One of the powerful ceremonies of each mission was the penitential procession carried out very dramatically in order to convey an unforgettable life-changing message: “by his wounds you have been healed.”
I repeat, it is the norm that the superior carry the cross during the penitential procession, after he has given a short exhortation from the pulpit to prepare the people for this public act of reparation.
This is no entertainment, but an act very much in conformity with the spirit of the Church and perfectly suited to the occasion. The superior has just preached to a people that has gone astray. He gives them the hope of pardon.
Reparation, however, is necessary. He takes on himself the sins of the people, in imitation of Jesus Christ whom he represents in their midst, … he offers himself to God as a victim.
Letter to Bruno Guigues, 5 November 1877, EO IX n 652
The Oblate invited the people to load their sins on him and to see him carrying them away – reenacting the message of Jesus.
I Peter 2: 24-25:“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”
(See also the entry http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=492 and the following few entries)
The central mission of each Oblate community was the preaching of missions in the Provençal language. Since 1816, the format of these missions had been unchanged.
Eugene reminds the Oblates of the highlights of each mission. Every ceremony was meant to have a dramatic attention-grabbing quality through which a Gospel message could be proclaimed, understood and become a moment of encounter with God. These tangible signs and actions show the continuity between the approach and preaching of Jesus continued by his disciples over the centuries.
What is prescribed in the Rule as for example:
- the entry of missionaries into a place they are going to evangelize…
- consecration to the Blessed Virgin,
- renewal of baptismal promises,
- tpromulgation of the commadments,
- procession of the Blessed Sacrament,
- funeral service and the instruction after the Gospel of the Requiem High Mass
- procession and absolution at the cemetery,
- the penitential procession,
- the act of contrition…
- the general Communion
are obligatory in all the missions.
Letter to Bruno Guigues, 5 November 1877, EO IX n 652
For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God… as it is written,“Those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand.” (Romans 15: 18-21)
I have dealt with these in detail in earlier entries, from http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=591 to http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=836
“Confirmation at the La Charité home. A great number of children were presented to me to receive this sacrament”
La Vieille Charité, Marseille
Always close to the people, especially the poor in this almshouse of Marseilles “for the vagrants and the homeless,” Eugene narrates that he preached in the Provençal language for an hour and-a-half!
I would have stopped sooner, if I had noticed that the listeners were not attentive, but old and young were inhaling my words, so to say, that is why I continued. That is what happens wherever I go.
Oh! how much do I thank the Lord for knowing how to speak the language of those I must instruct, and who listen to me because they understand me. I would not change my approach for all the gold in the world; my conviction has no need of the witness that I perceive every day as to the excellence of that method.
Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 26 September 1837, EO XVIII
“As Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34)
Eugene recalls the death of a 28-year old Missionary Oblate as a result of typhus
We just held the anniversary service for our Father Pons… Here we put feeling into what we were doing, and it was easy to recognize that it was heartfelt. That is how we should pray, especially as we should for the brothers whom we have so many reasons to remember, and to whom we want to witness that the memory of their virtues is still alive in the Congregation, which they have edified so much and served so well during their too-short lives.
This dear Father Pons was only 28 years old when he was taken from us, or rather, when God called him to himself. How much good had he already done in so few years.
Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 18 September 1837, EO XVIII
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.” (Hebrews 13:7-17)
This adventure of exploring Eugene’s writings in chronological order began 10 years ago on 1 May 2010. Since then, 2295 entries have been published. I just cannot believe that this has all happened! And, Eleanor Rabnett has faithfully written her own much-appreciated daily response to most of them!!
Its aim has been to accompany people to get to know the wealth of the life and teachings of St Eugene de Mazenod through direct contact with his writings. He dedicated his life to loving the Savior, and to making him known – it is my hope for these daily reflections too.
The second purpose of this service is to make the writings available online. The homepage has a search engine (http://www.eugenedemazenod.net), where you can insert a word or a concept for research and find all the relevant texts connected with that.
There are 2295 entries which are filled with the various themes of Mazenodian family history, spiritualty, and mission. Many themes have been explored at length:
among many others.
So the invitation continues to use the search facility on the homepage (http://www.eugenedemazenod.net) to explore all this wealth of the Mazenodian Family.
We paused our journey with St Eugene in 1837 to meditate on a more focused response with Eugene to the Covid pandemic, especially at the beginning where there was not much spiritual support material available online. That aim has been accomplished, so tomorrow we pick up the chronological journey with St Eugene again.
“Do you love me?” (John 21:16
“After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them” is the beginning of today’s Gospel (John 21:15-19). Throughout Lent and the Easter season Jesus has been “eating breakfast” with us and nourishing us through the long days of isolation and learning to cope with a new reality. Each day he has asked us “Do you love me?” and has reminded us to care for his sheep.
Today in the universal Church we celebrate the feast of Pope Saint Paul VI who beatified Eugene de Mazenod and summed him up as:
“Eugene de Mazenod was a man passionately in love with Jesus Christ and unconditionally committed to the Church.”
Eugene was able to be this only because of his intimate love for Jesus his Savior, with whom he “ate breakfast” every day as he cared for his sheep.
In the Mazenodian world we celebrate today the feast of Blessed Joseph Gerard OMI.
Surrounded by hardship and failure, he too continued to care for the sheep in Southern Africa because he “ate breakfast” every day with Jesus whom he loved and whose love he shared.
“Do you love me?” is the question Jesus asks me today as he “eats breakfast” with me – and then he says “look after my sheep who are all around you.”
(For further details on Blessed Joseph Gerard see http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=3699)
“I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.” (John 17:26)
With today’s Gospel (John 17:20-26) we conclude the prayer of Jesus at the last Supper in which he prayed for his disciples who were present and for all his future disciples – us. It is a comforting promise that with Jesus in us we share in the love of the Trinity.
As we continue to cope with the effects of the pandemic and our steps to re-adjust, we have the assurance that we are never alone.
For the Mazenodian Family, tomorrow is the feast of Blessed Joseph Gerard OMI. In his long and difficult missionary life in Southern Africa he was constantly sustained by God’s enduring love for him. The love with which he was loved is the love with which he loved all those he encountered each day. At the end of his long life he testified:
There is a secret to be loved, it is to love. Also, for the Basotho, the Matebele, even the unbelievers, in seeing them we can ask ourselves what to do to convert them?
The answer is on every page of the Gospel: we must love them, love them in spite of everything, love them always. The good God has wanted that we do good to a person in loving that person. The world belongs to the person who loves it most and proves it.” (Blessed Joseph Gerard)
In the past months we have seen and experienced countless heroic examples of this love being expressed throughout the world.
“As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”(John 17:18-19)
Jesus concluded his Last Supper discourse with a beautiful prayer showing the level of his unity with his Father. In today’s Gospel (John 17:11b-19) he prays for all his disciples – for each of us – that we might experience this unity too because we are his presence and his instruments in our world. we are this because we have been consecrated in baptism, sealed in confirmation, nourished in the Word and Eucharist, and healed every time we have failed. We are the presence and the instruments of Jesus our Savior in today’s world
During this week the Mazenodian Family is praying for vocations. A good place to begin is by becoming more aware of how we were transformed at our baptism and its ongoing consequences in our daily lives.
St Eugene calls out to us:
“Christians, know then your dignity, with St. Leo I will call you sharers in the divine nature”
and the words he addressed to the poor of Aix apply equally to each of us whether we are covered in rags or not:
Lift yourselves towards heaven where your minds should be set, conversatio vestra in caelo (Phil. 3:20), let your eyes see for once beneath the rags that cover you, there is within you an immortal soul made in the image of God whom it is destined to possess one day, a soul ransomed at the price of the blood of Jesus Christ, more precious in the eyes of God than all earth’s riches, than all the kingdoms of the earth, a soul of which he is more jealous than of the government of the entire universe.
“Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” (John 17:3)
For many days we have been meditating on the Last Supper farewell discourse of Jesus to his disciples. Today’s Gospel (John 17:1-11a) has Jesus praying for each of us, and summing up the purpose of his incarnation: to know God so that we know the fullness of life that will never be taken away from us. It is eternal from the moment of our baptism in this earthly life, actualized in our adult encounter with Jesus and will be fulfilled for all eternity.
To “know” in the Scriptures does not refer to intellectual knowledge, but to an intimate relationship of communion. It does not happen automatically, but is a never-ending process of ongoing formation in communion. The spirit of St Eugene is well portrayed in this article from our Oblate Rule, which applies to everyone:
“Formation is a process which aims at the integral growth of a person and lasts a lifetime. It enables us to accept ourselves as we are and develop into the persons we are called to be. Formation involves us in an ever-renewed conversion to the Gospel and a readiness to learn and to change in response to new demands.” (C 47)
The pandemic has challenged us this year to refocus our understanding and expression of our relationship with God and the eternal life that we already have – but it involves a commitment to ever-renewed daily conversion. It is a process where we need community support – which is why the Church exists – and the Mazenodian Family is one of its expressions.
I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. (John 16:33)
The disciples are about to be scattered and Jesus is preparing them for this in today’s Gospel (John 16:29-33). Ever since the Ascension, the disciples of Jesus have been spread all over the world. The promise of Jesus assures us that we are never left abandoned. In his resurrection he has proved that he has overcome all the powers of the world, and that this is true for us.
This week we prepare to celebrate the feast of an Oblate missionary, Blessed Joseph Gerard, who had been sent to Southern Africa at the age of 24. Despite his dedication and hard work, after eight years he had nothing to show for his labors. Not a single Zulu person was converted to Jesus Christ. In the spirit of the confidence of today’s Gospel, Eugene wrote to him in 1860:
After so many years not a single conversion; it is awful!
You must not lose heart because of it. The time will come when the merciful grace of God will produce a sort of explosion and your African Church will be formed. You ought perhaps to penetrate deeper inland among other tribes in order to bring this about. (4 September 1860)
Joseph Gerard was encouraged and persevered and his efforts bore abundant fruit, which have lasted till today.
Today St Eugene continues to say to us: “Do not lose heart!”
In the spirit of the confidence of today’s Gospel, let us not lose heart – let us have courage because the Risen Savior has overcome the world, and that is true for us.