The ministry which the Oblates do today in retreat houses and pilgrimage shrines has its origins in the earliest days of the Congregation. Our first house outside of Aix, Notre Dame du Laus, was a place of pilgrimage where the Missionaries accompanied people on retreats. Our second establishment outside of Aix was the Calvaire in Marseille, and here the ministry of giving retreats was also an integral part of its mission – as Eugene wanted every Oblate house to be.
In 1826, Eugene was considering moving the novitiate to this community in Marseille and was concerned that there would no longer be sufficient place to accommodate retreatants for a ministry that “does so much good.” This fruitful ministry continues today in many parts of the Oblate world.
I also will be sorry to renounce the hope of being able to give retreats in the house; they do so much good. I know that in France their benefits are unknown and confessors do not trouble themselves to recommend them; but even if we would only bring together half a dozen persons, perhaps the liking for them will catch on and God knows with what profit for souls!
But, if we are going to have novices in the house, what room will remain to lodge the retreatants? If we were sure this work would succeed, we would have to be able to buy the neighboring houses. These thoughts come to my mind as I go about the streets of Rome pursuing our affairs.
Letter to Henri Tempier, 5 March 1826, EO VII n 228
“Nowhere can persons find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in their own souls.” Marcus Aurelius