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