THE RULE SHOULD BE FOLLOWED IN ALL ITS DETAILS AND BY EVERYONE.

Eugene had placed great responsibility on the shoulder of the 29 year -old Fr Guigues: to assume responsibility for the Marian shrine and to work at increasing the number of pilgrims and to ensure that the Oblate community ran smoothly in accordance with the Oblate Rule. 

I want Father Guigues to have a thorough grasp of all the obligations incumbent upon him.
If he fails to institute perfect regularity in his community, he will have to answer for it to God and the Society. I permit no re-interpretation.
The Rule should be followed in all its details and by everyone.

Letter to Fathers Guigues and Dassy, 18 August 1834, EO VIII n 484

To make up for his inexperience he was to ensure that the three young Oblates lived according to all the prescriptions of the Constitutions and Rules. Thus it would be the Rule of Life that would be the guide, and not the whims and ideas of the superior. Good advice that is still pertinent today in our communities.

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YOUTH IS NO EXCUSE FOR RESPONSIBLE LEADERSHIP

Imagine a 29 year-old Oblate being tasked with the responsibility of starting a brand new ministry in a shrine and being appointed religious superior of a 26 year-old hyperactive and extremely intelligent Oblate (Dassy) and also of a newly professed and highly-talented Oblate (Vincens) who is two years older than himself. A daunting task, humanly, for the inexperienced Guigues – hence the admonitions of Eugene to remember that, despite his youth, he is the superior and that he has serious obligations.

… I will be sending you Father Vincens who begins his retreat today for his oblation on Monday. I am asking a big sacrifice. I was counting on him to assist the Master of Novices and to prepare himself through an on-going experience of the novitiate’s classical regularity to become Superior at Billens.
I want Father Guigues to have a thorough grasp of all the obligations incumbent upon him. 

Letter to Fathers Guigues and Dassy, 18 August 1834, EO VIII n 484

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JOSEPH AMBROISE VINCENS OMI

Our chronological reading of Eugene’s letters introduces us to the Oblate missionary, Joseph Ambroise Vincens, who became an important figure on the history of the Congregation.

At the age of 27 he was ordained a diocesan priest for the Archdiocese of Aix. Observing the mission of the Oblates in the city, he discerned a call to join them and entered the novitiate, making his oblation in 1834. He was assigned to the Shrine of Notre Dame de l’Osier, where he was to remain for 20 years.

Yvon Beaudoin tells us:

The community brought the Marian shrine back to life and especially preached many missions in the diocese. Father Vincens was usually the one who headed up the missionary teams. He was pilgrimage director during the summer season and a tireless missionary during the winter.

During this time he also founded a congregation of religious: the Oblate Sisters of Mary Immaculate. He drew up their rules, giving them as objectives their personal sanctification, the important work of retreats, care of pilgrims, receiving boarders, etc. In 1868, this congregation amalgamated with the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux. During his lifetime he was also Novice Master and Assistant General

Father Fabre wrote about him: “It is impossible for us to tell the number of parishes that were evangelized… God alone knows the good that was done by his humble servant, who knew how to make fruitful the talents given to him by the Father of the family.”

Bishop de Mazenod considered him a very good missionary, the kind that he wanted the Oblates to be. In this regard, Father Fabre wrote: “Reverend Father Vincens was a man of genuine eloquence, popular eloquence. Consistently lofty in his style, he was always master of the content of his sermons and of the way in which he expressed it, while at the same time, he had the knack of instructing minds that were ignorant and engaging the minds of the elite. With his simple and astoundingly lucid approach, he immediately captured his audience whom he quickly brought to share his convictions. The immediate most striking impression he made was the depth of feeling he conveyed in what he said, the love for the truths he was proclaiming…

See the Historical Dictionary article: https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/vincens-joseph-ambroise/

 

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HE PREACHES LIKE A TRUE APOSTLE AND WILL BE A TREASURE FOR THE HOUSE OF L’OSIER

Eugene concludes his letter to the Bishop of Grenoble by telling him that he would be sending Father Vincens to join the new Oblate community at Notre Dame de l’Osier.

The man that I am assigning to increase the little family is excellent in every respect. I am making a great sacrifice by sending him to that community, for I was counting on giving him as Superior of the house that we have in the Canton of Fribourg. He preaches like a true apostle, that means very well, without pretension and with results. He is kind, agreeable and regular, he will be a treasure for the house of l’Osier.

Letter to Bishop Philibert de Bruillard of Grenoble, 18 August 1834, EO XIII n 82

It is good to recall this calibre of Oblate missionary, reminding us with gratitude of many others we have known.

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THEY WILL LOVE YOU AS THEIR FATHER; AS THEIR PROTECTOR AND GUIDE

Then, to allay any fears that the Bishop could have about the independence of a religious congregation in his diocese, Eugene hastens to assure him of the relationship he expects the Oblates to have with the local bishop of the diocese in which they work.

They will be subject to you as to their bishop, they will love you as their father; as their protector and guide, you are assured of their trust and gratitude in advance.
They will certainly do everything possible to support your views and to please you, for they have long been trained to be subject to the bishops, whom their Institute requires them to honor in a very special manner, not “only while being watched,” but “from the heart” [ed. Ephes. 6: 6]. In a word, they will be your men; and though the interior government of their community is determined by their Rules, even in that you will discover that they will do your will, for you do not ask for anything better than to see them live in perfect regularity, in conformity with what the Church has prescribed for them when it approved their Constitutions.

Having re-assured the bishop that the Oblates would be good co-operators in his diocese, he concluded with the wish that the problem of Dupuy and Dassy’s impetuosity could be forgotten.

That is, Your Lordship, what the good Lord has inspired me to write to you in all simplicity. Speak and everything will be ironed out.

Letter to Bishop Philibert de Bruillard of Grenoble, 18 August 1834, EO XIII n 82

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OUR COMMUNITIES ARE PARADISE IN EARTH

To further convince the Bishop of Grenoble, Eugene now describes the ideals of the Oblate Congregation in glowing terms through the experience of Fr Dupuy:

He had come to know and appreciate the priests of our Congregation; he knew that our communities are paradise on earth; that peace, agreement, and the most perfect charity reign therein; that there is only one will, one heart, the practice and love of obedience. And so, he wanted to bring in these men who here below seek only the glory of God and the salvation of souls and who would not oppose his good objectives.
I can assure you that, even though these priests belong to a religious Congregation, you will find in them respect, obedience, and devotedness equal to any test.

Letter to Bishop Philibert de Bruillard of Grenoble, 18 August 1834, EO XIII n 82

It is good to be reminded of the idyllic picture, as do the Acts of the Apostles when speaking of the earliest Christian communities.

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CAPITALIZING ON AN AWKWARD SITUATION

We have seen how Fr Dupuy had left the Oblates to be a diocesan priest and how he had been appointed pastor of the parish at Osier. On his own, he had asked the Oblates to come to join him to develop the pilgrimages to the sanctuary and preach missions. Fr Dassy had spent some time recuperating from an illness there, and had managed to persuade the Bishop to give the direction of the sanctuary to the Oblates.

The problem was that Eugene as Superior General and the Bishop of Grenoble had not spoken about this impulsive personal initiative. Thus, Eugene was nervous and used a diplomatic approach to the Bishop before agreeing to send Oblates to the marain shrine:

M. Dupuy has written to ask me for another man from our Congregation, and he assures me that he takes this step with your approval. I confess, Your Lordship, that I was so upset at first for not having followed the impulse of my heart which inclined me to write to you when he urged me to add M. Guigues to M. Dassy, whom he had taken with him, first with the intent of restoring his health, but whom he then retained as being very helpful to his work, so that nothing could determine me to accede to M. Dupuy’s wishes prior to knowing explicitly from yourself whether you agreed with this

Eugene then gives the reasons why Dupuy chose the Oblates instead of local clergy of the diocese:

There is no doubt that M. Dupuy, who is on the spot wherein he at first expected to accomplish the work of religion all by himself or with the help of a few priests of the area, saw that it would be too difficult and even impractical to form a community made up of heterogeneous elements, and he probably did not feel strong enough to spend his life in close association with strangers, each with his own will, divergent ideas, and unique spirit. He had come to know and appreciate the priests of our Congregation…

Letter to Bishop Philibert de Bruillard of Grenoble, 18 August 1834, EO XIII n 82

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LET US AT LEAST TRY TO TEACH THEM SOME MANNERS TO MAKE THEM LIVABLE WITH

An insight into Eugene’s wry sense of humor:

My dear Courtès. just a brief word, through the courtesy of Father Pons. I am sorry to hear that you are suffering from your usual fever. These annoying guests set themselves up as masters in our poor bodies. If we cannot get rid of them, let us at least try to teach them some manners to make them liveable with.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 17 July 1834, EO VIII n 482

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I AM NOT OBLIGED TO PERFORM THIS ACT OF CHARITY BUT THERE IS A KIND OF SOLIDARITY IN THE EPISCOPATE

Eugene, being a bishop and not being allowed to work in Marseilles, offered his episcopal services for performing confirmations and pastoral care among the most abandoned in areas where the local bishop was unable to minister. In this way he combined his Oblate vocation and his state of life.

… I am on my way to the Durance Valley where I am going to administer the sacrament of confirmation in place of the poor Archbishop of Avignon who is confined to his room. They have not seen a bishop in those parts for fifteen to twenty years; could one refuse the faithful the service they have a right to?
I know that I am not strictly obliged to perform this act of charity but it seems to me that there is a kind of solidarity in the episcopate. I wish I had the health to do more, but this irritation that is lodged in my throat restrains me whether I like it or not when it comes to preaching, since I can hardly speak sometimes for any length of time.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 17 July 1834, EO VIII n 482

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I FEEL A LOT OF COMPASSION FOR THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE LEFT WITHOUT A SERVICE THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO

Eugene, the missionary Oblate, was always aware of seeking out the most abandoned. Now as a bishop, without a diocese or an official function in the Church, he identifies the most abandoned who need his sacramental and pastoral services. 

I would like all who are impeded by age from fulfilling the essential duty of pastoral visitation and administration of the sacrament of confirmation in the parts of their diocese that are difficult of access to send me there, so long as I have some youth left, that is to say, if God grants me the health, over the period of the next ten years or so. The truth is, I feel a lot of compassion for these people who are left without a service they have a right to and which is so necessary for their sanctification.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 22 May 1834, EO VIII n 481

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