I AM AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS ON WHICH OUR POOR BROTHER IS NAILED

Confronted on a daily basis with human suffering, I am invited to see it through the eyes of the Crucified Savior.

I leave you to think of the state in which we have been and all that I have suffered particularly. My body must be of iron to resist such violent and continuous emotions of the soul. I recommend that you pray hard to God that he will preserve this dear patient; offer for this intention, to the Lord, the work that you are doing at this moment of his glory. You are on the field of battle and I am at the foot of the cross on which our poor brother is nailed.

Marius Suzanne was dying in the Marseille community house, attached to the church which he had built at the Calvaire. They had just celebrated the feast of the Presentation of Mary in that church, preceded by an octave of prayer.

Never was an octave more brilliant, better followed, more edifying; they sang in the church and I swallowed my tears at the head of the bed of my friend. I administered to him holy viaticum on the very day of the Presentation; what a contrast! The church, splendidly decorated while we come almost stealthily to take the Lord from his tabernacle to carry him to this good servant, to whom we owe the building of this holy building and all the good that never ceases to be done in it.

Letter to Hippolyte Guibert, 26 November 1828, EO VII n 316

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“Easter is always the answer to ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!’ “    Madeleine L’Engle

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IT WILL COST ME MY LIFE TO LOVE YOU AS I DO

An invitation to reflect on the price I pay for loving others.

One of the strongest character traits of Eugene was his ability to love people and to express his emotions. Growing up, he was strongly attached to the members of his family, for whom he declared that he would have been willing to lay down his life. When he founded the Oblates, he considered each one as a member of a new family, of which he was the father. Right up to his death we constantly find expressions of this relationship between Eugene, the father and founder, and his Oblate sons – each one loved by him in a warm and deep way. These sentiments were especially intense with some of the first young Oblates who came to join him as members. He had watched over them in their youth and had accompanied them in their growth and formation as Oblates. He knew them and he loved them.

Now at the bedside of one of these sons, he feels all the pains of a father agonizing at the suffering and death of a son.

You must not be surprised, my dear Father Guibert, if I am in arrears with you. I have received your letter at a time so painful, and my anguish has been prolonged for so long that I have not found the time to write you. We have been on the point of losing our Fr. Suzanne and now it is seventeen days we are suspended between fear and hope.
This time it was not only spitting but truly a vomiting of blood, accompanied by a tenacious fever that has not yet yielded to the most assiduous care of the art of medicine…

Letter to Hippolyte Guibert, 26 November 1828, EO VII n 316

To another of his Oblate sons he wrote:

I have had prayers said here so that the good God will preserve for us this beloved brother; do as much yourself; as for me, the sorrow that I have experienced these past two days has been so acute and so constant that I consider it a kind of miracle not to have succumbed to it; happily, I have been able to shed an abundance of tears which, I believe, has saved me. There still remains however an extreme weariness. It will cost me my life to love you as I do. Nevertheless I cannot be sorry for this or complain. Adieu.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 15 November 1828, EO VII n 314

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“Grief is not a disorder, a disease or sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.”   Earl A Grollman

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DO NOT BELIEVE YOU ARE WASTING TIME WHEN YOU ARE RESTING

An invitation to reflection: Am I killing myself at the service of others? When and how do I take life-restoring rest?

Marius Suzanne’s talents and zeal had led him to ignore persistent warning signs of illness and now he was dying of tuberculosis. Eugene, keeping watch, at his bedside, worried about the other Oblate missionaries who were just as dangerously neglecting their health and rest for the sake of their ministry:

I shall never cease to urge you to care for your strength. Never allow yourselves to go to extremes. This inclination does not come from God. You must, in exercising your zeal, discern what comes from God. Keep Fr. Honorat in check for he is to be watched and he ordinarily is affected by his imprudence, because he has less strength than he has will. In everything, do not be overloaded with work and do not believe you are wasting time when you are resting.”  

Letter to the Oblate community in Nimes, 1 December 1828, EO VII n 317

Again, while sitting at Marius Suzanne’s bedside:

In the meantime, I recommend the greatest moderation while on missions so that you do not tire yourselves. The sight before my eyes which distresses me every moment of the day, and in a most cruel manner, makes me determined to insist as far as you are concerned that you regard the least imprudence as a crime.”   

Letter to Jean Baptiste Honorat, 16 January 1829, EO VII n 322

 

“The bow cannot always stand bent, nor can human frailty subsist without some lawful recreation.”    Miguel de Cervantes

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A HEART WHICH BUILDS RELATIONSHIPS

An invitation to reflect with St. Eugene: who are the people I carry in my heart?

From mid-November 1828, we find Eugene’s life focused on the dangerous illnesses of two young Oblates who were especially close to him, whom he referred to as the “pupils of his eye.”

“I insist you to take care of yourself for two blows of this kind would make me lose either my mind or my life.”  

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 18 November 1828, EO VII n 315

To grasp the pain and depth of his suffering we need to understand who these two were for him.

suzanne2Father Marie-Jacques Antoine (known as Marius) Suzanne (1799 – 1829) met Eugene in Fuveau, at the second parish mission given by the Missionaries after our foundation. The 17-year-old was a minor seminarian, and was so struck by these men that he applied to join and was admitted to the community a month later. He began his novitiate in January 1817. Yvon Beaudoin writes:

Father Suzanne was a likable individual and was well loved. Bishop Jeancard wrote that Father Suzanne had “an open and gracious personality. His was a heart filled with affection with a genuine zeal for God’s house”… The Founder became immediately attached to this young man brimming with talents and virtue, endowed with an affectionate nature and a fiery temperament like his own…

Father Rey, who lived for some ten years with the Superior General, comments: “Father Suzanne was his favourite son. Godly, good-hearted, affectionate, intelligent, courageous, everyone considered that Father Suzanne was the spitting image of Father de Mazenod. An apostle like Father de Mazenod, consumed with zeal, he radiated great power from the pulpit and showed great wisdom in the confessional. His successes in preaching parish missions were consistent, without exception and irresistible … (http://www.omiworld.org/en/dictionary/historical-dictionary_vol-1_s/993/suzanne-marius/)

courtesEugene had known Father Jean Joseph Hippolyte Courtès (1798-1863) when he had joined the youth congregation as a teenager. Experiencing the life and example of the Missionaries in Aix, the 19 year-old Hippolyte asked to join them and became a novice in 1817. He was to remain one of Eugene’s closest advisors and friends throughout his life. (cf. http://www.omiworld.org/en/dictionary/historical-dictionary_vol-1_c/681/court-s-jean-joseph-hippolyte/)

While Marius Suzanne was suffering during his last weeks of life, Eugene often confided in Hippolyte Courtès:

I have had prayers said here so that the good God will preserve for us this beloved brother …. It will cost me my life to love you as I do.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 15 November 1828, EO VII n 314

 

“It is not flesh and blood, but heart which makes us fathers and sons.”   Friedrich Schiller

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WHERE HAVE WE BEEN, AND WHERE ARE WE INVITED TO GO?

For the past six years we have been reading and reflecting on the writings of Saint Eugene in a chronological way. The last letter we had reflected on was that of 21 October 1828 (http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=2811  posted on May 12, 2015)

I then posed the question:” IS THERE SUCH A THING AS OBLATE/MAZENODIAN SPIRITUALITY?” (http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=2820, posted on August 3, 2015 ). It is a question that has accompanied us throughout the bicentenary year of our foundation, and which culminated in our reflections on the first ten constitutions of our Oblate Rule of Life – a summary of the central aspects of our charism and spirituality as a Mazenodian Family.

Now we will pick up again with the writings of St. Eugene from the latter part of 1828. It begins a decade during which he lived some of the most difficult moments of his life. The death of close collaborators, bouts of serious illness and depression, conflict and persecution by the French authorities, ordination as titular Bishop of Icosia, political conflicts leading him to be abandoned by both the King of France and the Pope. In 1837 Eugene was appointed Bishop of Marseille and we see the emergence of a man who had been refined and enriched by suffering and hardship. For the next 24 years, he was to be the guiding shepherd and father of both the Oblate Congregation in its numerical and geographic expansion, and of the diocese of Marseille, the second largest city of France – both realities exploding with new life and numbers under his guidance.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s words reflect this process in Eugene: “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.”

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May Eugene’s intercession accompany us as we recognize in his life the presence of the Crucified Savior who never abandoned him – and let us see this as an invitation to recognize Him in our own lives, especially in times of difficulty.

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SAINT EUGENE WILL SPEAK TO US AGAIN ON DECEMBER 1

Due to unforeseen circumstances our pause will be a little longer than anticipated.

Looking forward to being a pilgrim with you once again as we journey with St Eugene.

Frank Santucci OMI

 

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: MISSIONARIES TO THE POOR ACCORDING TO THE EXAMPLE OF MARY, WHO WAS FULLY ATTENTIVE TO THE NEEDS OF THE POOR

We are members of the prophetic Church. While recognizing our own need for conversion, we bear witness to God’s holiness and justice. We announce the liberating presence of Jesus Christ and the new world born in his resurrection. We will hear and make heard the clamour of the voiceless, which is a cry to God who brings down the mighty from their thrones and exalts the lowly (cf. Lk 1: 52).

CC&RR, Constitution 9

The wording of this Constitution startled some when the time came for its ecclesiastical approval. Father Jetté, who was the Superior General, responded in the name of the Oblates:

“The allusion to Mary’s canticle is to be read in the biblical perspective of salvation. As Oblates of Mary Immaculate we love to live our vocation of missionaries to the poor according to the example of her who was fully attentive to the needs of the little ones and the poor among God’s People. On January 30, 1979, in his homily at the shrine of Zapopan (Mexico), Pope John Paul II did not hesitate to quote this same passage when he was speaking of the Christian commitment to serving the poorest of the poor” (Réponse aux Observations de la S.C.R.I.S., April 16, 1982)” F. Jetté, The Apostolic Man, p. 103

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 Saviour. 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.

CC&RR, Constitution 10

During this bicentenary year, for many months I have been exploring the theme of “The Founding Vision Today” – showing how Eugene de Mazenod’s founding vision has been our motivating force for two hundred years, and how that vision continues to be expressed today. We have followed the first ten constitutions of our Rule of Life, which synthesize our Oblate vision, charism and spirituality. Today’s entry concludes this exploration.

PAUSE

We will return to reflecting on St. Eugene’s writings in chronological order from where we left off earlier in the year. There will, however, be a pause in these reflections for some weeks. This is due to a variety of factors which are beyond my control. I look forward to resuming these reflections with renewed vigor and enthusiasm in the not-too-distant future.

In the meantime I invite you to re-read some of the many entries on www.eugenedemazenod.net

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: PROPHETIC VOICES GUARANTEED BY CHARITY AND OBEDIENCE

We are members of the prophetic Church… This prophetic mission is carried out in communion with the Church, in conformity with the directives of the hierarchy and in dependence on our Superiors.

CC&RR, Constitution 9

In all our ministries, prophetic voices must not be stifled. When they arise, they will be heard, tested, and supported

CC&RR, Rule 9b

Father Jetté comments on this:

“Working in the promotion of justice is a difficult and delicate task. It publicly affects persons and institutions. It is not without risks and requires both prudence and courage. We are hard and stern with “prophets”: that may perhaps be a safeguard but it is also a cross. We ought to carry it boldly, but while always keeping in mind two principles that the Abbe Michonneau used to mention:

– the more the position we hold in “an advanced post”, the more necessary it is to have received it from the authorities; it is not up to each one to choose his own part in the Church, and less than ever when there is the risk of compromising the latter.

– the more a missionary is in an “advanced” position, the more necessary it is for him to remain in liaison with the centre of the Church, with a community, with his bishop.

If he is thus linked to the Church by means of his mandate and his fidelity, the missionary will be sure that he is doing God’s work and that he is usefully working for his Reign (cf. Abbe Michonneau and R.P. Chery, O.P., L’Esprit missionnaire, Paris, Cerf, 1950, p. 96).

This is the spirit with which the last sentence was added to article”

F. Jetté, The Apostolic Man, p. 103 – 104

Sadly, many wonderful personal missionary and prophetic projects have never survived the death of its founder who worked alone. Community and obedience are our guarantee of support and success.

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.

CC&RR, Constitution 3

Obedience and charity bind us together, priests and Brothers, keeping us interdependent in our lives, and missionary activity”

CC&RR, Constitution 38

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: PROPHETIC VOICES MUST NOT BE STIFLED, BUT HEARD, TESTED, AND SUPPORTED

We are members of the prophetic Church…
This prophetic mission is carried out in communion with the Church, in conformity with the directives of the hierarchy and in dependence on our Superiors.

CC&RR, Constitution 9

Responding to the call of the Spirit, some Oblates identify themselves with the poor, sharing their life and commitment to justice; others are present where decisions affecting the future of the poor are being made.
In each case, a serious discernment in the light of ecclesiastical directives will be made and the Oblates concerned will receive their mission for this ministry from their Superiors.

CC&RR, Rule 9a

In all our ministries, prophetic voices must not be stifled. When they arise, they will be heard, tested, and supported

CC&RR, Rule 9b

In our missionary outreach to the poor the Oblate is always part of a community. Our Oblate vocation excludes “lone rangers” who “do their own thing” – however beneficial and inspiring “my” personal talents and “my” actions may be.

We fulfil our mission in and through the community to which we belong. Our communities, therefore, are apostolic in character.

CC&RR, Constitution 37

We are part of a community, and our community is part of the Church, and all Oblate outreach is meant to be done in communion.

The call of Jesus Christ, heard within the Church through people’s need for salvation, draws us together as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

CC&RR, Constitution 1

 

“Our conviction that evangelization is not the work of lone rangers but is a community effort of the Oblates and the entire Christian community is grounded in the Gospel and our missionary practice. It is the Church who evangelizes and sends us forth on mission.”   Declaration of the 1998 OMI General Chapter

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: LIVING “NEXT DOOR” TO THE POOR IN PLACE AND THROUGH GLOBAL ACTION

Action on behalf of justice, peace and the integrity of creation is an integral part of evangelization.
Responding to the call of the Spirit, some Oblates identify themselves with the poor, sharing their life and commitment to justice; others are present where decisions affecting the future of the poor are being made.

CC&RR, Rule 9a

In the previous reflection I spoke about Daniel LeBlanc working at the United Nations as part of VIVAT.

VIVAT International is a coalition of religious congregations… The Oblate Congregation, and consequently, every individual Oblate, is an associate member of VIVAT. http://www.omiworld.org/en/content/news/2801/vivat-holds-a-workshop/

The impressive VIVAT website (http://vivatinternational.org) puts forward the goals and purpose of this association of religious congregations:

VIVAT International focuses on issues dealing with human rights particularly in the areas of women, poverty eradication, sustainable development, and the culture of peace.

VIVAT International has the following goals:

  • To engage in advocacy and lobbying on issues of human rights, justice and peace at the headquarters of the United Nations (New York) and its Regional Offices and Desks in Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania and the Americas;
  • To promote networking and awareness raising among VIVAT members through the sharing and distribution of information on our areas of focus;
  • To glean the grassroots experiences and insights from its members and bring these to the attention of others, particularly the United Nations;
  • To provide a liaison for networking and collaboration with other agencies and NGOs;…

We believe that the presence and long term experience of our members, in many and varied situations in the world, is an important resource for achieving these goals.”

You asked me, “What do the Oblates do? Well, that depends on the needs, from country to country, and it also depends on what that same reality lets you or does not let you accomplish… I do know Latin America, and there, the first thing the Oblates do is choose the poorest places to minister, where there is ongoing poverty. We ask the Bishop, “Which are the poorest places? Where is there the most need for missionaries?” It is there that you will find the Oblates – in solidarity, physically with the poor, to become experts in understanding their problems. In the majority of the countries where we serve, there is what we know as Religious Communities Placed in the Midst of Poverty (CRIMPO, in Spanish). It is the first condition in which we put ourselves – to live “next door” to the poor. This is also the preferred and privileged place to have our Oblate formation communities. We want our young Oblates to understand this dynamic of the incarnation of the same Lord Jesus, who was in solidarity with us in all things but sin.”    Gilberto Pinon OMI

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