Henri Tempier’s letter not only referred to Vachon’s misbehavior, but also to the fact of 5 novices having left the novitiate without making the commitment of vows. This caused Eugene to make some serious reflections on the novitiate formation of the Oblates.

Reflect on what I have told you in one of my letters about our novitiate. It is not set up to my liking. It is a great misfortune that this be so. We must absolutely reach the point of having as novices only those who truly wish to be such, who ask this favour as a grace, on whose determination we can rely.

It was essential that any candidates coming to join the Oblates be convinced about what they were joining, and that they have the necessary qualities to be missionaries.

What are these young people who come without at all knowing what it is about, who have no taste for recollection, who are flighty in spirit, in a word, in a very poor frame of mind. All that I see since I have been in these parts has no resemblance at all to our situation. What modesty, what submission, what piety! As I have passed through Turin, Genoa, Viterbo, what sins of envy have I not committed or at least, how much I have longed for the happiness of seeing a similar spirit take root amongst us. Therein lies the whole trouble. It is urgent that we see to this in future.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 26 November 1825, EO VI n. 208

Today our Rule of Life tells us:

The novitiate is the candidate’s time of initiation into Oblate religious life and leads to his public commitment in the Congregation… Under the guidance of the Novice Master, the novice comes to grasp the meaning of religious consecration. He can thus discern the Lord’s call and, in prayer, make himself ready to respond.

CC&RR, Constitution 55

Most novices picture themselves as masters – and are content with the picture. This is why there are so few masters.” Jean Toomer

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Formation is paramount – and I dare to say not just for novitiates of religious consecrated life. I am of course thinking of Oblate Associates, Friends of St. Eugene or Partners In Mission or whatever name they go by. It is personal. One cannot form one’s self, it must be something we are given, that is shared, that we take part in.

    It is much like when a person starts a new job with a company. They bring with them basic knowledge of how to do specific functions but they will need to learn about the corporate history of their new employers, the spirit of their company and how they function. They will need to learn the ethics and values of their company and how to go about bringing all of that into their particular job. In the workplace it is not uncommon to hear the phrase that this person, or that person is “being groomed” for a particular job or function. They are being formed which comes from specific training, sharing, working and walking with. It never happens on one’s own.

    Formation it would seem to me is no accident – it doesn’t just happen on it’s own. I cannot open a book and from it if the pages are blank and I am told to write my own lesson, any more than I can learn if I am asked to wait until a way of making better paper for the book is discovered that will making the formation process better.

    I hear in here my own discontent, my fears and my cry for more. It is not just my cry, but that of others. I find myself singing ‘The Lord hears the cry of the poor, blessed be the Lord….’

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