The letter written to the Diocesan authorities on 25 January 1816 is a foundational document for us who live according to the spirit and charism of Saint Eugene. In the days that follow I will explore various aspects of this important text. It begins with an affirmation of the starting point of a missionary vocation:

 The undersigned priests:
-deeply moved by the deplorable situation of the small towns and villages of Provence that have almost completely lost the faith;

Request to the Capitular Vicars of Aix, 25 January 1816, EO XIII n.2

The 25 year-old Eugene discovered his vocation when he was deeply moved by the state of the suffering of the Church (i.e. of its members) after the Revolution. He declared that he could not

sit back with arms folded, sighing softly to himself about all these evils, but not raising a finger to awaken even in the least degree men’s hardened hearts.

 Letter to his mother, 4 April 1809, EO XIV, n. 50

In his ministry as a young priest he had been deeply moved by the religious situation of the poorer classes of Aix, the youth, the prisoners and the inhabitants of the small abandoned villages around Aix – and he had responded generously.

He transmitted his depth of feeling to the young men of his Youth Association by training them to:

have a compassionate charity for the misery of the poor and they will count themselves happy to be able to relieve, in their needs, these suffering members of Jesus Christ

Abridgement of the rule of life of the congregants of the Christian Youth Association

“Compassionate charity” is a very weak translation of the original French: “les entrailles de la miséricorde” – literally a “gut-feeling” of mercy for others – being deeply moved by the suffering of others.

Eugene’s impressive ministry as Superior General of a Missionary Congregation sent out all over the world to seek out the abandoned, and as Bishop of Marseille in his response to the suffering of the most abandoned in his diocese – all this had as its basis the fact that he “was deeply moved” whenever he came across people who were in need.

Throughout the history of the Missionary Oblates, this ‘gut-feeling”  has remained the foundational principle of our vocation, as our Rule of Life indicates:

Wherever we work, our mission is especially to those people whose condition cries out for salvation and for the hope which only Jesus Christ can fully bring. These are the poor with their many faces; we give them our preference.   CC&RR, Constitution 5

It is the quality of being “deeply moved” by the cry of the poor that is at the foundation of everything for the members of the Mazenodian family.

DeMazenod_200th_banner English

It is the quality of being “deeply moved” by the cry of the poor that characterized Jesus: “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34


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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    It is Lent and I am coloured by that – for I enter into this way of being with my whole being. I think of the words of St. Eugene as he spoke his famous Lenten homily at the Church of the Madeleine, words that I have come to know in my heart and yet each time I hear them my heart opens in joy and gratitude. It is this that I wish to share. Like the youth of Eugene’s group I want to not just have a compassionate charity, but rather I want to live out my gut feeling of mercy, God’s mercy, for others.

    In my parish community, with my brothers and sisters in our Mazenodian family I share and offer what I can. It is not the great and inspired words that Eugene gave in 1813, and my words are not always wanted by all. But still I share them – they are like tiny mustard seeds that will grow within just as they did with me – in their own time, in God’s time.

    I think I am (at least in this moment) satisfied with that. God has been standing with me for all of my years and it is only now that I hear him whispering in my heart that he waits for me to give him all of my struggles and sorrows, all of my life. It is this Mazenodian community that has helped lead me to this point. It is a blessed and joyous Lent that has begun.

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