The texts about translating the Oblate Rule into Latin may not appear very inspiring today. Yet, behind these letters is a very important stage in the development of the Missionary Oblates.

After 8 years of existence, the time had come for Eugene’s group of Missionaries to request a formal recognition from the Church. Until now they had operated according to a Rule of Life that they had compiled and committed themselves to. It was a private matter and we have seen how they depended on the good will of the local church authorities to function and continue. When that good will was not present, they feared for their survival.

The Rule and the spirit of this group had to be submitted to the mechanisms of the universal Church to evaluate whether this all came from the inspiration of God or was just the human creation by a charismatic figure who shared his ideals with others. Just as other charismatic figures like Francis, Dominic, Ignatius of Loyola, Theresa of Avila, and Alphonsus Liguori had done in the past to receive ecclesiastical approval, so too Eugene de Mazenod needed to submit himself to the same process. In order to do so, he had to have their Rule translated into Latin.

I wrote to you yesterday, my very dear friend, but we always have so many things to say to one another that there inevitably remains something more to deal with. You had offered to translate our Rules and I had accepted your offer but we had not arranged anything, as I was thinking of improving the beginning in order to correct certain expressions that were too severe or oratorical. I have so little free time that I have not yet been able to touch it.
However it should be a matter of urgency to have this translation done. That was on my mind this morning during my thanksgiving which is not exempt, as you see, from distractions, unless you take as a good inspiration the thought that it would be well that you begin to translate bits here and there and that you be helped, if necessary in this work, by those of our Oblates whom you know as able to do it and who would be good enough Latinists for this.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 18 January 1825, EO VI n 166


“Unfurl the sails, and let God steer us where He will.” – St. Bede

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One Response to COMING OF AGE

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    This has been a difficult writing to use as a point of inspiration or reflection and I find myself with more questions than there are answers. I find myself relating as Frank speaks of “…depending on the good will of ….”, and evaluating “…whether this all came from the inspiration of God or was just the human creation by a charismatic figure who shared his ideals with others.” None of this is comfortable at all.

    Is this the will of God, or is it just my own desires and needs? One would think that if it is from God it would happen and yet that seems not always to be the case – not in this time and not in this place. I think a little of some of the “leaders” that have been around in our time, who said they were of God, who proclaimed themselves to have been chosen by God to lead others to salvation”. We have proclaimed them to be wrong, to be sick and many other things. What voice did they listen to? Was it just their own?

    I am not a scripture scholar but more and more scripture enters into my daily life, my thoughts and my prayers and that is a little disconcerting because I don’t think of myself as a scripture type of person. Even this morning while reflecting on this I thought of how Moses led his people out of slavery, across the sea and through the desert. Did he ask himself what he was doing, if it was the right thing? What am I leading others in or to? I am not a big leader, just a very little fish in a very small pond. I could say it is not important but it is. What of those fish that I help to lead and guide and support? Is it my will or God’s? I have not heard anyone say it’s not the will of God, but what I have heard is NIMBY, not here, not with us, perhaps in a few years, find another way, etc. And at the same time I think of some who live farther away, in another lands, who have been encouraging and even supportive. I wish that God would speak loudly and clearly and even as I write these words I think of the many things in life that are not “sure”.

    I have travelled far, and the roads I have taken have not always been very smooth or easy to navigate. I feel that in a way I am coming towards an end and yet am back right at the very beginning. Whose voice am I listening to? Is it of me or of God? What is the will of God? This morning I quote Martin Luther King when I say softly “I have a dream”. But whose dream is it?

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