NEVER COME DOWN FROM THE PULPIT WITHOUT HAVING AROUSED HEARTS TO CONTRITION AND LOVE

Eugene continues his advice to Fr. Mille while he accompanies the Archbishop of Aix and preaches in his place.

In the morning, prior to the ceremonies, I think you will be asked to give a brief instruction on the Sacrament of Confirmation the children will be receiving. Watch that you are not too long, include many things in a few words. Never come down from the pulpit without having aroused hearts to contrition and love.
In the villages, make the Bishop understand the usefulness of speaking the local language.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille, 21 April 1837, EO IX n 614

What a difference to the Church this would make if more preachers put this into practice!

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THE BISHOP AS CHIEF SHEPHERD

The Archbishop of Aix was in temporary poor health and needed someone to accompany him on his pastoral visits throughout the Archdiocese of Aix, and to preach on his behalf. Eugene appointed Oblate Father Mille to this important mission.

I would now like to give you some instructions. First of all, you must remember that you have been called to be the instrument of the chief Pastor during his pastoral visit. Consequently, you must be imbued with the importance of this ministry’s greatness.

Bearing in mind that Eugene had been a bishop for 5 years, and had just been appointed to have the responsibility of the Diocese of Marseilles, the advice that he gives to Fr Mille reflects his own pastoral approach. The list is a mirror of Eugene’s own episcopal ministry:

I don’t have to tell you that you must stress the sublimity of the grace and all the blessings the Lord dispenses during the presence of a Bishop visiting his flock
to instruct them,
correct them,
console them
and impart the Holy Spirit to those who have not yet received him,
to arouse repentance in the hearts of those who have lost it;
to recall to the knowledge and practice of God’s holy law and the Church’s precepts;
to inflame the charity of this good Mother Church even for those who are dead, since the Bishop comes to pray for their souls in every place of his jurisdiction.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille, 21 April 1837, EO IX n 614

We will recognize all this put into practice by Eugene himself during the next two decades as Bishop of Marseilles.

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ST EUGENE SPEAKS FOR THE 2186th TIME – WHY THIS DAILY REFLECTION?

Dear Reader,
Since May 2010, there have been 2185 entries in English on this site. Each of these has been translated into Spanish, French and Polish. Dedicating an hour a day each weekday to make this possible has become an integral part of my life. Why?

1/ To invite you to know Saint Eugene de Mazenod through his writings

I have been presenting his writings in chronological order with a brief commentary. Admittedly, the commentary is personal, but I hope that some find it helpful

2/ To be able to search for specific words and concepts online

By using the search engine on the homepage (http://www.eugenedemazenod.net ) you are able to find specific words and concepts in these writings.

3/ To offer you the opportunity to reflect on your personal faith journey

Eugene was a very imperfect person with many faults. Because of these, and despite these, he worked at getting to know Jesus Christ more deeply each day and struggled to be a disciple and an evangelizer. He was indeed a “wounded healer” whom God used as an instrument. Eugene was not born a saint, yet he became one. His writings can help us in our own struggle.

4/ To make Eugene’s message of Jesus Christ as Savior and Evangelizer available to as many people as possible.

The writings are presented in chronological order. Consequently, not all the reflections appeal to everyone at the same time. I am conscious of this, but when the particular theme does not say anything to you, there are 2185 previous entries that you can browse through to find one that appeals more to you.

WHERE ARE WE ON THE JOURNEY?

We are currently exploring a selection of his writings of 1837. Eugene had been Superior General of the Oblates since 1816 and his letters reflect his concern for and guidance of the Missionaries. In 1837 he was appointed Bishop of Marseilles and began to write a personal diary in which he reflects on his activities on both roles on a daily basis.

The first one to benefit from these daily reflections is myself. I hope that by my sharing them you will also find some benefit.

Frank Santucci OMI

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ORAISON: PRAYING WITH THE MAZENODIAN FAMILY IN JANUARY

“In the prolonged silent prayer we make each day, we let ourselves be molded by the Lord, and find in him the inspiration of our conduct” (OMI Rule of Life, 33). 

The practice of Oraison was an important part of St. Eugene’s daily prayer during which he entered into communion with the members of his missionary family. While they were all in France it was easy for them to gather in prayer at approximately the same time. When Oblate missionaries started to be sent to different continents it was no longer possible to pray at the same time, yet each day there was a time when they stopped and prayed in union with one another – even though not at the same time.

This is a practice that Eugene wanted the members of his religious family to maintain. This is why you are invited to take part in this practice of Oraison on Sunday, January 19, 2020, as we remember the anniversary of the founding of the Oblates (at that time known as the Missionaries of Provence) on January 25th.

The all-important first day of community life for the Missionaries was obviously a story often repeated in all its details. In his Memoires, Father Tempier, described it as: “This memorable day that I will never forget for as long as I live.” He narrates the story of the beginning of their religious family, and draws a conclusion linked with the vow of poverty and the call to simplicity.

Letter to Jean-Baptiste Mille and the novices and scholastics, 24 January 1831, EO VIII n. 383:

Tomorrow I celebrate the anniversary of the day, sixteen years ago, I left my mother’s house to go and set up house at the Mission. Father Tempier had taken possession of it some days before. Our lodging had none of the splendor of the mansion at Billens, and whatever deprivations you may be subject to, ours were greater still. My camp-bed was placed in the small passageway which leads to the library: it was then a large room used as a bedroom for Father Tempier and for one other whose name we no longer mention amongst us. It was also our community room. One lamp was all our lighting and, when it was time for bed, it was placed in the doorway to give light to all three of us.
The table that adorned our refectory was one plank laid alongside another, on top of two old barrels. We have never enjoyed the blessing of such poverty since the time we took the vow. Without question, it was a foreshadowing of the state of perfection that we now live so imperfectly. I highlight this wholly voluntary deprivation deliberately (it would have been easy to put a stop to it and to have everything that was needed brought from my mother’s house) so as to draw the lesson that God in his goodness was directing us even then, and really without us having yet given it a thought, towards the evangelical counsels which we were to profess later on. It is through experiencing them that we learnt their value.
I assure you we lost none of our merriment; on the contrary, as this new way of life was in quite striking contrast with that we had just left, we often found ourselves having a hearty laugh over it. I owed this tribute to the memory of our first day of common life. How happy I would be to live it now with you!

Some texts to aid us in our prayerful reflection:  

Acts 4:32-33:
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all.

Matthew 28: 19-20:
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

Article 3 of the OMI Constitutions and Rules applies to the whole Mazenodian Family:

The community of the Apostles with Jesus is the model of our life. Our Lord grouped the Twelve around him to be his companions and to be sent out as his messengers (cf.    Mk    3:14). The    call and the presence of the Lord among us today bind us together in charity and obedience to create anew in our own lives the Apostles’ unity with him and their common mission in his Spirit.

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A BLESSED NEW YEAR TO YOU

These daily reflections will resume on Monday January 20

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ORAISON: PRAYING WITH THE MAZENODIAN FAMILY

“In the prolonged silent prayer we make each day, we let ourselves be molded by the Lord, and find in him the inspiration of our conduct” (OMI Rule of Life, 33).

The practice of Oraison was an important part of St. Eugene’s daily prayer during which he entered into communion with the members of his missionary family. While they were all in France it was easy for them to gather in prayer at approximately the same time. When Oblate missionaries started to be sent to different continents it was no longer possible to pray at the same time, yet each day there was a time when they stopped and prayed in union with one another – even though not at the same time.

This is a practice that Eugene wanted the members of his religious family to maintain. We are inviting you to practice this prayer time on Sunday December 15. (See: https://www.omiusa.org/index.php/2019/12/02/31322/ )

Just choose a time for personal prayer wherever you like, and consciously unite yourself with all the members of the Mazenodian Family in praying for one another

ORAISON: COMMUNION WITH OUR LOVED ONES IN PRAYER

“Because God predestined me to be the father of a large family in his Church, he gave me a heart of such a quality that it is capable of enfolding all my children, of giving to each one that degree of affection and true love which is his due. But I would need a hundred hands were I to correspond as I would like with all who give me a testimony of their attachment. I find myself reduced to concerning myself with them copiously before the Lord, either by daily offering the holy Sacrifice for them or by praying for them each day during my oraison before the Blessed Sacrament. I give them all a kind of rendezvous in the adorable Heart of our divine Saviour. Giving thanks and asking new blessings for them is an obligatory concern in my humble and grateful conversation with our Lord in this holy exercise.”

To Father Charles Baret, January 4, 1856.

“You could not believe how much I think in the presence of God of our dear Red River missionaries. I have only one way of drawing near to them, and that is in front of the Blessed Sacrament, where I seem to see you and to touch you. And you for your part must often be in His presence. It is thus that we meet each other in that living centre which serves as our means of communication.”

 To Fr. Lacombe, March 6, 1857.

“You know that you are always present in my thoughts, in the morning at the sacrifice of the Mass and in the evening at the audience that our divine Master gives us when we come to pay him our respects at oraison which is made in his presence before his holy tabernacle. I recall it to your mind, my dear child, so that you meet with me at this rendezvous. This is the only way of reducing distances, to be at the same moment in our Lord’s presence, it is so to speak like being side by side. We do not see each other, but we sense each other’s presence, hear each other, lose ourselves in one and the same central point.”       

To Fr. de l’Hermite, January 10, 1852.

“It is a great consolation to have a common center where we meet every day. What a delicious rendezvous is that altar on which the holy victim is offered, and that tabernacle to which one comes every day to adore Jesus Christ and speak with him of everything that concerns us. I speak to him of you in the outpouring of my heart; I speak to him of all the other children his goodness has given me…” 

To Fr. Végreville March 25, 1857.

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WITH MARY IMMACULATE DURING OUR PAUSE

As these reflections will pause until 13 January, I wish each of you a Happy Feastday for December 8, a fruitful Advent and all the blessings of Christmas.

We ask Mary Immaculate to accompany us during this period:

Mary Immaculate is patroness of our Congregation. Open to the Spirit, she consecrated herself totally as lowly handmaid to the person and work of the Savior.

She received Christ in order to share him with all the world, whose hope he is. In her, we recognize the model of the Church’s faith and of our own.

We shall always look on her as our mother.
In the joys and sorrows of our missionary life, we feel close to her who is the Mother of Mercy.
Wherever our ministry takes us, we will strive to instil genuine devotion to the Immaculate Virgin who prefigures God’s final victory over all evil. (OMI Rule of Life,  CC&RR Constitution 10)

During our pause I invite you to consult the 2188 reflections on this website which have been published over the past 9 years (hard to believe that it has been this long!) and to use the website’s “search” engine to look up themes – http://www.eugenedemazenod.net

I also encourage you to consult the OMIWORLD website for some daily reflections: https://www.omiworld.org/daily-inspirations/ 

You may wish to read the actual writings of St Eugene online. You can find these in chronological order at http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?page_id=2362

I wish you a Blessed Christmas and every blessing during 2020.

Frank Santucci OMI

Kusenberger Chair of Oblate Studies,

Oblate School of Theology, San Antonio, Texas.

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THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION – THE OBLATE MADONNA

We go back to 1822. In the midst of all his concerns for the survival of his newly-founded Missionary family, Eugene celebrated the feast of the Assumption. It was a day which was to leave a permanent impression on the history of our Mazenodian family. Achille Rey, who knew Eugene well, wrote in his biography:

August 15 1822 witnessed a feast in the Church of the mission of Aix. Fr. de Mazenod blessed, in the presence of a large gathering of his youth congregants and of other pious faithful, a statue of the Most Holy Virgin, under the title of the Immaculate Conception. It is to this same statue that he came for long and frequent prayers: it has become one of the most precious souvenirs of the origins of the family. (Rey I, p. 280)

Eugene’s letters of 1822 have shown the many concerns and difficulties he was experiencing. Not least among these was his worry about the survival and future of his small group of Missionaries. It was in this spirit that he blessed the new statue in the chapel, which became the opportunity for a powerful life-giving insight. He immediately wrote to Henri Tempier, who was in Laus.

I believe I owe to her also a special experience that I felt today; I will not go so far as to say more than ever, but certainly more than usual.

Eugene was usually very reticent about describing his deep spiritual experiences. His “more than usual” experience was connected with the life of the Missionaries of Provence, who were experiencing external difficulties and whose future existence was in the balance.

I cannot describe it too well because it covered several things, but all related to a single object, our dear Society.

He then described the confirmation that he received that the foundation of the Missionaries had come from God and that God assured him of a solid future for this group.

It seemed to me that what I saw, what I could put my finger on, was 
that within it lies hidden the seed of very great virtues,
and that it can achieve infinite good;
I found it worthy,
everything pleased me about it,
I appreciated its rules, its statutes;
its ministry seemed awe-inspiring to me, as it is indeed.
As I looked at the Society I found in it a sure, even infallible, means of salvation.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 15 August 1822, EO VI n 86

This was the grace that the Oblate Madonna had obtained for Eugene: a God-given assurance that he was on the right track and that he needed to persevere despite all the external storms raging around him that seemed to threaten the existence of the Missionaries.

Two hundred years later we continue to reap the harvest of this boost of confidence which our Oblate Madonna “smiled” on us.

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THE WILL OF GOD IS MANIFESTED IN A WAY THAT CANNOT BE MISTAKEN. AND I FIND MYSELF IN A POSITION OF NOT BEING ABLE TO REFUSE

Eugene would have liked to have dedicated the rest of his life to serving only the Oblates, but this was not God’s plan for him. 

How often I have counted the blessings I would enjoy eventually in the solitude of one of our houses, should the Lord have called my uncle to himself before my own death! …And now here today all this future happiness vanishes. I must submit to this yoke that I have done everything to avoid. The will of God is manifested in a way that cannot be mistaken. And I find myself in a position of not being able to refuse. No one would want to pay heed to the purely personal considerations I would like to be heard.

He now lists five reasons why it is important that he obey God’s will as shown in his nomination as Bishop of Marseilles:

    • The conservation of the Diocese of Marseilles assured after so many and such violent attacks to eliminate it from the list of dioceses.
    • The involvement of my venerable uncle, bound by a solid initiative  jeopardised inspired in his beautiful soul by considerations of heroic perfection, and confident of my obedience which he has every right to require of me.
    • The interests of all the diocesan foundations, a large number of which have only just been launched, and responsibility for which falls on us.
    • The good of our Congregation to which it is so important to have a Bishop of the Church of France as protector and anchor.
    • Finally the unanimous wish of all who are entitled to my trust. 
It took nothing less than all these powerful reasons to bring about my consent that I have given as if by necessity, with resignation, without hiding from myself the enormity of the responsibility, but also with the will, genuinely sincere I think, to fulfil it as well as I possibly can.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 9 April 1837, EO XVIII

We can learn from this example of discernment. When faced with a decision it is very helpful process to be able to write down all the reasons for and against.

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FOR MYSELF, I AM BEWILDERED WHEN I REFLECT ON IT AND HAVE TO SUMMON UP MY INEXHAUSTIBLE TRUST IN GOD’S GOODNESS

Eugene had been happy to be of service to the diocese and to his uncle in an auxiliary role. He had looked forward to retiring from Marseilles to devote himself more fully to the Oblate Congregation once his 87-year-old uncle retired or died.

There’s no doubt about it, my dear friend, it was to get you to pray for me more zealously that our Father Courtès gave you the news of an event that makes me feel so sad. My lovely Icosia was not weighing on me at all. With the episcopal character I could perform genuine services, even bear a portion of my good neighbours’ burden, but I was exempt from every responsibility, I was free and I could count on the rest to which I feel so strong an attraction, when the time came that I hoped was still far distant but which would eventually occur, unless I were the first to die.

Unburdening himself to his medical doctor and friend, Eugene reflected on the nature of the responsibility that was now given to him for the rest of his life:

Now here I am, doomed to die in harness and this terrible responsibility that I have always so feared, here it is ready to shatter me; for I am far from putting a diocese on a par with a prefecture. The role, rather the burden of the pastor is frightening in the eyes of faith.
And the first pastor, in virtue of his institution, is pastor by divine law for the whole of his diocese! How can one deceive oneself that nothing is suffering through his fault in so vast a field, how can one make a promise always to do what one can to acquit oneself of so immense a duty?
For myself, I am bewildered when I reflect on it and have to summon up my inexhaustible trust in God’s goodness, in the help of the prayers of the just who still bother themselves about me, in the protection of the saints who have found themselves in the same crisis as myself, to win a little respite.

It was a responsibility that Eugene would fulfil with total dedication and much success for the following 25 years.

Thank you, dear friend, for all that your good heart inspired you to say so kindly to me on this topic; I would like to merit your praises, but, apart from my goodwill, there is precious little else.

Letter to Doctor M. d’Astros, 16 April 1837, EO XV n 183

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