25 JANUARY 1816: RECALLING THE FOUNDING STORY

The all-important first day of community life for the Missionaries was obviously a story often repeated in all its details. In his Memoires, Father Tempier, described it as: “This memorable day that I will never forget for as long as I live.”

Here Eugene is writing to the novices and scholastics who were in Billens, Switzerland, to escape the dangers of the anti-religious persecution by the government of Louis Philippe. He narrates the story of the beginning of their religious family, and draws a conclusion linked with the vow of poverty and the call to simplicity.

Tomorrow I celebrate the anniversary of the day, sixteen years ago, I left my mother’s house to go and set up house at the Mission. Father Tempier had taken possession of it some days before. Our lodging had none of the splendour of the mansion at Billens, and whatever deprivations you may be subject to, ours were greater still. My camp-bed was placed in the small passageway which leads to the library: it was then a large room used as a bedroom for Father Tempier and for one other whose name we no longer mention amongst us. It was also our community room. One lamp was all our lighting and, when it was time for bed, it was placed in the doorway to give light to all three of us.
The table that adorned our refectory was one plank laid alongside another, on top of two old barrels. We have never enjoyed the blessing of such poverty since the time we took the vow. Without question, it was a foreshadowing of the state of perfection that we now live so imperfectly. I highlight this wholly voluntary deprivation deliberately (it would have been easy to put a stop to it and to have everything that was needed brought from my mother’s house) so as to draw the lesson that God in his goodness was directing us even then, and really without us having yet given it a thought, towards the evangelical counsels which we were to profess later on. It is through experiencing them that we learnt their value.
I assure you we lost none of our merriment; on the contrary, as this new way of life was in quite striking contrast with that we had just left, we often found ourselves having a hearty laugh over it. I owed this tribute to the memory of our first day of common life. How happy I would be to live it now with you!

Letter to Jean-Baptiste Mille and the novices and scholastics, 24 January 1831, O.W. VIII n.383

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3 Responses to 25 JANUARY 1816: RECALLING THE FOUNDING STORY

  1. franksantucci says:

    A PRAYER SERVICE SENT TO US BY THE OBLATE ASSOCIATES OF ARNPRIOR/GALILEE CENTRE

    2012 January 25,
    196Anniversary of the First Gathering of the De Mazenod Family.
    Oblate Associates of Arnprior/Galilee Centre

    Praise be Jesus Christ and Mary Immaculate! (LJC et MI)
    The Lord is with you. r. And also with you.

    Ce ici bas, ce le commencement de ciel.
    R. Here on earth is the beginning of heaven.

    (Together)
     We gather with a desire to listen to and do God’s will. R. AMEN
     We gather with a desire to allow an Oblate community to form that reflects both the charism of St. Eugene and our unique baptismal call R.
     We gather with a desire to pray and to join others in prayer R.
     We gather with a desire for mission and service R.

    Song: “He has sent us” words by Mark Dean, OMI

    (Together) Prayer of St. Eugene
    Passionately in love with Jesus Christ and loving daughters and sons of His Church, we beg you: for us the grace to follow the Saviour faithfully and to cling to Him with our whole being.
    May we have the courage and faith to answer His call to be His witness to those who do not know Him or have forgotten him.
    Teach us to love the Church, our Mother; to be united with her in her joys and her pains, each of us sharing her mission according to our personal vocation.
    You received the gift to love the poor and the lowly, to stoop to find them; show us how to love and respect them. Teach us to look at our world with the eyes of Christ on the cross, confident that the power of His Resurrection will overcome all or our difficulties and sufferings. Amen.

    Ce ici bas, ce le commencement de ciel.
    R. Here on earth is the beginning of heaven.

    Readings from the writings of St. Eugene:;To the Capitular Vicars General in Aix, 2:XIII, To Father Tempier in Aix, 10:VI in Oblate Writings and
    from “Living in the Spirits Fire” P. 64-66

    Request of authorization to form a missionary community. Principal points of rule.

    Capitular Vicars General at Aix
    Aix,
    January 25, 1816

    The undersigned priests:

    -deeply moved by the deplorable situation of the small towns and villages of Provence that have almost completely lost the faith;

    -knowing from experience that the callousness or indifference of these people renders the ordinary help supplied by your concern for their salvation insufficient and even useless;

    -convinced that missions are the only means by which these people who have gone astray can be brought out of their degradation;

    -desirous, at the same time, of responding to the call which summons them to consecrate themselves to this arduous ministry;

    -and wishing to accomplish it in a manner as useful to themselves as it is advantageous for the people whom they propose to evangelize;

    -have the honour of requesting from you the authorization to come together at Aix in the old house of the Carmelites which one of them has acquired; and to live there in community under a Rule whose main points they now indicate to you.

    The end of this Society is not only to work for the salvation of one’s neighbor by dedicating itself to the ministry of preaching; its chief aim also includes providing its members with the means necessary to practice the virtues of religion to which they are so strongly attached……..
    The House of the Mission will be totally exempt from the jurisdiction of the parish priest. It is subject only to the Ordinary. In this matter, it will enjoy the privileges of former religious houses.
    The church which the Missionaries have in their charge will also be under the immediate jurisdiction and supervision of the local Ordinary.
    Vicars General and Gentlemen: Such is a comprehensive outline of the regulations that the undersigned priests present for your approval in requesting your authorization to form a community.

    Done at Aix, January 25, 1816.

    Eugene de Mazenod, Tempier, Icard, Mie, Maunier, Deblieu.

    To Father Tempier at Aix.
    11:VI in Oblate Writings

    Grans ,
    February 24, 1816.

    It is absolutely impossible for me to write to you, my good brother and friend. We have no time to eat, nor even to sleep.
    I should at this moment be at the office of pacification; but I have had to write to M. Guigou (capitular vicar.) I send this to you as an open letter so that you may read it and have it read to our friends. Were I to enter into details, you would be moved to tears. I miss you ten times daily. Religion would be lost in this country without the mission. It is a triumph. Though it be the death of us, I will not complain. Our work is indispensable and only if we are twelve shall it be able to continue. Plead for recruits in your prayers. I shall regret all my life that you have not been here with us, but God will take into account your sacrifice.

    A thousand regards for all friends, great and small. I think of them every day in the holy sacrifice. Let them not forget us.

    I embrace you with my heart, cherished brother that you are. Adieu, adieu.

    P.S. Between us missionaries… we are what we ought to be, that is to say, we have but one heart, one soul, one thought. It is admirable! Our consolations, like our hardships, are unequalled.

    • How have I experienced the call of Jesus in my life?
    • What from this story of “beginnings” speaks to you?
    • Do you remember a time when with little, you also were very happy?
    • How has the practice of Oraison (the web of Oblate Prayer) touched you and supported you this past year?

    Prayers for the Oblate Family, our families and the world community

    (Let us pray together) Lord, through the intercession of St. Eugene de Mazenod, make us missionaries, especially to the poor and abandoned. Give us the same love St. Eugene had, so we may see the poor and abandon through the eyes of Jesus our savior. Help us accompany them to the resurrection; we ask this through Christ the Lord. Amen.

    At the end of tonight’s meeting we will end with the Lord’s Prayer, the Salve Regina and the Missioning Blessing with the Oblate Cross.

  2. Jack Lau, OMI says:

    Thank you Frank for this reading.
    For me, the imagery is that of the Passover and the Last Supper. It is foundational for who we are and we need to continue to tell the story from generation to generation. I have said in the past, I would love to see this event painted and have it in the refectories and dinning rooms thought out the congregation. There is a challenge for us!
    Happy feast day to all in the de Mazenodian Family,
    Jack,omi

    • John Mouck says:

      Amen to having that painting done, Jack.
      “The table that adorned our refectory was one plank laid alongside another, on top of two old barrels.”
      Truth be known, this is probably a truer image of “the last supper” given the conditions in Jesus’ times, the ‘upper room’, and the way He liked to live.
      It has been my experience that hard times bring a family together (together in love, sharing, and purpose) like nothing else can.
      You are my family.
      May we love and support one another as we venture out together, but each on his own unique journey, to try to do what He asks of us.
      John

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