Going against the advice of his cardinals, Pope Leo made it clear that “ it was his will that our Society, whose value seemed evident to him, receive the guarantee of the solemn approbation.” In the somewhat flowery language of the time, Eugene explained:
Shall I recall the warmth and graciousness with which His Holiness deigned to receive me and his extreme kindness certainly far beyond what I deserved, and which will never cease to maintain in my heart feelings of gratitude as well as confusion? As for the discretion, the deep perceptiveness and profound wisdom that the Holy Father manifested in the course of this interview, no tongue can express it. Prostrate at his feet and very tenderly moved in the presence of the Vicar of Christ, I softly shed tears, I greedily gathered each one of his words as an oracle of the Almighty whose place he holds; scarcely had I made known to him the reasons for my journey and my request than he understood perfectly and discerned at a first glance all the great advantages which would result from it.
O truly surprising marvel and which will always be the joy and honour of the Congregation! In this affair of an extreme importance for the Church, for the Society and for each of us, the Sovereign Pontiff did everything of his own accord and under the prompting of the Holy Spirit who guides him always in the government of the Church. From where does this benevolence come, this untiring concern to protect us, this zeal full of care which, by a decision of his sovereign power, has removed all obstacles?
He deigned to indicate to me himself the manner to fulfil all the formalities, to point out to me those whom I ought to go and see and made me take down in writing on his desk, with the pen that his august and venerable hand presented to me, their names and their addresses. But, a matter still more surprising, as the Pro-secretary of the Sacred Congregation concerned with Bishops and Regulars (for the functions of secretary had not yet been turned over to Arch. Marchetti of Ancyra, this man eminent in all kinds of sciences and virtues to whom, by reason of his great alacrity to execute the orders of the Sovereign Pontiff, we are much in debt),
When these men had studied the matter and come up with a negative conclusion, the Pope went against them:
as the said Pro-secretary, in the first report that he made to His Holiness about our affair, concluded, in accordance with the practice of the said Congregation, that our Constitutions should simply be praised, our most Holy Father, reiterating his satisfaction, let him know to his great surprise that it was his will that our Society, of which the worth seemed manifest to him, receive the guarantee of the solemn approbation called “in special form” and that she thus be constituted in the Church as a real Order of religious.
Letter to all the Oblates, 25 March 1826, EO VII n 232
As we recall Pope Leo XII’s recognition of and admiration for the Oblates, we also recall that for 200 years the Popes have admired and supported the Congregation. Pope Pius IX had a great esteem for Eugene and they communicated regularly. Pope Pius IX’s 1938 appreciation is often quoted when he recognized the Oblates of Mary Immaculate as “Specialists in Difficult Missions.” Pope Paul VI and John Paul II acknowledged this at the beatification and canonization ceremonies of Eugene, and at our general chapters.
“I thank all of you for the affection you show the Successor of Peter, which I cordially return, and with greater reason because of the devotion I feel for your founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod, as well as for the esteem I feel for your Congregation, at once Marian and missionary.” Saint John Paul II, 2004