OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: CONTEMPLATE THE WORLD WITH THE EYES OF THE SAVIOR

Reflecting on this pivotal constitution of our spirituality, former Oblate Superior General, Fernand Jetté wrote that it : “expresses the purification and transformation that our outlook undergoes when it is in contact with the mystery of the cross:

Through the eyes of our crucified Saviour we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know also the power of his resurrection (cf. Phil 3: 10).

CC&RR, Constitution 4

“Our outlook on the world becomes that of Jesus the Savior crucified. It was the Founder’s outlook after his ‘conversion’, how he saw himself and the world in terms of Christ’s blood. The expressions: ‘souls at the price of Christ’s blood’, ‘who have cost him his blood’, recur again and again in his writings. Therese of Lisieux and the Ursuline nun, Mary of the Incarnation, lived similar experiences and their missionary spirit also sprang from the same source.

Farther on, in Rule 12, we will find the complementary expression: ‘to love others as Jesus loves them’. Indeed, the Oblate’s apostolic spirit consists in contemplating the world with the eyes of Christ, loving it with the heart of Christ, and working wholeheartedly with Christ in the work of its redemption.” (F. Jetté, The Apostolic Man, p.58-59)

omi rule

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: THROUGH THE CROSS TO NEW LIFE

The cross of Jesus Christ is central to our mission. Like the apostle Paul, we “preach Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2: 2). If we bear in our body the death of Jesus, it is with the hope that the life of Jesus, too, may be seen in our body (cf. 2 Cor 4:10). Through the eyes of our crucified Saviour we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know also the power of his resurrection (cf. Phil 3: 10).

CC&RR, Constitution 4

For the young Eugene, his encounter with the Cross was a stepping stone to new life – to resurrection. Some of us were brought up to keep our gaze at the foot of the Cross, reflecting on our misery and on how much Jesus suffered because of us. It is true that we can never meditate sufficiently on the price paid by Jesus to rescue us from our misery. He did, however, die to remove us from our misery and bring us to the fullness of life in the resurrection. “If we bear in our body the death of Jesus, it is with the hope that the life of Jesus, too, may be seen in our body.”

Eugene’s conversion happened when he became aware that his past attitude and behavior was leading him to death, to mortal sin. He changed when his eyes were opened to recognize that he was bearing the death of Jesus in his life. He changed radically and in embracing new life, it was “with the hope that the life of Jesus, too” would be seen in his body. It requires consistent effort to maintain the effects of this new life, or else we are in danger of the “cheap grace” made famous by Bonhoeffer.

omi rule

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”   Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST AND ITS CO-OPERATORS

The cross of Jesus Christ is central to our mission.

CC&RR, Constitution 4

What more sublime purpose than that of their Institute?
…They are called to be the Savior’s co-workers, the co-redeemers of mankind.

1818 Rule, Part One, Chapter One. The ends of the Institute, §3. Nota Bene.
Missions, 78 (1951) p. 15

Over the months we have constantly returned to this central constitution 4 of our Rule of Life. It is the pivot on which the entire Mazenodian charism, spirituality, vocation and mission exists. Eugene’s “search for happiness” all came together at the sight of the Cross. The rest of his long and eventful life hinged on the sight of the cross and on working to bring everyone to its same saving vision.

For Eugene, and for everyone who embraces his vision, the Cross is the sign and vehicle of salvation. Whoever embraces it, automatically embraces the Savior and the salvation he offers. We wear it proudly and it spurs us to be transformed into this sign and means of salvation for others.

Every time I look at it I am reminded of the statue of Jesus, whose arms were blown off in war and never replaced, that has a plaque with the message: “I have no arms but yours.”

omi rule

“Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world…”   Teresa of Avila

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THE FOUNDING VISION TODAY: THE WELCOMING ARMS OF JESUS THE SAVIOR

We continue our exploration of how we express Eugene’s founding vision today in our Rule of Life. The “Constitutions and Rules” (CC&RR) are the way in which the vision and spirituality of St Eugene, as lived out and developed over 200 years, aims to respond to the needs of today’s world. Our 4th Constitution proclaims:

The cross of Jesus Christ is central to our mission. Like the apostle Paul, we “preach Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2: 2). If we bear in our body the death of Jesus, it is with the hope that the life of Jesus, too, may be seen in our body (cf. 2 Cor 4:10). Through the eyes of our crucified Saviour we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know also the power of his resurrection (cf. Phil 3: 10)

CC&RR, Constitution 4

I write this a few hours after having completed the preaching of a novena at our shrine in New Orleans. As one walks into the church, one sees a large Oblate Cross on the wall. The welcoming wide-open arms of the Savior became the focus of each daily reflection – as indeed they were the focus throughout the life of Eugene after he had experienced their embrace one Good Friday.

This church had been the mortuary chapel for the victims of yellow fever in the 1800’s. In the early 1900’s the Oblates were invited to take over this parish in an area that very few priests wanted to minister in. For close to a century we have been the open arms of the Savior in a particular way to people who have been on the periphery. “We” refers to all the parishioners whose concern for the homeless and the suffering has been proverbial, starting with the warmth of the welcome everyone receives as they step into the church – added to by the jazz and blues tone of the music at every Mass.

Today this Oblate Mission Center, and all associated with it, continue to proclaim in word and action that the Cross of Jesus Christ is indeed central to our mission!

omi rule

“Should we not press it home upon our consciences that the sole object of our conversion was not the salvation of our own souls, but that we might become co-workers with our Lord and Master in the conversion of the world?”   Lottie Moon

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ENTRY NUMBER 1468 – AND HAPPY SIXTH BIRTHDAY.

Six years ago I came across software for producing a blog and I began to play around with it as a personal hobby. Someone then told me to be more intentional and publish properly. I did not expect anyone to be interested in my Mazenodian ramblings, but went ahead on 1 May 2010 and tried “St. Eugene Speaks to Us” – in the foundation house in Aix en Provence.

Today is the sixth birthday of this daily reflection, and this is the 1468th entry! I am amazed at how it has taken on a life of its own and is translated into French, Spanish and Polish.

The style and approach has changed over the years. My aim has been to journey through the writings of Eugene chronologically – and I had nearly completed the year 1828, before I paused to explore our spirituality and our founding vision on the occasion of our bicentenary. I am now conscious that more laity than Oblates read the reflections, and so I intentionally try to ensure that what I am writing does apply to all members of the Mazenodian Family.

eugene in hat2EDM in OSTFor nearly four years the place of daily writing has been Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, and Eugene assures me that he is delighted to wear his new hat, because some of his Oblates have been wearing it for 167 years in this part of the world!

What does the future look like? The creation of the Kusenberger Chair of Oblate Studies promises exciting new directions for the future. I dream that this daily reflection space will be intimately connected with this venture and become a vehicle for aspects of Oblate Studies to reach a larger audience around the world!

Each day this reflection is written in blind faith that someone out there will be helped by it – I do not know how many people actually read it and how many are touched by one or other aspect of it. It is a daily adventure for me to allow a text of Eugene to speak to me, and if my sharing this is beneficial to someone else, then I am delighted!

Happy Birthday, “St. Eugene speaks!”

Frank Santucci OMI
Kusenberger Chair of Oblate Studies
Oblate School of Theology, San Antonio, Texas.
(www.ost.edu)

OST

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THE FOUNDING VISION TODAY: THE UNCHANGING BLUEPRINT FOR APOSTOLIC MISSIONARY LIFE

The community of the Apostles with Jesus is the model of our life. Our Lord grouped the Twelve around him to be his companions and to be sent out as his messengers (cf. Mk 3:14).

CC&RR, Constitution 3

From the first moment that Eugene proposed his Missionary vision, two hundred years ago, the fundamental model, or blueprint, that was to be followed would never be changed. Their entire missionary existence was based on that of Jesus and the apostles. The pattern of the relationship of each one with Jesus, their relationships between themselves, and their missionary goals and methods had to be those of Jesus and his disciples as described in the Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles.

The missionary, being specifically called to the apostolic ministry, should aim at perfection. The Lord destines him to show forth anew, amongst those of his own time, the marvelous things that were done of old by the first preachers of the Gospel.
He ought then to walk in their footsteps while being firmly persuaded that the miracles he must do are not the effect of his eloquence but of the grace of the Almighty who will communicate himself through him with all the more abundance if he is more virtuous, more humble, or, to say it all in one word, more holy

Letter to M. Viguier, 6 January 1819, EO VI n 38

The blueprint continues unchanged until today.

Apostles

“Our activity is truly apostolic only insofar as we permit Christ to work in us and through us with his power, with his desire, with his love.”   Mother Teresa

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THE FOUNDING VISION TODAY: COMMUNITY AS A BY-PRODUCT OF COMMITMENT AND STRUGGLE

The community of the Apostles with Jesus is the model of our life. Our Lord grouped the Twelve around him to be his companions and to be sent out as his messengers (cf. Mk 3:14). 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

Called to come together by the vision of St Eugene, community is not an end in itself. We come together to respond to the call to bring salvation to the most abandoned.

The words of Parker Palmer, written in the context of the particular struggles of the USA in 1980, continue to give us something to think about today:

“Community is another one of those strange things which eludes us if we aim directly at it. Instead, community comes as a by-product of commitment and struggle. It comes when we step forward to right some wrong, to heal some hurt, to give some service. Then we discover each other as allies in resisting the diminishments of life. It is no accident that the most impressive sense of community is found among people in the midst of such joyful travail: among blacks, among women, among all who have said no to tyranny with the yes of their lives.” (“The Promise of Paradox”)

If this is so powerfully true of great humanitarian ideals, how even much more powerful is an intentional apostolic community that gathers around the Savior to join Him in His “no to tyranny with the yes of our lives!” This is the ongoing vision of Eugene de Mazenod today.

crest

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THE FOUNDING VISION TODAY: THE WORLD IS CROWDED WITH GOD

The community of the Apostles with Jesus is the model of our life. Our Lord grouped the Twelve around him to be his companions and to be sent out as his messengers (cf. Mk 3:14). 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

Apostolic community is not about a group of people living happily with each other but it exists in order to help its members to keep focussed on the Savior. Our Oblate Rule of Life puts it beautifully:

While maintaining within ourselves an atmosphere of silence and inner peace, we seek his presence in the hearts of the people and in the events of daily life as well as in the Word of God, in the sacraments and in prayer. We are pilgrims, walking with Jesus in faith, hope and love.

CC&RR, Constitution 31

This attitude is true as the ideal for all our communities, as religious, as associates, as friends St Eugene – for all the various communities that make up the apostolic missionary Mazenodian Family. We held each other to find the presence of God in everything around us.

Apostles

“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.”   C. S. Lewis

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THE FOUNDING VISION TODAY: THE COMPASS OF PERSONAL ENCOUNTER

The community of the Apostles with Jesus is the model of our life. Our Lord grouped the Twelve around him to be his companions and to be sent out as his messengers (cf. Mk 3:14). 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

This is the model for our Oblate apostolic communities, and the ideal of our Mazenodian Family. Community exists to help us to focus together on the presence of the Savior who invites us to stay with him, and to share this experience with others. Our Rule of Life expresses this beautifully:

We achieve unity in our life only in and through Jesus Christ. Our ministry involves us in a variety of tasks, yet each act in life is an occasion for personal encounter with the Lord, who through us gives himself to others and through others gives himself to us.

CC&RR, Constitution 31.

We need one another to achieve this.

Apostles

“I want to take my focus off myself and focus on God. It’s like setting your spiritual compass so no matter which way you turn during the day, whatever comes up, then my thoughts go back to Him.”   Anne Graham Lotz

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THE FOUNDING VISION TODAY: KNOWING AND SHARING THE JOY OF GOD

The central focus of Eugene’s life was his passionate relationship with Jesus the Savior, whose liberating presence he had experienced one Good Friday, and who remained with him throughout his life. His vision was constantly “through the eyes of his Crucified Savior” inviting him to the never-ending Resurrection presence. It is the vision he handed on to us when he brought us together as a missionary community 200 years ago.

The community of the Apostles with Jesus is the model of our life. Our Lord grouped the Twelve around him to be his companions and to be sent out as his messengers (cf. Mk 3:14). 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

The founding vision can be summarized as a communal keeping company with the Crucified and Risen Savior and inviting others to the same experience. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them “ (Mt 18:20) It is a community experience of the presence of the Savior as baptized Christians, as family, as members of a group of associates, as vowed Oblates.

Our founding vision is to come together to be WITH Jesus as his COMPANIONS, and to keep him PRESENT among us as we celebrate and invite others to the same unity with him. This is what being an apostolic MISSIONARY community is about.

Apostles

“People who have known the joy of God point each other to flashes of light here and there, and remind each other that they reveal the hidden but real Presence of God. They discover that there are people who heal each other’s wounds, forgive each other’s offenses, share their possessions, foster the spirit of community, celebrate the gifts they have received, and live in constant anticipation of the full manifestation of God’s Glory.”   Henri Nouwen

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