OBLATES OF MARY IMMACULATE – WHY DID WE NOT THINK OF THIS SOONER?

Once the decision had been made, and Eugene had requested this new name, he was filled with joy at having done the right thing.

Oblates of the Immaculate Mary. But this is a passport to heaven! How have we not thought of it sooner?

Letter to Henri Tempier, 22 December 1825, EO VI n 213

Why had he not thought of it before? In the coming days I will explore some of the texts that show the place of Mary in Eugene’s life before this decision.

Eugene “seems to become aware of the fact that, even if he had always loved Mary, he had not yet understood the essential role she played in the plan of Redemption. In searching for the patron who best expressed the goal of his Congregation – that is a person walking in the footsteps of Christ, committed to the apostolate of service and to the instruction of the poor – he had not thought of Mary. While in Rome, he understood who Mary really was. The title of the Congregation was thus born from a discovery that, in order to respond in an authentic way to the urgent needs of the Church, its members should identify with Mary Immaculate “to offer themselves” to the service of God’s plan of salvation like she did.”   Casimir Lubowicki, “Mary” in the Dictionary of Oblate Values, https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/mary/

 

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WE ASK YOUR HOLINESS TO GIVE US THE NAME OF OBLATES OF MARY IMMACULATE

Having decided to change the name of our Congregation, Eugene now asked the Pope to give us this name officially. When this request was eventually granted, Eugene was able to proclaim everywhere that it was “the name that the Pope has given us.”

At the same time, we ask Your Holiness that, in the Brief of Approval which the Missionaries request, you give them the name of Oblates of the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary instead of Oblates of Saint Charles: this to avoid any confusion of names with other Congregations;

“As Father Fernand Jetté stated, the title of a religious family usually expresses its nature, essence and function. It really seems that the choice of the title Missionary Oblates of the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary must have been the culmination of a new and deeper insight into the mission of the Congregation on the part of Father de Mazenod. He discovered Mary as the person who was the most committed to the service of Christ, the poor and the Church and saw her as the most comprehensive model of apostolic life as required by his Congregation.”   Casimir Lubowicki, “Mary” in the Dictionary of Oblate Values, https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/mary/

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IN PREPARATION FOR OUR PATRONAL FEAST

There will be a pause in these reflections during the month of December.

In the light of our forthcoming patronal feast on December 8, I would like to focus on Mary during these days of preparation.

During the day, I was busy preparing the petition to present to the Pope on the day he grants me an audience.

Roman Diary, 8 December 1825, EO XVII

This day was the feast of the Immaculate Conception and it was during the days of prayer in preparation for it that Eugene had had the intuition to change the name of the Oblates. In the last paragraph of the petition to the Pope we come across the use of this name for the very first time:

At the same time, we ask Your Holiness that, in the Brief of Approval which the Missionaries request, you give them the name of Oblates of the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary instead of Oblates of Saint Charles

Petition for approbation to Pope Leo XII, 8 December 1825, EO XIII n.48

“When we choose a patron of a group we spontaneously think of a person who incarnates the qualities and activities of the group in the best possible way.” Fernand Jetté OMI

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A PERSON COULD NEVER SHAKE OR UNSETTLE MY PRINCIPLES WHICH SPRING FROM A SIMPLE FAITH

Writing to a public figure whose ideas on religious liberty he did not agree with, Eugene said:

I am sorry that the indiscretion of certain of our missionaries has led you to believe that I am one of your fiercest antagonists to be found in the ranks of your fellow Catholics.
I very definitely am not an enemy of any fellow Catholic. I agree that there are some whose political doctrines I do not share, but in all else I revere them most deeply and defend their good name with every bit as much zeal, and perhaps with more success than the staunchest supporters of their system.
However, I do not hide that my respect and affection for their person could never shake or unsettle my principles which spring from a simple faith; for these principles compel me to look upon the authority of the Head of the Church as my guide and the guide of my religious family, independently of any doctrinal decision or any solemn decree ex cathedra, etc. … Possibly, that is being too orthodox for times like these, but what one may say or think of my orthodoxy does not disturb me

Letter to Count de Montalembert, 24 October 1831, EO XIII n 78

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HE SHOULD NOT GIVE HIMSELF UP TO IDLE DREAMS OF A FUTURE THAT WILL PERHAPS NEVER COME

The student house in Billens was made up of zealous young people with generous dreams. Some of these, however, were not quite practical, as Eugene commented to the superior, Fr Mille.

I urge you to deter Ricard from his plans of going overseas. That is out of the question for him; he should consider himself lucky that he is working ahead of time in the vineyard of the Father of the family. He should walk humbly before Him and not give himself up to idle dreams of a future that will perhaps never come.
It seems that Father Tempier’s words were wasted on you when he addressed you on the subject of the idle desires swarming inside Father Touche’s head.
Busy yourselves with your studies at Billens and let each one strive, with as much effort as possible, to acquire the virtues of his holy state. A man is being formed for every kind of ministry when it is obedience that assigns each one his duties.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille, 25 September 1831, EO VIII n 404

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IN CLOSE UNION WITH GOD, GO AHEAD WITH FULL CONFIDENCE

Father Mille was 33 years old, had been ordained a priest for only fifteen months and he was the superior of the Oblate scholasticate in Switzerland. He was young and inexperienced, but the political crisis in France had forced Eugene to appoint him to this responsibility. He was finding the burden heavy, and Eugene wrote to encourage him:

So if you renounce yourself entirely, together with your tastes and even the reasoning your mind may entertain, you will give a good account of yourself in the delicate task imposed on you. I am not trying to minimize your own estimate of the burden that weighs you down.
On the contrary, I agree that it could not weigh more heavily on your shoulders, but by living in close union with God, pondering frequently on the importance of your tasks and studying how men who have achieved success in this field have acted, you will achieve the same results.

Stay close to the God who has called you, reflect on the importance of what has been entrusted to you, and learn from others who have had more experience in this field. Good advice to all of us when we find the burdens of service heavy.

But you must apply yourself to your task and tell yourself again and again that God, Church and religious family will be demanding an account villicationis tuae [ed. “Give an account of your management” Luke 16:2]
 Go ahead finally with full confidence and quietly correct in the light of experience the small mistakes that come to light as you go on your way.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille, 25 September 1831, EO VIII n 404

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WHILE WE ARE NOTHING, WE CAN ACHIEVE A LOT WITH GOD’S HELP

Words of encouragement that God is close to us whenever we strive to discern God’s will:

If you have rooted yourself in the profound conviction that while we are nothing, we can achieve a lot with God’s help.
We do this when, placing ourselves in a state of complete detachment, we turn for guidance to obedience as making known to us the will of the Master we serve
and who has pledged himself to give us his powerful help by means of his grace in the various ministries that he assigns to us.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille, 25 September 1831, EO VIII n 404

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I SAW YOU IN HIM, AND THUS, ALTHOUGH ALREADY FAR AWAY, WE WERE VERY CLOSE TO ONE ANOTHER

Eugene had spent the summer months in Switzerland with the students preparing themselves to be Missionaries. He was always sad when he had to leave this community and return to Marseilles and the burdens of being Vicar General in difficult times for the Church.

My dear children. I am never going to become such a stoic as not to feel it when taking my leave of a community like yours. It is just as well I don’t experience the need to acquire that pagan brand of virtue, sign as it is of a total lack of charity and complete heartlessness…

Uniting himself with them in the practice of oraison, he expressed his fatherly love for them:

How much I love you! I feel it when I am with you. I feel it when I am far from you, you are always present to my thoughts and you live in my heart.
Yesterday and today I was with you in the spirit at your prayer times. This morning I was at Our Lord’s feet in the church at Geneva at the self-same moment as you were surrounding the divine Master in the course of midday prayer and examen. I saw you in Him, and thus, although already far away, we were very close to one another.

Letter to Father Mille and the novices and scholastics of Billens, 17 September 1831, EO VIII n 403

Through oraison he was able to be in communion with the Oblates through the uniting presence of Jesus the Savior.

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THE CROSS CONTINUES TO BE A CAUSE OF DIVISION

Yvon Beaudoin gives the background to yet another anti-religious incident: “The mayor had requested the suppression of the procession on the feast of the Assumption. Bishop Fortuné went ahead with it all the same. A group of men attacked the young girls who led the procession and momentarily seized possession of the Cross, which was courageously defended by the Catholics who followed the procession.”

… What splendid people we have at Marseilles! You will have to go a long way to find their equals! Yes, that dastardly outrage. Well deserved the punishment meted out to the people responsible, and if they come back another time it will serve them right if you hit them even harder, for it is really too bad when a bunch of hooligans can brag of their immunity and insult religion and all that is dear to the 140,000 who make up the majority of the people here.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 24 August 1831, EO VIII n 492

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THE DAILY LIFE OF THE YOUNG FUTURE OBLATE STUDENTS

Not exactly a profound spiritual thought, but just a glimpse into Eugene’s chatty narrative to his friend, Henri Tempier, about everyday life in the seminary in Billens.

Everyone is very well. And in fact the only thing lacking here is wine, a lack shared by everyone in these parts. They drink it occasionally with visitors. For the rest, it does not enter their heads. The daily fare is very good. Every day they have soup, two helpings, a good piece of beef, a course of cabbage and newly-salted pork, very fine and tasty and very often too some local sausage. That makes three courses, not counting the sausages. At other times they have a plate of creamed turnips and cheese for dessert. At evening they often have veal. The morning and evening soups are made from stock and bread is freely available. You see there is no cause for complaint
With this they do good work, teachers and students, each does his duty. Classes of dogmatic and moral theology, philosophy, sacred elocution, mathematics, literature, history, geography, not to mention singing and liturgy. For the moment German cannot be fitted in, there are not sufficient hours in the day or even in the week. All these different occupations are well distributed, in such a way that not a moment of the day is lost.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 22 August 1831, EO VIII n 401

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