Eugene’s letter to the 27 year-old diocesan priest, Henri Tempier, is an essential foundation document for us. It contains the seeds of what is essential in our vocation.
The letter shows the fundamental starting point of the vocation of any member of the Mazenodian family: it has to flow from an experience of the love of God on the Cross. “Read this letter at the foot of your crucifix” is not a pious thought – but it is a necessary attitude: Eugene experienced God’s love for him and understood his vocation at the foot of the Crucifix. Anyone who feels called to journey with Eugene needs to have as a starting point and as a point of focus the fact of God’s love expressed on the Cross.
In his desire to live “all for God” Tempier must listen to where the voice of God is calling him to move for the glory of God and for the salvation of the abandoned people of Provence.
My dear friend, read this letter at the foot of your crucifix
with the desire to listen only to God
regarding what the good of his glory
and the salvation of souls
demand from a priest like yourself.
Henri Tempier is invited to look at the religious situation of the poorer people in Provence through the eyes of the Crucified Savior. It is an invitation to feel from the depth of his heart their experience of not having a sense of direction in their lives because God is absent.
At the foot of the Cross, symbol of the Savior who sacrificed all for others, he is invited to make a sacrifice of his own comfort so that others may have life.
This is the meaning of oblation: to look at the most abandoned with the eyes and heart of the Savior, and to respond by imitating the Savior’s self-giving so that they may have the fullness of life.
Dismiss the attraction of possessions, the love of comfort and convenience;
allow yourself to be fully penetrated by the situation of the people who live in the countryside, by the state of religion among them, by the apostasy that daily spreads wider with dreadfully ravaging effects.
Look at the feebleness of the means employed to date to oppose this flood of evil; ask your heart what it would like to do to remedy these disasters and then reply to my letter.
Letter to Henri Tempier, 9 October 1815 EO VI n 4
This invitation has continued to be repeated and echo throughout our 200-year history. Many have responded, and their missionary generosity has made a difference to the lives of countless people around the world. As we celebrate, we give thanks and we respond with the desire to let Eugene’s call continue to echo and to make a difference.