The time had come for Eugene to begin to invite others to join him in his missionary project. As members of the Mazenodian family, lay and religious, we are invited to see in these vocational texts something about our own calling to live out our baptism according to the spirit of Eugene.

In this letter Eugene invites Hilaire Aubert, director of the seminary in Limoges, to join him and gives the main reasons for the existence of the new group: the tragic religious situation of the poor and the scarcity of missionaries to help them through preaching and through their efforts to destroy the power of evil. The situation today still calls out with the same invitation.

The good we intend to do must remedy the greatest evils that face us. Those who deal with them dwindle; there is nothing more urgent.
… Oh, dear friend, if you would be one of us! We would begin in your part of the country where religion is practically extinct as in so many other places. I almost dare to say that you would be necessary.

Continuing to reflect on Eugene’s letter of invitation to Hilaire Aubert, we come across a central concept of Eugene’s thought and action: that of forming a group that would be a life-giving cell in the world. He uses the word noyau, which refers to a group that is a source of life to others, like a nucleus in a group of cells, or the seed in a fruit, or the core of something that has life. When he started his youth congregation in Aix, it was for them to be yeast in the society of Aix. Similarly, the Missionaries were meant to be the same: an select group of persons who would be a source of life for others.

In order to be a life-giving force in France, the Missionaries would have to have a quality of life that would be a life-giving to others. They needed to aim at becoming saints by living the commandment of love, according to a Rule and with a transparent lifestyle like the apostles. In order to be a life-giving force in the world of today, we as members of the Mazenodian family, lay and religious, are called to a particular quality of life so as to be a nucleus in society.

Ah! if we could form a nucleus, there would soon cluster round it the most zealous elements in the diocese.
Think a while about that before the good God. You know that we must have, in order to do any good in our regions, people of the country who know the language.
Oh! do not doubt that we will become saints in our Congregation, free but united by bonds of the most tender charity, by exact submission to the Rule we would adopt, etc. We would live poorly, apostolically, etc.

Letter to Hilaire Aubert, 1815, O.W. VI n 3

(Note: Hilaire Aubert never joined the Missionaries of Provence)

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Do I still dare to dream so big, to dream with others? Have I dared to dream, to go out and then return only to go out again? Do I dare to dream that I haves somehow been a part of this nucleus; a fruit from the seed that has help to feed? Most certainly I have seen how Eugene and then so many Oblates did just that and some Oblate Associates.

    I think of our centres of permanent mission, our ‘mission centres’ – they are like the hub of a wheel – like the heart of our bodies where the blood is pumped out to carry life to all corners and extremities of our bodies and where the blood returns to – to be replenished. It is the source of life for our bodies. It works in concert with our beings – nothing is separate and cut-off from the other. Sometimes shunts are required to keep everything working.

    I struggle to find words that will nourish or even be a pathway for nourishment. I do not feel much a part of that hub this morning, perhaps if I am blessed I would be a small piece of one of the spokes, a miniscule artery which allows the blood to return to the heart to be cleansed and renewed, given new life.

    I have a keen sense of my smallness this morning, and wonder what happened to the flame that burned so brilliant as to give some life or heat. I wonder what Eugene would say about that and sense that I am not alone with this. I do not do much for the mission or bring new life to rest of the body. There is within me a sense of impatience – perhaps with myself for I am not who I would have like to have been. How am I part of that nucleus that gives life to others? It is not enough to make me walk away, or ignore Eugene’s words; “Oh, dear friend, if you would be one of us!” And what would that look like Eugene?

  2. Jack Lau, OMI says:

    Dear Frank and All:
    A language of today is the media and social media at that.
    How do we learn that language and also invite young people who have a android as fingers into a religious community??? I might be similar to Eugene inviting clergy to join his small group and still live with their parents!!!! I an hear him NOW!!! Yet we must invite and show a them a rich community life of deep sharing and care that trumps distant relationship.

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