200 YEARS AGO: NOTA BENE – ANALYSIS BEFORE ACTION

The Missionaries, dedicated to the process of rebuilding the post-revolution Church of France, dedicated their lives to bringing these abandoned victims of the revolution into the fullness of communion with Jesus Christ and the members of his Body. In order to be effective, it was necessary to have a clear analysis of the situation they were wanting to respond to through their ministry.

To achieve some measure of success in this holy endeavor, we must first of all seek out the causes of the depravity which is presently making men slaves of their passions.
We can synthesis them under three headings:
1. The weakening, if not the total loss, of faith.
2. Ignorance among the people.
3. Laziness, indifference and corruption among the priests…
Once these causes have become known, it becomes easier to apply remedies to them.

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

“Example moves the world more than doctrine. The great exemplars are the poets of action, and it makes little difference whether they be forces for good or forces for evil.”  Henry Miller

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200 YEARS AGO: NOTA BENE – TWO SIDES OF THE PICTURE

One can touch the intensity of Eugene’s emotions! As he reflected on the situation of the Church in France he expressed his horror at the behavior of some of the priests who were not living up to the demands of their vocation.

He then contrasted this by describing his admiration and awe at the beauty of the vocation of the Missionary. It is with this same sense of awe that he reflects on the Church:

The Church, that glorious inheritance purchased by the Saviour at the cost of all his blood
and then he looks at the other side of the situation :
has in our days been cruelly ravaged.

The Church, the Body of Christ, is the magnificent inheritance left to us by the Savior himself. But, with sorrow and pain, Eugene described the state that she has been reduced to:

This beloved Spouse of the Son of God bears him almost nothing other than monsters. The ingratitude of people is at its peak; apostasy will soon be the norm.
And except for the sacred deposit of faith which will always remain intact to the end of time, there remains of Christianity only traces of what it was, with the result that it can be truly said that, due to the malice and corruption of the Christians of our day, their condition is worse than that of the pagans before the cross overthrew their idols

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

I wonder what Eugene would write today if he were to situate his Nota Bene in our present world? The People of God, that glorious inheritance purchased by the Saviour at the cost of all his blood, continues in our days to be cruelly ravaged… Vatican II stressed that WE are that People of God…

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200 YEARS AGO:  THEIR AMBITION SHOULD EMBRACE THE WHOLE EARTH

Conscious of the fact that they are only 6 priests and 3 scholastic seminarians at the moment, Eugene’s enthusiasm cannot be contained – they have big dreams:

and even though,
because of their present small number and
the more urgent needs of the people around them,
they have to limit the scope of their zeal,
for the time being,
to the poor of our countryside and others,
their ambition should, in its holy aspirations,
embrace the vast expanse of the whole earth

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

Eugene’s daily encounters with the Savior in prayer, and his Bible-rooted spirituality filled him with the confidence to have big dreams: ‘There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32
He was described as having a heart as big as the world, and with his conviction he could visualize the mustard seed at growth from Aix en Provence – reaching today to all the countries of the world where the members of the Mazenodian family are present.

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200 YEARS AGO: NOTA BENE – A “WOW” MOMENT!

Eugene is enthralled by the wonder of our vocation. It is made in heaven and is an invitation to enter into the realm of heaven by giving us the charge of being nothing less than the co-operators of the Savior!

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 Savior’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


Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”    C. S. Lewis

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200 YEARS AGO: NOTA BENE –  WHAT MORE SUBLIME PURPOSE THAN THAT OF THEIR INSTITUTE!

What more sublime purpose than that of their Institute!

He restates, in different words, the three foundation pillars of our vocation that he had written in our defining Article one.

NOTA BENE – TAKE NOTE! Their founder is Jesus Christ, the very Son of God

The Congregation has its origin in the call of Jesus – he is the Founder. Each Missionary forms part of this body because of an awareness of a personal invitation from Jesus Christ.

NOTA BENE – TAKE NOTE! their first fathers are the Apostles.

We are called into community. But not just as any community, but as a community that follows the example of the apostles. More than following , it is an insertion into the Gospel community of Jesus and the apostles and first disciples. It is a continuation of that community.

NOTA BENE – TAKE NOTE! They are called to be the Savior’s co-workers, the co-redeemers of mankind

The third pillar is the mission: that of leading people to the same experience of salvation that the Missionaries were living. Thus the short definition of the Missionary is: “co-operator of the Savior” – nothing less than a co-redeemer!

NOTA BENE. What more sublime purpose than that of their Institute!

I feel quite breathless every time that I meditate on these words. If we live this reality in a convincing way, what a missionary light our vocation calls us to! If we really live these words in their fullness, what a difference we would make to the world… NOTA BENE – TAKE NOTE!

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200 YEARS AGO: NOTA BENE – TAKE NOTE!

Having reflected on the damage caused to the Church Eugene dipped his quill into the inkwell and launched into an impassioned reflection of the vocation of the Missionary. NOTA BENE, he writes: take note!

The text that follows is known to us as “The Preface” in the form in which we have received it.

Eugene aimed to counteract the ravage caused by bad priests by holding up the ideal of what the Oblate Missionary priest is

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

Here in a succinct manner is the kernel of the Missionary vocation for all who are inspired to live by Eugene’s dream.

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200 YEARS AGO: CONCERN FOR YOUTH

The monasteries had been pioneers of education in Europe, this it was this concern for the youth that also motivated Eugene in his youth ministry.

Article 3. Once again, that is why the members of this Society engage as well in instructing youth about their religious duties in order to turn them away from vice and dissipation and to render them fit to fulfill fittingly the obligations that religion and society can legitimately expect of them in the various social positions they are destined to fill

1818 Rule, Part One, Chapter One. The ends of the Institute, §2.  Missions, 78 (1951) p.13-14

With the fall of Napoleon, the monastic orders began to be restored, and the concern of Eugene was no longer necessary, except to learn from their example in their journey towards the ideal of the fullness of life in God.

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200 YEARS AGO: THE QUALITY OF THEIR LIVES AND SERVICE

It was not a question of rebuilding monasteries, but of a group of active apostolic missionaries who would carry in the quality of their lives and service something of the spirit of these ancient monastic Orders. Certainly the presence of the Trappist Brother Maur in Eugene’s life from 1812 to 1815 would have had a part to play in sharpening Eugene’s awareness of monastic life.

Article 2. That is why they will strive to reproduce in their persons the piety and fervor of the Religious Orders destroyed in France by the Revolution. Let them strive to become their successors in virtue just as they succeed to their ministry and to the most holy practices of their regular life such as the living of the evangelical counsels, love of solitude, a disregard for the honors of the world, remaining aloof from dissipation, the abhorrence of riches, the practice of mortification, public recitation of the Divine Office in common, ministry to the sick and so on.

1818 Rule, Part One, Chapter One. The ends of the Institute, §2.  Missions, 78 (1951) p.13-14

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200 YEARS AGO: KEEPING ALIVE THE IDEALS OF DESTROYED MONASTERIES

Around the year 415 AD John Cassian had established the first monastic complex in Western Europe in Marseille – a concept that was to inspire Benedict to do likewise in the following century. The Provençal Eugene would have been justly proud of this event and of the development and achievements of countless monasteries in France. Then the French Revolution destroyed all this.

It was in the context of this emptiness that Eugene wants his Missionaries to fill the vacuum, and so he stated as the second aim of the Society:

Article 1. The end of this association is also, as much as possible, to make up for the absence and loss of fine institutions which have disappeared since the Revolution and which have left a terrible gap of which religion is becoming daily more aware.

1818 Rule, Part One, Chapter One. The ends of the Institute, §2.  Missions, 78 (1951) p.13-14

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200 YEARS LATER: THE MOST DEPRIVED

Today, Eugene’s call on behalf of the “most deprived” continues to ring out to all the members of his Mazenodian family:

Where the Church is already established, our commitment is to those groups it touches least. Wherever we work, our mission is especially to those people whose condition cries out for salvation and for the hope which only Jesus Christ can fully bring. These are the poor with their many faces; we give them our preference.

CC&RR Constitution 5

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