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