Immediately after the vacation period, the immediate preparations for the international Oblate Charism Congress began here at Oblate School of Theology (one of the 8 centers for the simultaneous event throughout the OMI world). The congress has been an amazing success, both at the internet live-streaming level for three hours per day, and at the local level for the region for the remainder of the day.

After the congress I will be doing a full time period of Founder and charism animation for the members of our Mazenodian Family. It is during this time that I will prepare the new series of “Saint Eugene Speaks to us” reflections for publication.

Looking forward to journeying with Saint Eugene towards our bicentenary through these reflections.

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On January 24, 2013 I had posted this entry:

Eugene’s concern for his Oblates was holistic – it included every aspect of their lives. He wanted them to be all for God, great saints, dedicated community members and zealous missionaries prepared to give their lives for their ideals. In order to do this, however, they needed to look after their health. They were young and energetic and in their generosity and missionary zeal they pushed themselves beyond their human capabilities. Eugene had to apply the brakes:

Eh bien! why do you behave in a such manner as to shorten your days? How is it that after the hard exertions you made at the mission of Tallard, after the fatigues and sufferings of the mission of Lauzet, where you had to struggle against hell and all the elements as well, the inclemency of weather being so rigorous that the people of that region could scarcely bear it, you go back to Tallard and rest yourself by preaching again twice a day and forget the care of your health to the point of confessing thirty hours without stopping!
And you would wish me, my child, not to be appalled by such behavior! You may very well say you are not tired at all, that you eat and sleep well, that does not suffice to appease me, such excess is destroying your existence. I do not wish you to expose yourself to the consequences that can result. That is to be understood in the future once and for all.

Letter to Marius Suzanne, 23 April 1823, EO VI n 102

Eugene was constantly hammering the Oblates with this message. Today, I am aware that I need to apply it to myself. The past five months have been exceptionally demanding, both with heavy commitments and upheavals. The time has come to practice what Eugene preached.

I will be on vacation for several weeks – camping in a tent in areas of countryside where there is no possibility of internet access. So, Eugene has no choice but to interrupting his speaking to us again. But he has been speaking through this site for exactly five years now, so there is plenty of material for you to re-read.


‘It is our best work that God wants, not the dregs of our exhaustion. I think God must prefer quality to quantity.” George MacDonald

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Adieu, my faithful and dear companion, son, brother and cherished father ….

Letter to Henri Tempier, 21 October 1828, EO VII n 313

In his writings we become aware that Eugene was always conscious of being the father of the Oblate family. Henri Tempier, despite being so close to Eugene, was regarded as a son by him. Tempier’s letters to Eugene always showed his filial affection. Yvon Beaudoin tells us:

“Father Tempier, for his part, was always deeply attached to the Founder and worked together with him with unflagging devotedness. Though on account of his cool and quite reserved temperament he only rarely expressed his sentiments, he manifested his friendship in his activity, day in and day out, particularly in his role as admonitor and confessor, as councillor and collaborator in the service of the diocese of Marseilles and the Congregation…

After the liturgy of Holy Thursday, April 11, 1816, the two friends made a vow of mutual obedience. This was no vain ceremonial gesture on their part. Father Tempier always obeyed the Founder, at times in a heroic degree – in particular, by remaining vicar general of Marseilles from 1823 to 1861 against all his tastes – but he also had the courage to give orders to his superior in serious situations ‑ as in the case of a grave illness in 1829 ‑ 1830 and during the negotiations of the Icosia affair in 1835.”

Yvon Beaudoin, “Henri Tempier” in the Oblate Historical Dictionary


“A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.”   Frank A. Clark

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Concluding a letter to Henri Tempier, Eugene expresses who Tempier was for him:

Adieu, my faithful and dear companion, son, brother and cherished father ….

Letter to Henri Tempier, 21 October 1828, EO VII n 313

 Tempier, throughout 45 years, was to be Eugene’s “faithful and dear companion.”

When he was 26 and entered the seminary, Eugene had written:

 I have always longed for a friend, but I have never found one, at least one such as I am seeking; it is true that I am hard to please for as it is my nature to give generously I expect the same in return. 

Self-evaluation written for his spiritual director in 1808, O.W. XIV n. 30

 As a young priest, he was to find this friend in the person of Henri Tempier – but more than a friend, he had found a faithful companion with whom, he could share his ideals. Yvon Beaudoin tells us: “His encounter with Father Tempier in 1815-1816 brought him what he was looking for and even more. Besides sharing plans and giving comfort in troubles, Father Tempier, a man who was calm, pondered and much less emotional than the Founder, tempered the outbursts of the Founder’s character and helped him ‑ at times also replacing him ‑ perseveringly to accomplish all his plans and undertakings.

Bishop de Mazenod had a real affection for and always esteemed this collaborator and friend from whom he kept no secrets. He wrote to him often, entrusted all positions of trust to him, openly admitted to him that he considered him as one identical to his own self.” Yvon Beaudoin, “Henri Tempier” in the Oblate Historical Dictionary

Tempier had understood the God-given spirit of the Missionaries from the very beginning.

First companion of mine, you have from the first day we came together grasped the spirit which must animate us and which we must communicate to others; you have not deviated in the slightest from the path we resolved to follow; everyone knows this in the Society and they count on you as they count on myself.

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


“A blessed thing it is for any man or woman to have a friend, one human soul whom we can trust utterly, who knows the best and worst of us, and who loves us in spite of all our faults.”   Charles Kingsley

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Borzaga - Mass

Eugene’s own experience of living “all for God” – oblation – made him sensitive to all manifestations of this in others. How proud he must be when he sees so many of his Oblate sons giving their lives in the supreme act of oblation. Mario Borzaga’s act of oblation, together with his catechist, in Laos was the highest expression of “all for God.”

This picture of the young Father Mario Borzaga celebrating Mass reminds us of Eugene’s own first Mass, which had as his intention:

Final perseverance, and even martyrdom or at least death while tending victims of the plague, or any other kind of death for God’s glory or the salvation of souls.

One of the intention for which he offered his first Mass, E.O. XIV n.100

 Eugene touched death when he was serving the Austrian prisoners in Aix, but never became a martyr. Instead he was led to understand that oblation for God and others called him to a different martyrdom: giving his life in charity for others. Thirty five years later, it is clear that this remained an ideal for him.

I have all my life desired to die a victim of charity. You know that this crown was withheld from me right from the first days of my ministry. The Lord had his designs since He wanted to trust me to give a new family to His Church; but for me it would have been a greater value to have died of the blessed typhus which I had contracted while serving prisoners.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 12 September 1849, E.O. X n.1018

 Mario Borzaga died a victim of charity in his service of the Laotian people. Mario was not the only son of Eugene to give his life for the people of Laos, the cause of five of his Oblate martyr companions is also awaiting the Pope’s recognition.

If we are inspired by Eugene’s charism, we too are called to a life of being “martyrs of charity” in our everyday lives.


“Love is all, it gives all, and it takes all.”   Soren Kierkegaard

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We have just received the joyful news that Pope Francis has approved the beatification of another son of Saint Eugene, Father Mario Borzaga OMI and his lay catechist Paul Thoj Xyooj, killed in hatred of the faith in Laos in April 1960.

Born in Trent (Italy), 27 August 1932, Mario entered the diocesan seminary to be a priest. During that time a visiting Oblate came to the seminary to speak about missionary life, and Mario understood that God was calling him to becoming an Oblate missionary.

He made his perpetual oblation on 21 November 1956 and wrote:

“I have understood my vocation:
to be a happy man,
even in the effort to identify myself
with the Crucified Christ”

Ordained Priest on 24 February 1957, he wrote to the Superior General of the Oblates:

“I want to tell you, first of all, of my joy for having achieved the priesthood in the bosom of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate; a joy so alive at this moment being ordained few days ago.  With regards to my future religious life, I am at your complete disposition. If however I am permitted to express my desire, I ask humbly to be sent a missionary in Laos. I do not want to completely presume of my strengths and therefore, conscious of my weakness and insufficiency, I entrust myself completely to your prudent judgment”.

Letter to Fr. Leo Dechâtelets OMI, Superior General, 2 March 1957

Sent out as a missionary to Laos (South East Asia), on 31 October 1957, he wrote in his diary:

“We missionaries are made to be this: to leave is a normality, to go is a necessity! Tomorrow the roads will be our homes; and if we shall be compelled to anchor ourselves into a home, we will transform it into a road that leads to God”.  

From his personal diary, 1957


Borzaga catechistHis brief existence – he was never to reach his 28th birthday – came to an end in the solitude of the forest, along a track in the mountainside, while he was returning from an apostolic journey with his catechist. They were put to death by a group of communist guerrillas, thus interrupting forever on this earth, the marvelous dream of this young missionary, but fulfilling his dream of making of his life a total oblation – the highest destiny of a son of Eugene de Mazenod, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate who understood the implications of bearing this name.

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While visiting the novices in Marseille, Eugene reported to Fr. Tempier that even though the number was small, the quality was good.

… All is admirable here, save for the number; there is much to groan about considering how few ecclesiastics understand the spirit of the divine Founder and close their ears to his calling. Since it cannot be otherwise, let us be pleased with what we have. For it seems to me that it is good.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 21 October 1828 , EO VII n. 313

Today our Rule of Life expands on the sentiments expressed by Eugene regarding vocations to the Oblate congregation:

“Christian families, youth groups and Christian communities, whether parish or other, provide a favourable environment for the growth of vocations. Many young people discover there the person of Jesus and feel the attraction of his message. There, too, they begin to exercise their gifts for leadership and ministry. It is primarily in such settings, then, that we ought to help youth discover their vocation and to accompany them in their spiritual journey. Our houses will welcome those who wish to “come and see” and thus experience at first hand what Oblate life is like. In a brotherly way we will help them discern what the Lord expects of them and what special grace he offers them in his Church.”  CC&RR, Constitution 53


“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach the destination.”   Jimmy Dean

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Father Courtès was chaplain to a high school in Aix. As a result of the government’s anti-religious measures it appears that he was ignored at the annual prize-giving ceremony. Eugene responded:

… If next year the convocation is to be presided over by the same man, you will have good reason to spare yourself the misery of being in attendance. I hope that public indignation will do justice to this outrage which makes me throw my arms up at the pity of it.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 26 August 1828, EO VII n 312

It must be made very clear that Eugene was not looking for personal honors for the Oblates or for himself. In the growing climate of hostility against the Church, it was the office and role of the chaplain that Eugene wanted honored, not the person. By ignoring Courtès, they are ignoring what he represented: the religious aspect of the life of the school. This is why Eugene refers to “public indignation at this outrage.”

Yvon Beaudoin, in a footnote to this letter writes: “Fr REY (I. 452) transcribes, at the same time as he modifies, another passage of this letter in which there is question of Fr. Suzanne, being named canon by Bishop Fortuné de Mazenod. The Founder received this nomination favourably, writes Fr. Rey, but on condition that

nothing be changed either in the costume or in the style of life and, at the first sign of the superior, one would strip oneself without flinching of what one had only accepted by obedience and by conviction of the opportuneness thereof for the common good.

Any honors bestowed on Oblates were to be seen as being for the good of the Church, and not for the individual.


“When you get to be President, there are all those things, the honors, the twenty-one gun salutes, all those things. You have to remember it isn’t for you. It’s for the Presidency.”   Harry S Truman

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Shaken by the deaths of two Oblates in quick succession, Eugene wrote to the overly-enthusiastic and impetuous Honorat with advice on how to look after himself, pace his work and plan his work more carefully.

Changing the circumstances to our own situations, let us allow Eugene to remind us to take the same precautions in our daily lives.

I have nothing urgent to tell you, if it be only to reproach you for the excess of work which you have taken upon yourself. You do not think of it until the moment of departure but you must also think about your stay and calculate all that has preceded and which must follow. As to that, you have failed in foresight, which is also quite a virtue.
Now rest yourself, take care during the retreat to observe the Rule and prepare subject matter. It is necessary that you write and the others also. Let each provide himself first with enough for a retreat. That is to say, prepare the subjects that one deals with ordinarily in these kinds of exercises; as for you, see to it that you do not exceed the hour. You have great need at this time to rest your voice; so, do not consent to preach. Do not fear to give this reason and be adamant in refusing. Do not ask me for men for Nimes.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Honorat, 15 August 1828, EO VII n 310


“He, who every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through a labyrinth of the most busy life.”   Victor Hugo

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Two Oblates had died within four days of each other: Philippe Dumolard and of Victor Arnoux. Eugene gives us a glimpse of his personal reactions – a reflection of our own when faced with the death of loved ones.

So now our dear Dumolard, who had given us so much hope, who had shown an affection for the Society that one would scarcely find in several of our older members, has been taken from us. Our blessed Father Arnoux, model of all the virtues, heroic in observance of the Rules, as spiritual as he was holy, has gone to take possession of Heaven at the age of twenty-four years and five months, leaving us as desolate over his loss as we are edified by his coming amongst us. I do not know which sentiment predominates but I am now afflicted, now consoled, sad and serene. To be separated from one’s own costs more than one thinks, but to have the certitude that they are in Heaven, and that they have arrived there by the path which we march, oh! what a sweet thought!

Letter to Hippolyte Guibert, 29 July 1828, EO VII n 308


“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”   Washington Irving

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