Another young Oblate in formation in Aix, Hippolyte Guibert, was preparing to receive ordination to the diaconate. Eugene wrote to congratulate and encourage him. Even though there was not an open persecution, like those of the early Christians by the Jews and pagans, the young clerics needed strength to minister in an atmosphere in France that could be strongly anti-clerical and difficult.

I take this occasion several days in advance, my dear and good friend, to congratulate you and rejoice in your future promotion to the order of diaconate. I wish you, my dear son, all the heroic virtues of the saints who are soon to become your patrons. Although we do not live at the centre of Judaism or amongst pagans, we are nonetheless subjected to a kind of persecution which renders this robur, which the Holy Spirit grants to deacons, very necessary and of which I promise myself you will make good use on every occasion.

Letter to Hippolyte Guibert, 15 December 1824, EO VI n 160


“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.” John F. Kennedy

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    There is almost a small sadness in being here and listening to Eugene’s words today although I am not entirely sure why. Again having to look up a word, “robur”. This brought to mind thoughts of Confirmation, my confirmation, which I am ashamed to admit meant little to me at that time. I was 6 years old and I remember that I chose the name of Theresa after Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (I always liked the name Theresa and I wanted to be a saint – to be loved by God and to love him in return). There is very little that I remember about the occasion except that I got to wear my First Communion dress and shoes – all white and very important at the time. Not a lot of meaning to the sacrament at that time though for me. Thank goodness the Holy Spirit is patient, I realise that I might have to credit my very survival to having been confirmed.

    I reflected on some of the young men in today’s church who are becoming and who are Deacons and who need the strength of the Holy Spirit. Some of them are married men with families and in another church they might then move on to become priests. I wonder for the first time if brothers in religious orders become Deacons because it seems to be something saved only for those men who will then become ordained as priests.

    I thought too this morning of lay men and women who are taking on some special and specific ways of living. I think of our Oblate Associates who are committing themselves to a very specific way of living their lives, how it takes courage and strength for them to be where they are, how they take on in particular St. Eugene de Mazenod as their patron. They too need to be not just affirmed, but somehow confirmed by or with the Holy Spirit. Even as I write this I realise that I am calling this a vocation, just as much as is the call to be a member of the religious, or a priest. I am including in my thoughts those who are or will become like the Loretto “co-members” – something new again which will require strength and perseverance even to exist within the church. It is a new way of commitment in the beginnings of this 21st century.

    That hint of sadness which touched me as I began has become joy, small and quiet joy. It has become acceptance and hope, Perhaps that is the Holy Spirit’s gift today.

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