Before Eugene began his retreat, a more intense time dedicated to prayer, he made a number of resolutions to ensure the success of this time of solitude in the presence of God.
Praised be Jesus Christ, and Mary Immaculate
This is what I have to do in this retreat:
1. Isolate myself totally from my ordinary tasks, not want to hear a word about them whatever may happen.
2. See no one from outside who may even simply remind me of them.
Retreat resolutions, October 1831, EO XV n 162
The first two resolutions are conditions for a successful retreat. If it is a time dedicated to be with God, then it is essential to cut off from everyday concerns and anything that reminds us of them. This does not mean that we don’t pray about these concerns, but the retreat is not a time to dwell on them and solve problems.
The same advice applies to our moments of daily prayer, whether they be 5 or 60 minutes in duration: we need to switch off to allow ourselves to be with God.
Eugene had lived a very difficult couple of years due to his illness, which necessitated a long recovery. As he was recovering, he was then battered by the political events and persecution caused by the July 1830 Revolution and the anti-religious stance of the new government. At the end of 1831 there was now the danger of a cholera epidemic about to reach the port of Marseilles. He was willing to endanger his life, if necessary, to work for the salvation of the victims – just as he had done in 1814. In order to have the courage to imitate the oblation of Jesus for the salvation of others, he went on a retreat to pray for the graces he needed to be an Oblate for the sake of those most in need.
… today I started a retreat, impelled by the need for recollection and the desire to prepare myself for death in case the cholera requires me to devote myself to the salvation of those of my brothers who will be struck down by it. I take the liberty to recommend myself to your prayers to gain from God the graces I need…
Letter to Count de Montalembert, 24 October 1831, EO XIII n 78
We have the notes of this retreat, and I will be using them for our daily reflections in these coming days.
During our pause I invite you to consult the many reflections on this website which have been published since 2010.
I also invite you to consult the actual writings of St Eugene online.
You can find theses in chronological order at http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?page_id=2362
Thanks to the generous work of many, this chronological version is now available (98% complete).
On our OMIWORLD site you will also find the volumes in digital form, as they were originally published in book form: https://www.omiworld.org/our-charism/founder/writings/
As these refections will pause for the month of December, 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 :
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
I encourage you to consult the OMIWORLD website for some daily reflections: https://www.omiworld.org/daily-inspirations/
Eugene became a priest as a response to his awareness of God’s indescribable love for him. Here, in his retreat in preparation for his priestly ordination he prays to be able to make his priestly ministry a response of total love:
My God, double, triple, increase my strength a hundredfold that I may love you, not merely as much as I can, that is nothing, but that I love you as much as did the saints, as much as your holy Mother loved and loves you.
Notes made during the retreat in preparation for ordination to the priesthood,
December 1811, EO XIV n. 95
In Mary, the new priest saw a model to imitate to learn to love God and be an example to him of a total giving of self through his ministry.
The Sulpicians were vigilant to see that every priest whom they trained could say: “I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Mary was given to them as a model of this attitude since Christ lived in her in the fullest sense of the word.
Casimir Lubowicki, “Mary” in the Dictionary of Oblate Values, https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/mary/
Eugene wanted this prayer to be prayed each day by the Oblates, and it has become a part of our spiritual tradition:
O Jesus, living in Mary,
come and live in your servants,
in the spirit of your holiness,
in the fullness of your power,
in the perfection of your ways,
in the truth of your virtues,
in the communion of your mysteries.
Overcome every hostile power in your Spirit,
for the glory of the Father. Amen
The theme of Mary’s being united with Jesus, and thus being a model for his own unity with Jesus, returns often throughout the years that Eugene was at the seminary. On Christmas morning he wrote to his mother:
Dearest Mother, do you really think that I was not beside you last night? How could I fail, meditating as I was on the holy Mother of God, who had just been filled with consolation on giving the world its Saviour, and at the same time had to experience so vividly the poverty, weakness and misery to which she saw her Divine Master reduced for love of men, how could these tender sentiments fail to draw me close to you? Indeed yes, darling mother, we spent the night together at the foot of the altar, which for me represented the crib in Bethlehem; together we offered our gifts to our Savior and asked him to come to birth in our hearts and strengthen us in all that is weak, etc.
Letter to his mother, 25 December 1809, EO XIV n 37
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/
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/
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