“Just as the child is father to the man, so the impressions of one’s youth remain the most vivid in manhood” (Gustav Stresemann). As I reflect on how God prepared Eugene to bring a missionary group into existence, I recognize a patchwork of events and impressions in his life that remained vivid and gave a specific color and quality to the Mazenodian Family that was born on 25 January 1816.

EM childEugene was born into a noble family and did not lack anything: loving parents, a large house filled with servants, a good primary school, and all the material possessions he needed. The French Revolution took all that away and he experienced exile away from his country of birth, moments of insecurity and fear and even poverty when they had to rely on the charity of others. These impressions were later to make him aware of and sensitive to others who were suffering as immigrants, or in poverty or in fear – the very people he founded the Oblates to serve.

EM fatherEugene’s father was a judge who wrote and spoke well. From him, Eugene inherited
the ability to be an outstanding and persuasive preacher. He learnt to treat everyone with justice and to relate easily with all classes of society. He learnt to understand and respect the law, and was able to use these skills to draw up several Rules of Life for the youth congregation and for the Missionaries.


EM mother

His mother came from a very wealthy middle class family. From her he learnt business and financial skills that would serve the organization of the Oblates and the Diocese of Marseille with efficiency – not to forget the considerable financial aid that she gave to the mission of the Oblates in providing the money necessary for various projects.


He had had good teachers and mentors – especially Don Bartolo Zinelli in Venice. From them he learnt the importance of spiritual guidance in human and faith development. As a priest, missionary and bishop, he spent his life ministering as a guide to people who were in need – and founded a missionary group to dedicate itself to evangelization and faith development among the most abandoned.

His warm, sensitive heart led him to a sensitivity to the needs of others and a search for the most loving response possible. He had a passionate, fiery character and was a born leader. When he did explode in anger, he would go out of his way to make amends when he realized that he had hurt others. (http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=27 – begins some revealing reflections which he wrote on his personality)

God used all these characteristics, weak and strong, to mold his instrument into a missionary priest and religious and founder of the Oblates. God was preparing this “jar of clay” to receive a treasure:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”   2 Corinthians 4:7

As we journey with Eugene towards January 25, let’s pause to reflect on how God has molded us into jars of clay containing a treasure. When we have done this at a personal level, let’s think of how the large Mazenodian Family has been a huge container for the Savior’s love and mercy for 200 years.

The child is indeed the “father of the man” – all that God has done in our lives, in good times and in bad, has molded us to bear fruit – to be fruitful and bring the love of the Savior to birth in situations of abandonment.


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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I think of the clay jars that God has shaped and formed for us, fragile and strong at the same time. Our bodies. Unadorned they stand in simple beauty and dignity. In a time where the norm has become to ‘dress everything up’, to add some ‘bling’; to paint, decorate and hide any and all flaws and weaknesses. But the clay jar that God has shaped for me, shaped, built up, formed and then reformed is made of my unadorned flaws and weaknesses, struggles and sufferings. He has transformed them to grow and hold a heart that is growing; enabling me to become a part of several jars for more and more I no longer bound by my own walls, but am a part of something much bigger. Unimaginable beauty!

    It has been intensely personal and intimate this transformation while at the same time being a part of a greater transformation and life, that of the Mazenodian Family. As the walls of my own personal jar are transformed I become part of a larger vessel – it too is made of clay and it is here that I find life.

    I remember an Oblate Associate speaking to me about her husband and she said that she was base from which her husband could open his wings , take flight and soar. It is like that for me with the Oblates; religious, priests, sisters, lay associates, supports, friends, family. They have become my base from which I fly out and then back in. It is with them that I come into my own being, come into the way I have been created to be – intensely personal but also intensely communal.

    And the bigger my heart grows, the smaller I somehow become. For within me there is a small child who reaches up to be embraced.

    I look at all that I have endured for it shows in the lines and shape of the clay jar that is me, that is all of us who walk together on this journey. I am grateful for all of my struggles and sorrows for God has blessed me so richly, given me so much – more than I could ever have thought to ask for. None of it on my own, always and only with others.

    There is within me this morning a profound gratitude for all that I am given and a part of. I am proud and joy-filled to say that I am an Oblate Associate, a part of this magnificent family which is approaching 200 years old. It is not the number of years so much as all who have been a part of it and walk with all of us now. “I am a part of all that I have met” and this is where I find life.

  2. Jack Lau, OMI says:

    Dear Frank: thank you for all the work you have done in collaboration with others in preparing the text and services for the bicentennial. See you in Belleville at the Convocation.

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