Can I ever thank God sufficiently for getting for me, out of his infinite goodness, help such as this precisely at the most difficult time of life, a decisive time for me, in which were planted by a man of God, in my soul prepared by his skillful hand and the grace of the Holy Spirit whose instrument he was, the fundamentals of religion and piety on which the mercy of God has built the structure of my spiritual life?

Diary of the Exile in Italy, EO XVI

Looking back on the nearly four years that Eugene spent in Venice under the guidance of Don Bartolo, we can recognize many foundations of what would become the spirituality of Eugene de Mazenod – and eventually the foundations of the spirituality of the wider Mazenodian family.

Bartolo Zinelli entered into the situation of Eugene, teaching him that by being close to people and creating a loving environment, people can be transformed. As a companion and guide to this adolescent, he was instrumental in his HUMAN development. In doing so he gave Eugene a model on how to evangelize by entering into the human situation of people and walking with them.

Don Bartolo was “able to rescue this rudderless young boy from Provence from the worldly Venetian milieu with its very low ideals… Eugene found the peaceful atmosphere necessary for his studies and a serious religious and moral formation.” (Pielorz , The Spiritual Life… p.64). Through this, Eugene developed as a CHRISTIAN, and would dedicate his life to awakening or re-awakening people to their dignity as Christians.

By being a spiritual director, Don Bartolo awakened in Eugene a desire to be heroic and to be generous in his relationship with God. He helped Eugene to aim to be a SAINT, and taught him the means to do so.

In his youth ministry in Aix, several years later, Eugene aimed to be another Bartolo Zinelli to the young people. What he had received in his adolescence he wished to communicate to them. In a wider way, the seeds planted and nurtured by Don Bartolo were to bloom in the program and method that Eugene adopted for himself and gave to us in our Rule of Life:

We must lead men to act like human beings, first of all, and then like Christians,
and, finally, we must help them to become saints.

1818 Rule, Part One, Chapter One, §3. Nota Bene.

Here we find the dominant and recurring theme of Mazenodian spirituality: the method to be used to see and respond to the world through the eyes of Christ the Savior.


“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”   Muhammad Ali

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    It is hard to ‘settle down’ this morning for I found myself dancing back and forth with the words, the thoughts, my experiences of them. “Human, Christian, Saint; From Experience to Conviction and a Way of Life” and as my eyes swept the page the first three leaping out, standing tall in their boldness. I do not remember the circumstances of the first time I heard ” We must lead men to act like human beings, first of all, and then like Christians, and, finally, we must help them to become saints.” I don’t recall hearing where they were taken from, but my heart leaped on hearing them for they described my experiences of God so very perfectly and all of my dreams moving forward.

    Beginning with sobriety, AA which introduced me to acting as a “human”; then my first defining experience of God followed by my time at Madonna House and those there who loved and formed me into becoming “christian”; and this followed by years within an Oblate parish and my introduction to Oblate Associates, all of which has nurtured me in making real my desire to become a “saint”. Some clear defining moments in time and experiences of God which stand out as beacons on my journey, so many that if they were to be written they would make up a great book. None of these events, or experiences have bee there on their own but have been, and continue to be like the threads of a large tapestry of my life.

    I spent years looking back at my life, sometimes in therapy, other times anger, and even other times in trying to reconcile myself with all that I experienced. But this looking back has been through different lens’, for looking at my past, at God in my life I realise that rather than focusing on what I did not have or did not do, I have been looking from the viewpoint of all that I have received. I am reminded of Peter jumping out of the boat without thinking, running toward Jesus.

    I spent yesterday, off and on, thinking about my journey of finding God in all things and so my day was one full of joy and gratitude, anticipation of what might be around the next corner. I spent a short period of time being with a group of young people who are planning on attending World Youth Day next year and trying to see how I can support them, just experiencing their joy of being and their dreams. An immense gift.

    Somewhere along the way of my life I have become/am being permeated with what I can only call grace and a blessings – for yesterday I looked an saw with joy what these young people have in their lives, their dreams and how they can realise their dreams. And I gave thanks to God simply to be able to see them and who they ‘are’. To receive such joy in what others have, is to be most human, to live truly as a ‘Christ-ian’ and to look forward in becoming a saint.

    This journey that we have been taking part in, in a most intentional way since the beginning of August – wow, wow, wow. Not always easy but the fruits of going deeper as we are invited to go – I rejoice and give thanks.

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