Having enthused about the lofty ideals of the Missionaries and having drawn up the plan of action to achieve them, Eugene now returns to reality. The Nota Bene was written in response to the havoc being caused in the Church by priests who were not living up to the ideals of their vocation, who were blocking the way to God for others through their bad example. So he returns to that painfully negative theme.
We have to penetrate even more deeply – to the very heart of the sanctuary, to sweep away so much refuse collected at its entryway, its interior to the very steps of the altar where the Sacred Victim is sacrificed,
The ministry of those who have remained faithful, despite persecution, danger of death and derision and indifference, is compared with a fire struggling to stay lit. The Missionaries must help these priests at all costs:
to rekindle the sacred fire of pure love which is nurtured only by a small number of holy ministers who carefully guard the final sparks which will soon become extinguished with their passing, if we do not hasten to step forward to gather round them
By the quality of their lives and their generous oblation, the Missionaries can make a difference – they can be agents of renewal, conversion and new hope. They do this through their ministry of preaching parish missions and in their various permanent missions from their community – but most of all by the quality of their generous oblation. It is a question of “BE” in order to “DO”:
and there, acting in concert with them, to offer to the living God in reparation for so many crimes, the most thorough and total homage and devotion, the sacrifice of one’s entire being to the glory of the Savior and to the service of his Church.
1818 Rule, Part One, Chapter One, §3. Nota Bene
The vocabulary may have changed, the painful situations may have taken other forms, but today that challenge to generosity still resounds in the Missionary Oblate family’s preparation to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its existence:
“Conversion: A new heart, a new spirit, a new mission”
“In conversion you are not attached primarily to an order, nor to an institution, nor a movement, nor a set of beliefs, nor a code of action – you are attached primarily to a Person, and secondarily to these other things.” E. Stanley Jones