IT IS A GREAT INCONVENIENCE NOT TO BE UNDERSTOOD BY HALF OR THREE QUARTERS OF YOUR LISTENERS

The aims and methods of Oblate preaching were always clear: break the Word of God for the most abandoned by speaking simply in their language. In Eugene’s time it was the Provençal language – and only rarely did he permit the Missionaries to deviate from that course.

We have an example here. We do not know who this “elite audience” was for Courtès, but Eugene gave him permission to preach to them, with certain conditions.

As I usually decide on the basis of some good reason, this is a case which pains me because you deviate from what our Rules prescribe regarding how we instruct the people.
If I have authorized you to preach in the style that you have adopted, and prepare sermons for elite audiences, it is because I do not wish to put obstacles in the way of your talents and that I count on your leaving some records of what it produces, so that after you others can use your compositions. That means you must write and correct with care your sermons before or after giving them.
If you deceive my expectations and do not write your sermons, I will no longer have sufficient reason to permit an exception which involves disadvantages which ought necessarily to be compensated.
It is in fact a great inconvenience not to be understood by half or three quarters of your listeners.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 28 January 1824, EO VI n. 129

We have other examples where Eugene chided an Oblate for preaching in French to the disadvantage of those in the church who could not understand. It was those who were not being touched by the structures of the Church that the Oblates were meant to reach out to. As long as there were any of that group present in a church congregation, then it was on them that the Missionaries had to focus.

 

Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”    Gilbert K. Chesterton

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2 Responses to IT IS A GREAT INCONVENIENCE NOT TO BE UNDERSTOOD BY HALF OR THREE QUARTERS OF YOUR LISTENERS

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Well – it looks like indeed that if they were going to preach to the educated people of France in French then they would ‘be paying for it’. When I think about it, Eugene and the Oblates might have done quite well, become quite successful if they had preached more and more to the ‘elite’ of their country, if they’d played their cards right. But Eugene’s spirit, his charism was quite specific. It was not easy.

    There is still that challenge today, to remain true to that charism, to seek out those who remain untouched by the structures of the church. That call is before us today and we sometimes need to be a little inventive as to who we see as being untouched. For sure there are those in distant reaches of our country and in other countries, but there are also those in our own cities, our own neighbourhoods, our own communities and parishes who are simply waiting (sometimes quietly but desperately) to be touched. Sometimes they need simply to be touched by the words being shared by another, words that they understand and that resonate within. We all seem to be looking for the same thing – isn’t it wonderful when we can share that same thing with each other? I come here this morning to listen and hear, to touch and be touched.

  2. Jack Lau, OMI says:

    As I read this paragraph and Eleanor’s reply I am called to ask again,
    what would Eugene say about our present ministries?
    Do they meet his criteria for outreach to those least touched by the church or those who have walked from the church due to hurts and not being welcomed or included?
    As we continue to evalutate/reevalutate ministries do we take to heart the challenges of Eugene and our present General. We may be doing good ministry, but does it reflect our charism?
    Surely, more questions than answers. And that is probably good.

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