(On the occasion of the Oblate novena – May 21 – May 29 – I am going to re-publish the entries that I had prepared two years ago on various aspects of the life of Eugene de Mazenod. This daily reflection has a much larger following now and I think it worthwhile to remind our readers of the key elements of Eugene’s life and their significance.)

 1 August 1782 – birth in Aix en Provence. Son of Charles Antoine de Mazenod, President of the Court of Accounts, and of Marie Rose Joannis.

I have not changed over the years. I idolize my family.
I would let myself be cut up into little pieces for some members of my family, and that stretches out to quite a long way for I would give my life without hesitation for my father, mother, grandmother, my sister and my father’s two brothers.
Generally speaking I love with passion everybody I believe loves me, but theirs must be a passionate love too.
So gratitude is the final constituent that goes to make up my heart’s passion.

Self-evaluation written for his spiritual director in 1808, O.W. XIV n. 30

It is hard to understand, given the portrait of myself I have just painted, how sensitive a heart I have, overly so in fact. It would take too long to give you all the stories of my childhood traits I have had related to me and which are really rather surprising.
It was quite normal for me to give away my breakfast even when I was hungry to satisfy the hunger of the poor, I used to bring firewood to people who complained of the cold and of not being able to afford to buy it, on one occasion I went as far as to give away the clothes off my back to clothe a poor person, and many, many other stories in the same vein.

Self-evaluation written for his spiritual director in 1808, O.W. XIV n. 30

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Last evening at our Associate’s gathering a copy of Ron Rolheiser’s article on Eugene (“A Human Saint” written in 1995) was read aloud. None of it was new but it was real. This great man who was so very passionate in all that he did was very much a “both and” person who loved whole-heartedly, full of fire and most likely difficult as hell to live with. I imagine for some who lived with him, worked closely with him it might have seemed that it was frequently like “walking on eggs” so as to avoid a mess. All the while knowing also his love and tenderness, his heart which has been described as being as “big as the world”. A very “human saint”.

    The “both and”. Perhaps that is part of why I find Eugene so appealing as a saint, as a model, as a person. He never did anything half-way – his entire being was always pored into whatever it was he was doing, whoever he was loving or struggling with. And so for me, once I was able to see not only the “bad”, the brokenness and the wounds within myself, (those things that shape who I am as a person) as well as seeing (and admitting to) the goodness and love and passion for those who who do not know what love is, I found a person to emulate, a saint no less! A man whose charism was a gift to me (and to the whole world but that seemed like God had said here you go, live like this and you will find yourself and me). I have responded with drive and passion and I can only imagine the people that I have ‘rubbed the wrong way’ or driven to distraction (and I might just want to remember that the next time I run into someone who seems to “drive me to distraction”). And perhaps that is why at first it seemed a little terrifying because I somehow knew I would have to face my own humanness, my woundedness as well as my own goodness, of the great passionate love that my heart sometimes wants to burst with. All a part of who I am, I would have to face it all head-on.

    St Eugene, you were no plaster saint for sure, on fire for God, living as a true cooperator of Christ our Savior, a model to follow, father to a dynasty, founder of a congregation. I am filled with gratitude for your invitation to live a specific and intentional way. In it I find myself and my way home.

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