follow the example of Jesus and reach out:

In accordance with all the resources of Christian charity we will use every means in our power to assist those who have been condemned to death.

1818 Rule, Part One, Chapter 3, §4. Prisons.

[On the website you can find more information on this in the entries of 5 – 9 July, 2010 http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=100 onwards]

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200 YEARS AGO: YOUTH – THE WORK OF WORKS

Committed to preaching the Gospel to the most abandoned and to be ministers of God’s compassion in the sacrament of reconciliation, Eugene continued to explain the ministry of the Missionaries in his Rule of Life:

Article 3 The direction of youth
The direction of youth will be considered an essential duty of our Institute.
The Superior General will appoint one or more of the Missionaries to this occupation, which he himself will participate in diligently, insofar as his other responsibilities permit.

Five years’ earlier, Eugene’s spiritual director had instilled into him that this was “the work of works: give it all your efforts, deploy all your zeal to form them well” (REY, Histoire I, p. 151) and it is clear that Eugene had learnt this lesson well when he wrote:

They will account to him for the state of the Youth Congregation, which must be established in all our houses with the same care and the same attention as the novitiate itself.

1818 Rule Part 1, Chapter 3, §3. Direction of youth

Each Missionary had “the duty of knowing the names of each congregant. “ Remembering that at the time of writing there were nearly 300 members in Aix, this was no mean task!

He also stressed the closeness of the Missionaries to the youth by insisting that they also have “frequent contact with their families.”

The youth ministry was clearly not something to be added on to the existing other ministries if and when the Missionaries had time. It was an essential aspect of the mission of each house.

[The Youth Congregation has been dealt with in great detail in entries above. You can find them all on the website, more specifically in the entries from 12 July (http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=121) to 3 August 2010 and from 28 September 2011 (http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=1009) to 17 January 2012]

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200 YEARS AGO: THE CHART OF OUR VOCATIONAL JOURNEY

What more sublime purpose than that of their Institute!
Their founder is Jesus Christ, the very Son of God;
their first fathers are the Apostles.
They are called to be the Saviour’s co-workers, the co-redeemers of mankind

1818 Rule, Part One, Chapter One. The ends of the Institute,
§3. Nota Bene. Missions, 78 (1951) p. 15

The Rule of 1818 was Eugene’s response to the question, “How must one live in order to become this ideal?”

So far in our exploration of this Rule of Life of 1818, we have seen the first chapter, which defined the Missionaries and their principal goals. In first place, evangelizing the most abandoned with their many faces. Then to fill the spiritual void left by the destruction of the religious orders, and to help the clergy to be faithful stewards of God for the most abandoned. It was in the section on the reform of the clergy that Eugene wrote his well-known Nota Bene – the original version of the Preface.

The Rule continues by expanding these points by giving practical details. The second chapter is dedicated to the preaching of parish missions.

The third chapter is entitled, “other ministries.” We have seen the first two parts of this: the ministry of preaching and the ministry of confession. Tomorrow we will continue with the third ministry: the youth.

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200 YEARS AGO: HUG AS YOU HAVE BEEN HUGGED

Eugene’s own conversion experience had been the awareness of God’s boundless love and mercy:

Blessed, a thousand times blessed, that he, this good Father, notwithstanding my unworthiness, lavished on me all the richness of his mercy

Retreat Journal, December 1814, EO XV n.130

He describes how he experienced the closeness of God’s love once he had acknowledged his sinfulness:

you forgot all my acts of ingratitude to help me as powerfully as if I had been always faithful to you; my tender father, who carried this rebel on your shoulders, warmed him against your heart, washed his wounds, etc.

Notes made during the retreat in preparation for priestly ordination
1-21 December , EO XIV n. 95

He is describing the experience of being “hugged” by God

Now, the Missionary – the “co-operator of the Savior” – has to treat the sinner in exactly the same manner as he has been treated:

For the rest, let the missionaries always be ready to welcome sinners with inexhaustible charity. Let them encourage the penitents by their pleasant manner, and by showing a compassionate heart.
In a word, let them treat them as they themselves would wish to be treated if they were in the same unfortunate condition.

1818 Rule Part 1, Chapter 3, §2 Regarding Confession

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200 YEARS AGO: FROM WORD TO ACTION

The next section of the Rule of 1818 moves to the logical conclusion of preaching: helping the listener to come to a personal encounter with God as Savior. Preaching should make people aware of their need for conversion, best expressed in the sacrament of reconciliation:

Concerning confessions he will keep in mind what St. Ignatius, St. Philip Neri, and many others perceived, namely, that the work begun in the pulpit has to be completed in the tribunal of penance. If grace has touched a soul by the strength of the Word of God, ordinarily it is in the tribunal of penance that grace molds and justifies it. Preaching, indeed, has no other end than to lead sinners to the pool of salvation.

When God’s grace touches a person with the desire for conversion, the Missionaries need to be available to celebrate the sacrament with them.

We will, therefore, never refuse the request of those who seek to go to confession, whether during the time of missions, or outside of it.
Where we have our residences, three days a week will be especially dedicated to the hearing of confessions.

1818 Rule Part 1, Chapter 3, §2 Regarding Confession

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