Friday Advent Week 1
When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they said to him. Then he touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened..
Often the action of grace precedes the preaching of the Gospel and when hearts are touched by the first words of this marvelous preaching, they feel the need to open themselves with love to receive the divine seed sent to them from Heaven, but also to produce without delay the fruits of penance which then come to show themselves with all the characteristics of a sincere conversion
Eugene de Mazenod, Pastoral Letter on the Missions, 1844
Thursday Advent Week 1
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.”
Matthew 7: 24-25
This Holy Word resounds with the most admirable effects in our diocese; it has been heard in the villages and in the countryside as well as in the episcopal city, and it has been felt that, transmitted from Jesus Christ to his Apostles, it has lost none of its power as it has traversed the centuries; It was felt that, coming from the mouth of the One who is Himself “eternal life”, it is still “spirit and life” (Jn 6:64), it has brought life to those who have received it; it has been like a celestial light that has come to invest their souls and has made them know the truth
Eugene de Mazenod, Pastoral Letter on the Missions, 1844
Wednesday 30 November : St. Andrew
As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
What more beautiful ministry than that of forming in virtue, especially in the religious virtues, the chosen souls called by God to walk in the footsteps of the Apostles to spread the knowledge and the love of Jesus Christ! How much a person profits for oneself in leading others to perfection! This has turned out to be your lot. Rejoice over it, my son, and count on God’s help in this valuable ministry
Eugene de Mazenod to Father Dorey, Master of Novices, 15 October 1848, EO X n 990
Tuesday Advent Week 1
Turning to the disciples in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”
Luke 10: 23-24
It is then the mercies of the Lord I must proclaim… for he has quite exhausted the treasures of his grace for my sake…
Beginning with the happy moment when, regenerated in the saving waters of baptism, I was raised to the awesome dignity of child of God, filled with the gifts of my Saviour, I could more easily count the successive and rapid movements of my breathing than the number of the inestimable benefits that this adorable Master has poured out on me in generous measure.
Spiritual conference, 19 March 1809, EO XIV n 48
Monday Advent Week 1
“I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 8:11
You will not find anywhere a group of wiser and more fervent youngsters. I’m going to send six to Texas, four to Red River and three to Ceylon. I am going to ordain them priests before their imminent departure as they are all deacons. We have never have had such a large number of them in the Congregation. We encompass the whole world with our apostles whose zeal and devotedness wring from me tears of joy and tenderness. They are going off happy to be chosen to announce the Good News without giving the impression that they are making the least sacrifice. How can we not admire the working of the Holy Spirit in these generous souls?
Letter to Father Charles Baret, 24 January 1852, EO XI n. 1098
[NOTE: Each year at around this time, I pause the daily chronological reflection on the writings of Saint Eugene. This year I have decided to “pause” but to do something different: a daily quote from Saint Eugene linked to the Gospel of the day of the liturgical season.]
“Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life.” (Pope Francis)
As Superior General, Eugene was obliged to make decisions regarding the welfare of the Oblates outside of France, but he needed information to be able to do this. In the 19th century, letters between Canada and France took several months to arrive and Eugene found this frustrating. For this reason he insisted that all local superiors write to him every three months, and the others write once a year as a minimum. From the Superior of the whole Canadian mission, Fr Guigues, Eugene expected a more frequent and detailed communication, as he indicated in this letter:
Please greet for me affectionately Father Allard whose letter I at last received. It will give me pleasure if, in one of your first letters, you give me a personal account of all your members in the mission of America. Speak to me of the progress they are making in virtue, of the efforts they make to remove from their characters whatever may be defective, of their regularity and obedience, of their unity, of their capacity for different ministries, etc. This account should reach me at least once a year. So much for persons of whom not one is to be excepted.
You will do the same for the state of each house and each mission. Should this second report be too much for you to write, you can dictate it to Father Allard. Exactitude, precision, absence of exaggeration, confidence, simplicity, such I expect from you for my guidance.
Letter to Fr Eugene Guigues in Canada, 14 May 1846, EO I n 62.
What is of interest here is that Eugene’s main concern was not what the Oblates were doing as missionaries, but the quality of their lives: their being in order to do. He was convinced that they achieved more through witness than words.
“Challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigour!” (Pope Francis)
Eugene had imagined that Fathers Aubert and the newly-ordained Taché would be living in community and ministering from there. Eugene was alarmed to learn that this would not be the case:
What Father Allard tells me about the Red River leaves me no choice but to be alarmed. Our two Fathers, he tells me, are going to be separated for a year. But it is not my intention that this be so. I cannot consent that our Fathers go alone into any kind of mission. Any kind of good (envisaged) should be dependent on that (policy). Explain this, I beg you, to their Lordships the Bishops and take this to be the rule of your own administration.
Letter to Eugene Guigues in Canada, 30 July 1846, EO I n 67
The missionary challenges of thousands of people who had not been evangelized made this impossible, as Yvon Beaudoin narrates.
Father Taché spent part of the winter in Saint-Boniface and the rest in Baie-Saint-Paul where he studied the rudiments of the Saulteaux language. On July 8, 1846, he left in the company of the diocesan priest, Father Laflèche, to found a mission at Île-à-la-Crosse. They spent the winter in the Hudson Bay Company station and studied Cree. Then Father Laflèche worked among the Indians near the trading post and Father Taché, throughout the summers of 1847, 1848, 1849 and 1850, made long journeys to Lake Caribou and Lake Athabaska. On March 25, 1847, Bishop de Mazenod wrote to Father Guigues: “I sigh to think of such a young priest, having just left novitiate and being separated by such a great distance from our confreres.” (https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/tache-bishop-alexandre/)
Eugene’s alarm was to be multiplied and constantly repeated for the rest of his life: apostolic community and missionary zeal were two essential aspects of his charism – but how to maintain a balance in these essentials when the need for evangelization of people was so pressing?
“Every Christian must be convinced of his fundamental and vital duty of bearing witness to the truth in which he believes and the grace that has transformed him.” (St. Pope John XXIII)
In France, Eugene knew all the Oblates and they had no doubt about his affection for them as the father of a missionary family. He had never met the Canadian Alexandre Taché but wished to assure him that he was a loved member of the family, even though they had never met.
Reverting to the subject of Brother Taché whom I have not yet come to know, I await from him a little letter showing me his handwriting for in lieu of the person, it is something to see some lines traced by the hand of one we cannot see, but whom we already love by virtue of the admirable union of charity which makes all of us but one heart and one soul. I enjoin you earnestly, my dear son, to express to him all the sentiments which you know me to have for the children the good God has given me.
As members of the Missionary Oblate family, Fathers Aubert and Taché, had a particular lifestyle to live.
As of now, you only form quite a small community. No matter. Conform yourselves to the Rule as much as you possibly can. Although you are only two, nothing prevents you from doing several things in common: your morning and evening meditations, your office, your examen. You will thereby accomplish a duty and those who live in the house of the Bishop will be edified. Remember that wherever you are, you must always be what you are.
Letter To Fr Pierre Aubert, St Boniface Canada, 21 February 1846, EO I n 61
“God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” (Hudson Taylor)
The Canadian Oblate, Alexandre Taché, was a 22 year-old scholastic when Eugene sent him to St Boniface. Writing to Fr Pierre Aubert about him, Eugene said:
I did not wait for your letter to decide that an associate priest be sent to you. You had gone when my orders arrived at Longueuil. I wrote again that they send you a priest as one of the two who were to join you. I presume however that the dear companion who went with you to found the house of Red River has been raised to the priesthood and also that he has had to place his profession in your hands as I had authorized. It is good to make one’s vows on the battlefield in the face of the enemy one has come so far to fight.
Such thoughts were on my mind on the 17th of this month and indeed I spoke of them at the fine reunion we had of all our Fathers and Brothers who renewed before me and in the presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ the consecration they had made of themselves to the Lord in years more or less remote.
Letter to Fr Pierre Aubert, St Boniface Canada, 21 February 1846, EO I n 61
The two missionaries, Father Aubert and Scholastic Taché and two Grey Nuns left on June 25, aboard a boat belonging to the Hudson Bay Company and they arrived in Saint-Boniface on August 25 after sixty-two days travel. Taken aback at seeing the young missionary, Bishop Provencher is supposed to have said: “We need men and they are sending me children.(”https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/tache-bishop-alexandre/)
Bishop Provencher ordained this “child” to the diaconate as soon as he arrived, and to the priesthood in October 1845, and on the following day Father Aubert witnessed his perpetual oblation in St Boniface. Five years later Alexandre Taché became a Bishop and was to be a major force in the establishment and growth of the Church in Western Canada.
“There are glances which have a marked influence on one’s whole existence. The look which I laid upon Fathers Honorat and Telmon contributed in no small measure to the whole direction of my life.” (Alexandre Taché OMI)
Bishop Joseph Norbert Provencher of the Red River Colony (Manitoba), who needed priests to develop the works of his diocese, approached the Superior of the Canadian Oblate, Father Guigues, for help from the Oblates. Guigues hesitated because he did not have any missionaries to spare from their current commitments. Eugene acted swiftly and appointed Fr. Pierre Aubert and a young Canadian, Alexandre Taché to be the first two Oblates in Saint Boniface.
” When he had completed his classical studies he entered the major seminary in Montreal on September 1, 1841. On his way to the cathedral on December 3, the feast of Saint Francis Xavier, he saw the first six Oblates who had arrived in the city the day before. Later when he wrote about this event, he said his eyes fixed themselves with particular attention on their persons and on their Oblate crosses. “There are glances which have a marked influence on one’s whole existence. The look which I laid upon Fathers Honorat and Telmon contributed in no small measure to the whole direction of my life.”
He had hardly finished his theology when Bishop Ignace Bourget appointed him regent in Chambly College (1842-1843) and then, in January 1844, professor of mathematics in the seminary of Saint-Hyacinthe. On October 5, 1844, Alexandre began his novitiate in Longueuil. The novice master, Father Jean-François Allard, gave a very favourable judgement about him. He wrote to Bishop de Mazenod: “Brother A. Taché, from one of the most distinguished families in the country, everywhere enjoys a reputation for his talents: good memory, right minded, sound judgement, unusually sharp intellect, facility in speaking. All of these qualities are enhanced by his wisdom, an excellent education, and a refined politeness, which makes him stand out in all kinds of society. Besides, he is humble and prudent and his utterances are always to the point.” (https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/tache-bishop-alexandre/)