OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: ALWAYS CLOSE TO THE PEOPLE

We will always be close to the people with whom we work, taking into account their values and aspirations.

CC&RR, Constitution 8

Our vocation is to be close to people, and we do this by loving them with the love of the Savior.

It is not to be a paternalistic closeness but a reflection of how Jesus Christ approaches us with arms open, ready to give and receive. We are close to the people because we are open to receive the love of God through them. Rule 8a is masterful in describing this attitude of closeness:

We will let our lives be enriched by the poor and the marginalized as we work with them, for they can make us hear in new ways the Gospel we proclaim. We must always be sensitive to the mentality of the people, drawing on the riches of their culture and religious traditions

They “make us hear in new ways the Gospel we proclaim” – they love us in new ways with the very love of the Savior that we love them with. What an incredible privilege and gift being “close to the people” is!

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“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”    Carl Jung

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: THE WORD OF GOD CREATES COMMUNITY

We have as our goal to establish Christian communities and Churches deeply rooted in the local culture and fully responsible for their own development and growth.

CC&RR, Constitution 7

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.” Acts 2:41-43

From the day of Pentecost until today we find the same pattern constantly repeated:  the proclamation of the Word of God leads to personal transformation which creates community.

Oblate evangelization fits into the same pattern, as Father Jetté writes:

“Finally, a twofold ecclesial concern, characteristic of our times, is to be present in our ministry: “…to establish Christian communities and Churches deeply rooted in the local culture and fully responsible for their own development and growth.”

Here we have a clear invitation to promote inculturation of the faith in every domain where we are carrying out our ministry, especially in countries where Christianity is new; and to promote among the faithful with whom we work a sense of responsibility, the will to personal commitment and the desire of a faith appropriate to a grown-up person. We want to establish local communities that are very much alive.”  (The Apostolic Man, p 81 – 82)

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“Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this.”   Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: ALLOW THE WORD OF GOD TO TAKE ROOT AND SERVE OTHERS

Our mission puts us on constant call to respond to the most urgent needs of the Church through various forms of witness and ministry, but especially through proclaiming the Word of God which finds its fulfilment in the celebration of the sacraments and in service to others.

CC&RR, Constitution 7

The value of acts of service speaking louder than words was stressed to Tempier when the missionaries had gone to help the inhabitants of a neighboring village to put out a fire:

If only I had been with you on the day of your noble behaviour at Saint-Etienne. From here, I see you in the midst of the flames giving aid everywhere and intelligently, which must have saved a great number of persons. I am not surprised that people do not cease to speak of this splendid devotedness.
Four missionaries engaged in such an exercise of charity preach better still than in the pulpit, at least they are better understood.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 29 June 1819, EO VI, n. 45 

Preaching the Word of God finding its fulfilment in focused service is prescribed in our Rule of Life:

Preaching missions at home and sending missionaries abroad have been traditionally central to our apostolate. There is no ministry, however, which is foreign to us, provided we never lose sight of the Congregation’s primary purpose: to evangelize the most abandoned.

CC&RR, Rule 7b

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“The test of a preacher is that his congregation goes away saying, not ‘What a lovely sermon,’ but ‘I will do something!’”   Francis de Sales

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THE FOUNDING CHARISM TODAY: THE SECRET OF OUR MISSION

We will always be close to the people with whom we work, taking into account their values and aspirations.

CC&RR, Constitution 8

“Close to the people” – this is the characteristic by which the Oblates are best known. Wherever in the world we find ourselves, we can hear people saying this of us. Why this characteristic?

It is Saint Eugene’s gift to us. Whenever I reflect on Eugene’s encounter with the Crucified Savior I thnk of open arms. Eugene, looking at Jesus with his arms wide open on the Cross became aware of the immensity of God’s love for him and was able to open his own arms in response. Experiencing the closeness of God to him, he was able to respond by imitating this closeness of God. Figuratively I like to say that Eugene, experiencing the hug of God from the Cross, was able to respond by opening his own arms to embrace the Savior.

Never was my soul more satisfied, never did it feel such happiness… my soul took wings for its last end, towards God its only good whose loss it felt so keenly…
Let me at least make up for lost time by redoubling my love for him. May all my actions, thoughts, etc., be directed towards that end. What more glorious occupation than to act in everything and for everything only for God, to love him above all else…

Retreat Journal, December 1814, EO XV n.130

Being close to the people means imitating the Savior by opening our arms to them and loving them as He does. Here is the secret of our mission.

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Pope Francis words to the US Church can be applied universally: “The Church’s challenge is staying close to the people, close to the people of the United States, not being a detached Church from the people but close to them, close, close, and this is something that the Church in the United States has understood and understood well.”

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: BECOME WHAT WE HEAR

We have spent a long time reflecting on what our Rule of Life teaches us about the centrality of the Word of God for us. To sum it up, I read it as an invitation to become the Word that we listen to and proclaim. It is an invitation to incarnate the Word. I conclude this series of reflections on Constitution 7 by presenting the whole text, and inviting you to reflect on it slowly.

As priests and Brothers, we have complementary responsibilities in evangelizing.
We will spare no effort to awaken or to reawaken the faith in the people to whom we are sent, and we will help them to discover “who Christ is”.
Our mission puts us on constant call to respond to the most urgent needs of the Church through various forms of witness and ministry, but especially through proclaiming the Word of God which finds its fulfilment in the celebration of the sacraments and in service to others.
We have as our goal to establish Christian communities and Churches deeply rooted in the local culture and fully responsible for their own development and growth.

CC&RR, Constitution 7

FOUNDING VISION

“Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.”   Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: ALLOW THE WORD OF GOD TO TAKE ROOT AND LEAD TO COMMUNION

Our mission puts us on constant call to respond to the most urgent needs of the Church through various forms of witness and ministry, but especially through proclaiming the Word of God which finds its fulfilment in the celebration of the sacraments and in service to others.

CC&RR, Constitution 7

From his earliest days as a seminarian, Eugene insisted on the importance of the Eucharist. Writing to his mother, just to take one example, he urged her to more frequent communion.

Dear mother, are you not going a little more often to the source of all consolation? Cannot you hear this Saviour, who calls to you from his tabernacle: Dear soul, why am I humbled here like this? Is it in vain that I keep on re-echoing these selfsame words that I said to my disciples: come to me, all you who labour and are heavy-laden: come and I will give you rest, and restore you; unite with me in this intimate union for which I remained with you, and balm will flow in your veins, and your soul will be filled, strengthened, renewed…
If I did not think it necessary for the good of your soul to frequent the sacraments more often than you do, do you think I would keep coming back to it so often?

Letter to his mother, 14 October 1811, EO XIV n 93

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“Farmers everywhere provide bread for all humanity, but it is Christ alone who is the bread of life…Even if all the physical hunger of the world were satisfied, even if everyone who is hungry were fed by his or her own labor or by the generosity of others, the deepest hunger of man would still exist…Therefore, I say, Come, all of you, to Christ. He is the bread of life. Come to Christ and you will never be hungry again…”   Saint John Paul II

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: ALLOW THE WORD OF GOD TO CONVERT AND TRANSFORM US

Our mission puts us on constant call to respond to the most urgent needs of the Church through various forms of witness and ministry, but especially through proclaiming the Word of God which finds its fulfilment in the celebration of the sacraments and in service to others.

CC&RR, Constitution 7

The preaching of parish missions, for which we were originally founded, was all about preaching the Word of God and inviting people to respond by celebrating the sacraments. The goal of the Missionaries was to have every person celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. It was an invitation to a prolonged intimate encounter with the Savior acting through the priest as spiritual guide and instrument of forgiveness and new life. The confessional was to be the place of transparent encounter between a person in their brokenness and the healing mercy of God. One of Eugene’s earliest sermons gives this message:

In the same way the preacher of the Gospel, is saddened at the sight of sinners sinking in the dreadful quagmire of their evil deeds, bogged down with no desire of getting out. They futilely try all that their gentle charity inspires them to do to have them return onto the way.
Finally seeing their obstinate determination to be lost, the preachers make the most frightening truths re-echo in their ears. They arm themselves with the whip of the holy Word, and increase their blows until at last with a huge effort these sinners get out of the mud and free themselves.
Then it is with open arms that the ministers of Jesus Christ press them close to their hearts and take delight in pouring ointment on all their wounds to ease them.

Instruction at the Madeleine, preached in Provencal, on the fourth Sunday of Lent 1813, EO XV n 115.

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“To get a man soundly saved it is not enough to put on him a pair of new trousers, to give him regular work, or even to give him a university education. These things are all outside a man, and if the inside remains unchanged you have wasted your labor. You must in some way or other graft upon the man’s nature a new nature, which has in it the element of the Divine.”  William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: TRANSFORMATION IS OUTWARD LOOKING

Our mission puts us on constant call to respond to the most urgent needs of the Church through various forms of witness and ministry, but especially through proclaiming the Word of God which finds its fulfilment in the celebration of the sacraments and in service to others.

CC&RR, Constitution 7

Our relationship with the Word of God invites us to a personal transformation that is outward-looking. This Constitution mirrors Eugene’s concern that in working for the salvation of others, we are working for our own salvation. Conversion, for Eugene, is not primarily about me “saving my soul” but about entering into God’s plan of salvation for all – focusing on the salvation of the other as the means of receiving the gift myself. Our very first vision statement of 25 January 1816 – to be constantly repeated throughout Eugene’s lifetime, makes this clear.

The undersigned priests

-deeply moved by the deplorable situation of the small towns and villages of Provence that have almost completely lost the faith…
-desiring, at the same time, to respond to the call which summons them to consecrate themselves to this demanding ministry;
-and wishing to accomplish it in a manner as useful to themselves as it is beneficial for the people whom they propose to evangelize;

 Request to the Capitular Vicars of Aix, 25 January 1816, EO XIII n.)

Today we express the same sentiment in our Rule of Life, Constitution 7. Our proclamation of the Word of God is outward looking and needs to be expressed in celebrating the sacraments as encounters with God and with one another – and expressed in service to others.

Father Jette writes: “To be effective, this proclamation of the Good News is to strive for a double objective: on the one hand, to form fervent Chris tians who understand the importance of the sacraments and are intent on celebrating them in order to live therefrom; and, on the other hand, Christians who are concerned about their fellow brothers and sisters and who are open and available to serve them in their needs.”   F.Jette, The Apostolic Man, p 80

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“The work of evangelization presupposes in the evangelizer an ever increasing love for those he is evangelizing.”    Pope Paul VI

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: ALLOW THE WORD OF GOD TO TAKE ROOT AND BEAR FRUIT

Our mission puts us on constant call to respond to the most urgent needs of the Church through various forms of witness and ministry, but especially through proclaiming the Word of God which finds its fulfilment in the celebration of the sacraments and in service to others.

CC&RR, Constitution 7

The reason for our existence is the Word of God. Our vocation is to be permeated with the Word and to proclaim it to others – especially to those who are the furthest away from the love of the Savior and are abandoned.

Eugene founded the Oblates to be mission preachers primarily and to go to the abandoned in the rural villages for periods of some five weeks of intense proclamation of the Word and of catechizing. Everything aimed at inviting the people to listen, with ears and heart, and to be transformed. This transformation was expressed in a deeper relationship with God in the sacraments and in service to one another.

St. John Vianney, the renowned Curé of Ars, lived at exactly the same time and did the same ministry in France, but in a different context and different method. His missionary message and goal was the same as ours: “Open your heart so that the Word of God may enter it, take root in it, and bear fruit there for eternal life.” He preached the Word and then spent countless hours each day in the confessional, accompanying people in their conversion and transformation.

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“Open your heart so that the Word of God may enter it, take root in it, and bear fruit there for eternal life.” John Vianney

“Your Word is a lamp for my steps and a light for my path” Psalm 118

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: WE CHEW THE WORD BEFORE PROCLAIMING IT

Our mission puts us on constant call to respond to the most urgent needs of the Church through various forms of witness and ministry, but especially through proclaiming the Word of God which finds its fulfilment in the celebration of the sacraments and in service to others.

CC&RR, Constitution 7

Eugene’s description of what our preaching should be like is still holds true for today:

It should be understood that it is in direct opposition to the spirit of our Rule to aim at elegance of style in preaching, rather than solidity of doctrine.
Too many preachers strive to be admired because of the sublimity of their eloquence and by the brilliance of their carefully prepared diction; we must follow a totally different route. 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.
We should see to it that, when our sermons are over, they, instead of presuming to bestow foolish admiration on what they have not understood, will rather return to their homes instructed and well disposed, instructed, and able to repeat in their families what they have learned from our lips.

1818 Rule Part 1, Chapter 3, §1

Proclaiming the Word of God is not only a question of our words – we can apply St Eugene’s teaching to every area of life: the clearer and the more direct the attitude or action, the most effective will our witness be. Simplicity of lifestyle, as we see in so many great witnesses, speaks loudly about the presence of God in our lives – and makes a lasting impression. Allowing ourselves to be permeated by the Word leads to simplicity

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“Reading is the careful study of the Scriptures, concentrations of one’s powers on it.  Meditation is the busy application of the mind to seek with the help of one’s own reason for knowledge of hidden truth.  Prayer is the heart’s devoted turning to God to drive away evil and obtain what is good.  Contemplation is when the mind is in some sort lifted to God and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness.” Lectio divina by Guigo II, a Carthusian monk.

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