Eugene reminds the young missionaries that one of the main aims of Oblate ministry was to instruct people who had generally been left ignorant about their faith and confused in their values as a result of the French Revolution. It is important for us today to bear in mind that Eugene wanted every place where Oblates ministered to be a place of ongoing mission to the abandoned around them – a place of ongoing instruction so as to lead people into a deeper conversion to and a closer relationship with Jesus the Savior.
Tell Father Suzanne it is important that he spend several days to instruct the people concerning what is called Christian life. One must greatly insist on and make them feel the necessity of practising virtue, giving them a great esteem for this, first for the state of being Christian, for which they have had little care until now; go over the practical aspect of the Law of God, the commandments of God and of the Church; bring out all that pertains to religion that they must be taught to respect in the least details, fulminate against the stupid pleasantries that they sometimes make about religion for the sake of making conversation, a liberty that is quite common amongst the people of the countryside.
In a word, you must go over everything from morning to evening prayer, from the first day of the year to the last. It has several times happened with me to explain to that end, either the résumé of the faith, or the rule of life, which are found in the hymn book.
Letter to Jacques Marcou, 18 December 1824, EO VI n. 161
Once the people were assured of a basic knowledge of their faith, they could then be helped to deepen their relationship with God through a process of ongoing conversion.
“Even in Rome there are people who live without hope and who are immersed in deep sadness that they try to get out of, believing to have found happiness in alcohol, in drugs, in gambling, in the power of money, in sex without rules. But they find themselves still more dejected and sometimes vent their anger towards life with violent acts that are unworthy of the human person. … We who have discovered the joy of having God for our Father and his love for us, can we stand idly by in front of our brothers and sisters and not proclaim the Gospel to them? We who have found in Jesus Christ, who died and rose again, the meaning of life, can we be indifferent towards this city that asks us, perhaps even unconsciously, for hope? … We are Christians; we are disciples of Jesus not to be wrapped up in ourselves but to open ourselves to others in order to help them, in order to bring them to Christ and to protect every creature.” Pope Francis