Eugene used the annual retreat of the Missionaries as the opportunity to present to them the Rule that he had compiled. The retreat extended from October 23 to 31, 1818. As the events of this retreat, and of our first General Chapter, are an important step in the development of the identity of the Oblates, I will present them in some detail, and let some of the biographers of this period tell us the story.

All members of the small Society being assembled, Fr. de Mazenod, communicated the proposed Rules and Constitutions to them. He made this reading coincide with the exercises of the annual retreat which usually began on October 23. Every day he read the six priests of the Institute a part of his manuscript and commenting and explaining it article by article

Rey I, p 233. quoting the “Diary” of Marius Suzanne

Leflon continues the story:

The six priests, Fathers Tempier, Mye, Moreau, Deblieu, Maunier and Aubert, accepted the first part on the aims of the Society. When it came to the part on the vows, there was a resistance that gave every indication of being insuperable. Only Tempier and Moreau approved the Superior-General’s proposals; the others formed a block to reject them. In spite of the guarded language of the official records, of eye-witnesses and of Oblate historians, one gathers that the reaction was rather spirited.
On coming to live at the former Carmelite monastery, the members had no intention of embracing the religious life or of vowing themselves for life to the Society. On the contrary, they had come with the understanding that they were completely free “to remain or withdraw” whenever it would please them.
Furthermore, it was agreed when they entered that the Society would not be anything more than a simple association of secular priests living in common for the purpose of devoting themselves to the missions. Now everything was being changed and doubts began to arise concerning the Founder’s good faith.
The situation then became extremely serious. If the four dissidents remained adamant, not only would the Superior be obliged to renounce the foundation at Laus and cancel the arrangements made with Bishop Miollis, but the Society he wanted to reinforce would very likely disintegrate.
His personal authority which, until then, had kept the embattled and fragile Society together would be given a stinging and devastating rebuff. Everything would fall apart from the one blow.

Leflon 2, p. 166 – 167

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  1. Jack Lau, OMI says:

    Thank you Frank for these reflections.
    As we look at these writings, we need to look at them “in the now-the present moment” and do so in there light. What are the issues that divide and separate? As we can see, something don’t change. It is community and then the tensions that come about when different people have different definitions of what community life is. I don’t think we will ever have one definition, one template for community life (we are not monastic!) but it is in the conversation that One heart is formed.
    Blessings as we enter the season of Lent together.

  2. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    To remain steadfast, to be true. Those are the words I am hearing today, actually for the past little while, but today with this posting they seem to insist on being heard.

    How many of those holy and good men started to think – this is not what I signed up for when Eugene wrote and spoke of vows. They came to be with the other missionaries – perhaps there was a ‘romance’ to it. They were on fire. They were spreading the word of God. They were going about God’s work. The honeymoon! Of course though Eugene was there leading them and he was about much more than just “falling in love”, he truly was about giving “his all” and living that out. All of a sudden they were hitting the ground fast and hard. Perseverance, chastity and obedience. Vows. Those must have seemed pretty daunting to some of them. I am reminded of the young man in Matthew (19) who is told he needs to give away all his possessions and follow Jesus and who went away sad because it was simply ‘too’ much. Jesus was not just talking about his physical possessions, but I think of our very beings. Everything. The young man wasn’t sure he wanted to sign on for that.

    This didn’t just happen in the Gospels, or to those founding Oblates. I believe it happens to us all. Whether we are asked to take on a new ministry, volunteer for a few hours more, spend more time taking care of someone, turning the other cheek and working with those who might have wronged us, (or those we have wronged because that is just plain uncomfortable), or walking in the darkness without the surety of light and an a familiar touch. We all have our vows or promises or commitments to make and keep, whether they are organized, public or simply in our hearts. They are huge, and they do demand a lot. What threatens us within?

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