san clemente

In the Church of San Clemente, in Rome, there is a large mosaic portraying the Cross as the Tree of Life. In the center is the cross, and from its base there are leaves and stems that cover the whole scene. Linked with each stem one can see people and animals and flowers and the daily occupations of people (in the12th century). The message is clear: the Cross is THE source of life.

At the foot of the Cross we see Mary and John. I like to think of Eugene standing there with them because that picture describes the meaning of his Good Friday experience. At the sight of the Cross, a lost and unfocused young man had a life-changing intuition. He realized

I looked for happiness outside of God and for too long with resulting unhappiness.

Retreat Journal, December 1814, EO XV n.130

From now on, all the branches of his life (and later of his Missionary family) would be focused on the Tree of Life and making its fruits available for the salvation of the most abandoned.

On 25 January 1816, Eugene invited others to join him and become part of the Tree of Life: co-operators of the Savior:

They are called to be the Savior’s co-workers, the co-redeemers of mankind

1818 Rule, Nota Bene.

It is at the foot of the Cross that the Oblate family came to birth. We are a Good Friday people we are a Tree of Life family, we are missionaries inviting others to participate in the fruits of the Paschal Mystery.

The invitation of our bicentenary is to appreciate more fully that we are co-workers of the Savior. The mission of the Mazenodian Family is about salvation – the salvation of those who are in the margins, who are abandoned and unfocused:

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


“When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we proclaim Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly. We may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, all of this, but we are not disciples of the Lord.”   Pope Francis

(For further reflection on this, see http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=2890 and the entries that follow)


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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I remember the first time I heard the words of Eugene’s letter to Henri Tempier; ‘my dear friend, read this letter at the foot of your crucifix with a mind to heed only God…’ At that moment Eugene was speaking not only to Henri but to myself for my whole being felt as if he was inviting ME to do just that. I did not know how it could be because I am neither male, nor priest, nor religious. But I felt to the very depths of my core that I was being invited to be a part of something so great, so much bigger than myself – something that was the beginning of the next step in my life. I barely heard the rest of the words read to me as I fell in love all over again with my God. I was unable and a little scared at the time to try to put words around my experience but looking back I realise that my heart was beginning to find a home.

    The Cross – ‘the tree of life’ – what a wonderful way of describing it. Yesterday I began to write my Reflection for this coming weekend’s liturgies – the Baptism of Our Lord. I found the Cross there and was a little confused – how could the Cross be there and yet it was, just as it was when I gave the Reflection for the Feast of Christ the King. I did not always immediately notice the Cross as the centre but coming to know Eugene and the Oblates, their way of living has brought me to a place where I believe the Cross is my centre.

    Just as I remember Eugene’s first invitation to community, I also remember the first time I heard “We must lead people to act like human beings, first of all, and then Christians, and finally, we must help them to become saints.” (from the Preface)..And my being soared for that was how God had formed me, led me – my experience of being led to act like a human being. Then came the Christian part. As for saints – my secret desire from the time I was born was to become a saint – to be so loved and to love so. I had never told anyone but to hear it from Eugene. This journey continues on all three fronts today, it goes deeper and deeper – greater than ever I could have imagined.

    It all began at the foot of the cross and continues to be that way now. How joyous it is to look back and prepare to celebrate 200 years. Like Advent all over again, or ongoing. My heart fills and overflows as I sit here this morning. It beats a joyful “Yes, yes and yes” as I become suffused, permeated in gratitude – that my God should love me so!

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