PERSUADE THE PARTIES TO ACCEPT THE DECISIONS YOU GIVE AS MOTIVATED BY A SPIRIT OF IMPARTIALITY

Bishop Eugene de Mazenod, committed to be in Marseilles, nevertheless took great interest in the missionary work of each of his Oblate sons.

Continue this vocation with trust and courage, you see how the good Lord guides your steps and helps you.

Then he referred to the reconciliation ministry that the Oblates were doing in Corsica between the violently opposed factions. It was not sufficient to bring about reconciliation in words and emotions. It was necessary to provide each party with the opportunity to express their disputes (usually over property and power) and then to work together to a mutually agreed solution. The Oblates became neutral mediators to arbitrate a permanent settlement.

I certainly approve that you agree to be the arbitrators of the disputes that maintain discord between families. To this end, however, you need to acquire some knowledge of the laws that govern the subject. You will have to read the civil code because you have to be careful not to risk taking decisions that may be in conflict with the law. Equity does not always suffice.

You must act with much prudence in all the cases and persuade the parties as far as possible to accept willingly the decisions you give as motivated by a spirit of the most perfect impartiality.

Letter to Fr. Etienne Semeria, 10 November 1841, EO IX n 748

Eugene’s sentiments echoed those of Jesus, who  sent his disciples on difficult missions with these words: “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

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SURROUNDED BY ALL THESE BLOODTHIRSTY MEN WHO BECOME LIKE LAMBS AT YOUR CALL, THE DAGGERS FALLING FROM THEIR HANDS

Eugene de Mazenod was Superior General of the Oblates, while at the same time being Bishop of Marseilles. He thus had the overall responsibility for the missionary work of the Oblates and took a direct interest in all that they were doing. He rejoiced in their successes.

My dear Father Semeria, every time I receive your letter, I must begin with fervent thanks to God for all that he deigns to do through your ministry.

The Oblates had been on the island of Corsica for six years, in charge of the major seminary and preaching village missions. The island, at that time, was known for violent family feuds and bloodshed. They had just finished a mission in the town of Zicavo where they had managed to be peacemakers among the warring factions.

Zicavo CC BY-SA 3.0

This time I admit that we must even redouble our gratitude for the marvels of this beautiful mission of Zicavo: we have to shed tears of joy.

From here. I see you surrounded by all these bloodthirsty men who become like lambs at your call, the daggers falling from their hands: they forgive and embrace each other. Oh how beautiful this is! And this moving response: now that their arms, loaded as they were to kill their enemies, now that these latter no longer existed. it was only right that they be shot off in your honour. Yes, that is superb!

Letter to Fr. Etienne Semeria, 16 October 1841, EO IX n 741

Eugene’s joy is that of Jesus who had used the missionaries as His ministers of making God known and bringing about God’s reconciliation.

At that time Jesus said, I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:25-29)

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THE HAPPINESS OF FINDING MYSELF WITH PERSONS SO BELOVED

On a rare break with his mother and his sister’s family, Eugene described his impressions in glowing terms. The family gathering was to be the last with his nephew, Louis, who was terminally ill. Two of Louis’ sisters had died in their teens, and now he faced death at the age of 26. Only two of his siblings were to survive: Eugène and Césarie.

The Boisgelin Family chateau at St Martin de Pallières, Provence

We had community life at the chateau. It was inspiring to see around me so many Christian souls who joined the most amiable qualities to the charm of virtue.

Our good octogenarian mother, model of patriarchal customs, so exact in all her religious duties, reciting with my sister her daily Office with an admirable devotion and recollection; my sister, true angel of piety, a strong woman tested in the crucible of suffering and bearing with heroiccourage, which does not exclude deep feeling, the cruel loss of her children so worthy of our most bitter regrets.

My brother-in-law, is the most honorable man I know, who lacking only in what the Lord has granted through the prayers of his virtuous wife andall of ours, that is, practices the religion he had always honored with deepest respect.

What shall I say of my nephew Louis so holy, so spiritual, so accomplished and his brother Eugene who charmed everyone and has proven to all that the praise of Fr. Pillon, rector of the college of Brugelette, was rightly deserved.

As for Césarie, all who know her will agree with me when I say that she is as lovable as she is good, that her mind, her heart and her character make her a perfect subject.

The happiness of finding myself with persons so beloved was troubled and mingled with bitterness when considering the suffering of our poor Louis….

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 16 September 1841, EO XX

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THE HAPPINESS I FEEL WHEN I DISTRIBUTE THE BODY OF JESUS CHRIST TO ALL MY FAMILY

Eugene’s nephew, Louis Boisgelin, was studying to be a Jesuit priest and had fallen gravely ill. He would be the third of Eugene’s sister’s children to die young.

Louis had been sent home to rest for a while, and Eugene joined them for an 8-day break.

I cannot express the happiness I feel when I distribute the body of Jesus Christ to all my family. This is something divine; I always have difficulty holding back my tears, my heart is so full.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 14 September 1841, EO XX

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WE GROW OLDER ONE DAY AT A TIME, BUT THEN COMES THE ANNIVERSARY THAT REMINDS YOU THAT YOU ARE OLDER BY A YEAR

Eugene’s musings about his 60th birthday and age need no commentary today.

August 1: Nothing special today except that I finish my 59th year. This is how we approach the end almost without even noticing it. We grow older one day at a time, but then comes the anniversary that reminds you that you are older by a year, and each year the number grows and eventually surprises you because in this rapid progression nothing seemed changed, neither in the strength of the body nor in the mind.

If the mirror had been consulted, it could have called one’s attention to the irreparable ravages of the years, but I use this piece of furniture only to hastily get rid of an unwelcome beard; besides, the mirror shows you nearly as you were the day before and who is going to reflect on the more orless beauty, more or less freshness of one’s face. And so I fall into the sixties. It would almost be better not to know it, because it seems that is the end of life, and then where to find the courage to do something? It takes an effort of the will, powerfully stimulated by the grace of God.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 1 August 1841, EO XX

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IT IS PROVIDENCE WHICH ARRANGES MATTERS WITHOUT OUR HAVING THE LEAST HINT IN THE WORLD.

Hippolyte Guibert had been 14 years old and living near from the Missionaries of Provence when they were founded in 1816 in Aix. For seven years he observed their zeal and finally, at the age of 21, he felt called by God to join them. In 1823 he made his perpetual oblation.

Guibert was a highly talented person, but always remained humble. Eugene recognized his qualities and gave him several positions of leadership, notably superior of the community in Laus and then as rector of the major seminary in Corsica.

The French Church and the Government also noticed his qualities and in 1841 appointed this 39-year-old Oblate as Bishop of the city of Viviers. (He was later to become Archbishop of Paris and the first OMI Cardinal – but that story is for later)

The government wants to appoint Fr. Guibert a bishop. I’m not surprised.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 20 July 1841, EO XX

The Oblates in France had already been depleted by the six missionaries sent to Canada, and now one of the most gifted Oblates was also being removed from the work-force. Eugene confided to Father Courtès:

To complicate further our quandary, look how our Father Guibert has just been taken away. There is no denying the advantages of this nomination in several respects but it overwhelms me in the present situation. I would willingly have seen him named to Gap two years ago — the reason is obvious — but at Viviers, and at this time, I am stunned.  However, I could not oppose the plans of Providence. It is Providence which arranges matters without our having the least hint in the world. It will come to our help.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 11 August 1841, EO I n 3

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ORAISON WILL BE YOUR RICH MINE AND THE DAILY EXAMENS WILL SERVE YOU AS BEACON, MIRROR, COMPASS AND AS SPUR

Eugene de Mazenod’s appointment of Father Joseph Vincens as novice master had caused the young man to be afraid of not being capable of coping with the responsibility. Eugene’s advice to him can be applied by us in so many difficult situations that we face. He wrote:

to tell you that in the new job entrusted to you, you must place all your confidence in God and to convince you that with his help you will succeed as well as or even better than anyone else.

Oraison will be your rich mine and the daily examens will serve you as beacon, mirror, compass and as spur too, if necessary.

Proceed. therefore, with confidence and like Saint Ignatius tell yourself: Vincens alone can do nothing. Vincens and God can do everything.

Letter to Joseph Vincens, 17 July 1841, EO IX n 734

Oraison was the daily prayer in which the missionaries prayed in communion with one another. It was like a goldmine providing spiritual riches to all. It is the prayer that the US Mazenodian Family is encouraging each month for its members (see: https://sites.google.com/view/mazenodianfamily/monthly-oraison )

The examen is the beautiful prayer made known by St Ignatius (see https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen )

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Why Do We Refer to February 17th as “Oblate Day”

Thanks, Father Salvador, for this presentation! Happy Feast-day to all the members of the Mazenodian Family.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?fbclid=IwAR1soOCuQwsuDm0c9uf4hxO5VbrWpiHdK9pTiSSB9-W6mFouRd2ZS1m-j-I&v=AfKwo18A_Fw&feature=youtu.be

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17 FEBRUARY 1826: THE CHURCH RECOGNIZES THAT EUGENE’S MISSIONARY FAMILY IS A GOD-GIVEN CHARISM FOR US TODAY

Eugene shared the wonderful news from Rome with his Oblate family in France:

My dear brothers, on February 17, 1826, yesterday evening, the Sovereign Pontiff Leo XII confirmed the decision of the congregation of Cardinals and specifically approved the Institute, the Rules and Constitutions of the Missionary Oblates of the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary, and accompanied this solemn act of his pontifical power, with most admiring words for those who happily form this Society from which the head of the Church indeed expects the greatest good.

Everyone is stupefied at this. Even those called upon to contribute with their votes to the execution of the very emphatic will of the Pope, are surprised by the unanimous agreement of views and especially with the imperturbable resolution of the Holy Father, whom nothing has been able to deter from the first thought with which the Holy Spirit inspired him on the first day that I knelt at his feet and presented to him the plan of this enterprise which now we can call divine…

The conclusion to be drawn from this, my dear friends and good brothers, is: we must work, with renewed ardour and still more total devotedness, to bring to God all the glory that stems from our efforts and, to the needy souls of our neighbours, salvation in all possible ways; we must attach ourselves heart and soul to our Rules and practice [more] exactly what they prescribe to us…
… In the name of God, let us be saints.

Letter to the Oblates, 18 February 1826, EO VII, n. 226

This blessing has continued to bear fruit for 195 years. Our last General Chapter witnessed this:

“On October 7, 2016, at the gathering of Chapter members with the Holy Father, the message he delivered and his presence with us created a holy encounter. We experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Everyone was filled with immense love for the Congregation and with hope and joy for our future. That visit with Pope Francis made me relive the words our Founder penned on August 15, 1822 referring to “…our dear Society. It seemed to me that what I saw, what I could put my finger on, was that within her lies hidden the germ of very great virtues, and that she can achieve infinite good; I found her worthy, everything pleased me about her, I cherished her rules, her statutes; her ministry seemed sublime to me, as it is indeed. I found in her bosom sure means of salvation, even infallible, such is how they looked to me” (Selected Texts p. 119). These words of Saint Eugene bless us today.”

Father Louis Lougen OMI, Superior General

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195 YEARS LATER: THE SPIRIT SPEAKS TO US IN THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES OF THIS PANDEMIC AND ENRICHES OUR MISSIONARY LIVES

The Letter of Superior General to the Congregation on the Anniversary of the Papal Approval of the Constitutions and Rules – February 17, 2021

The pandemic is helping us see more clearly what is essential in life. The Spirit speaks to us in the signs of the times of this pandemic and enriches our missionary lives.

·       –  Our faith is deepened as we affirm God is right alongside us in this mess. We know that, with God, all things work together for the good of those who love Him. Nothing is outside of God’s creative ability to bring good from it. We believe this and we renew our oblation to live for the Reign of God.
·       –  The pandemic has made us aware of our common vulnerability. No sector of humanity, no state, no global corporation controls the world. Armies do not regulate borders as the virus travels around the world. St. Eugene knew the wisdom and power of the cross. With courage and humility, we embrace our vulnerability and we gain wisdom and strength.
·       –  The pandemic, with its isolation and distancing, has provided the opportunity to draw closer together. Both in religious traditions and secular life, we have discovered a new sense of solidarity and care for one another. The pandemic has reminded us that our missionary life must be based on apostolic community accompanied by prayer and the vowed life. Already in 1816, when Fr. De Mazenod called together Fr. Tempier and his other companions, he was convinced of this.
·       –  We have to ask ourselves whether we too are caught up in the conversation around ‘returning to normal,’ or the ‘new normal,’ etc. This ignores the reality that the majority of the people in the world have never experienced the concept of ‘normal’ being spoken of. The peo- ple we serve around the globe live without water, without the mini- mum of necessary food, without medical care, etc. The pandemic must open the eyes of the world to the great injustice that the majority of earth’s people never have enjoyed a so-called ‘normal’ life.
·       –  The pandemic has helped us become more aware that consumerism and materialism generate poverty and destroy the environment. These idols of society must be exchanged for a concern for the common good, expressed in caring for the poor and for our common home.

Father Louis Lougen OMI
Superior General

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