Today, exactly 200 years ago, we find the 29 year-old Eugene de Mazenod on retreat on the day before his priestly ordination. Reading though his retreat notes I am struck by the centrality of his desire to love God as fully as possible.
His prayer during the retreat was to empty himself totally in preparation for ordination “so that the Holy Spirit, when it no longer encounters obstacles to its divine operations, may come to rest on me in all its fullness, filling everything within me with the love of Jesus Christ my Saviour.”
His vocation was born from his experience of understanding how loved he was by God. The graces of his journey of conversion to Jesus the Saviour and of his “Good Friday Experience” are clearly recognisable here in his life and ideals. In his ministry, Eugene’s focus will constantly orbit around the love of the Saviour.
Eugene’s response was to love God in return:
My Saviour, my Father, my love, bring me to love you; this only do I ask, for I know full well that that is everything. Give me your love.
He desired to do so as fully as possible, and then to lead others to his same experience.
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.
My God, that is not enough, and why I should I not love you as much as you love yourself? That cannot be, I know, but to desire it is not impossible, for I form it in all sincerity in my heart, with all my soul. Yes, my God, I would like to love you as much as you love yourself; this then is how I may undertake to make reparation for my past ingratitude.
Notes made during the retreat in preparation for priestly ordination 1-21 December 1811 , O.W. XIV n. 95
It was during this same retreat that he expressed the desire that through his priesthood he wanted to live only for God and to love everyone and everything through God. Eugene’s priesthood was characterized by this desire for oblation.
As the Mazenodian family recalls the 200th anniversary of our Founder’s ordination, I believe that it is a call for each of us to renew our “oblation” in a personal way to love God and to love all in God, and of having the desire to bring many to our same experience.