Before the candidates to Oblate life made their commitment, they had to do an intense year of prayer and reflection, called the novitiate. The behavior of Nicolas Riccardi and some others had led Eugene to question how well the novitiate was being run. Writing to the Oblate responsible for the novices, Eugene reflected on the novitiate.

[Our novices] still do not have the spirit of our Society, they must be formed in obedience, self-abnegation, love of poverty and in quite a number of other virtues unknown in the seminaries where they have lived until now. The hope of the Society depends on the good use of time in the novitiate, and I will not back down from that. I will not hesitate to sacrifice everything for this prime need of the Society;

In the Aix house there were also some school-going young men who were probationers

so much the worse for these scholars on probation; I am sorry that their progress will be slowed down but let them go elsewhere for instruction if they want to advance more quickly. We will take them back when they have learned what they need to enter novitiate. I conclude by recommending that you refrain from doing what you say tires you out even if the scholars have to suffer; and you must not count for a long time either on Riccardi or on Reynier whom I will not allow to leave novitiate until they are really trained in the religious spirit.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 2 February 1826, EO VII n 222

Today our Rule of Life continues to stress the importance of the novitiate:

“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


“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”   William Butler Yeats

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    The lighting of the fire – what a wonderful image. For almost an entire year we start our liturgies, our celebrations and are daily lives by turning on a light, by lighting candles, but at our Easter Vigil we begin with the lighting of the Easter Fire. The small flame that we have been equally feeding and guarding through Lent and then even more strongly during Holy Week is culminated with the lighting of a fire. New and deeper life. I am surprised by my own thoughts. And just as quickly I think of the theme of our last convocation -Fanning the Flames. Not just a candle, not just a single flame, but flames that come with a fire. A fire that burns off the unnecessary and purifies, getting to the heart of the matter, to the ‘being’. The spirit within. I am reminded of the image of the heart of Jesus afire, with that fire spreading, flowing, being – back and forth, in and out, to and with each of us. There is a deep joy in all that. That joy allows the fire to purify, allows us to let go of all that is not needed.

    As Associates we do not have a formal novitiate, but still God ensures that we are each of us brought to a place where we can discern God’s call and invitation, where through prayer we prepare to respond to that call. This comes to us through deeper sharing and walking with the Oblates, learning more about ourselves through and with them and a distinct and specific way of living. We each of us find our way, some through experience and others through learning. I find much of it in coming to know Eugene. We learn about, recognize and realize this spirit of life that we are sharing with others. A time of deepening, all leading up to the time when we will make a public commitment to the congregation. Our formation will be ever ongoing, God-directed, community directed, self-directed. It will not stop for I believe that it is a life-long process for all of us. God has set us afire, but the flames have and are fanned by St. Eugene and his living spirit, by the Oblates around us, the Associates that we move with and all those we meet.

  2. David Morgan says:

    Having visited briefly both the Novitiate in Godfrey and the Aix House of Prayer, I feel a little closer to Eugene this morning as he focuses on these activities. It is amazing to me that he speaks with such clarity and passion on the formation objectives of the novices, the education needs of the youth and the work-life balance of the Oblates involved.

    Thank you Eugene for being real. I am motivated by your guidance, by your experience of God, by your zeal and love for others.

  3. Ken Hart says:

    And, as with so many events in St. Eugene’s life, this one brings to mind once again his great line – No flickering candles, give heat, give light. That is a great way to re-boot when the Spirit sort of slows down.

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