“Deeply moved” by the situation of the abandoned people, the Missionaries continued explaining their vision:

The undersigned priests: …
– knowing from experience that the hard-heartedness or indifference of these people renders the ordinary help supplied by your concern for their salvation insufficient and even useless…

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

This statement is a very sad description of the reality of the Church in Provence. Battered by the excesses of the French Revolution and Napoleon, the Church now found herself in the stage of restoration, rebuilding and healing. Church buildings had been destroyed or desecrated, the monks and nuns had been expelled or killed and their monasteries and convents had become national property and sold. A large number of priests had been killed or had gone into exile outside of France (like the de Mazenods). Those who stayed behind either “sold their souls” by swearing allegiance to the civil constitution or else went into hiding and ministered clandestinely and at danger to themselves (our founding Fathers Mie and Maunier had been part of the latter). With Napoleon the situation had eased somewhat, some seminaries had re-opened and the exiled priests started to return – but under draconian state control.

Those who suffered were the Christians: it was not their fault that they had become callous and indifferent. No one had ministered to them in any meaningful way – they were truly abandoned and without direction in matters of their faith. It was this situation that deeply moved Eugene and his companions.

The local church did have a pastoral concern for their salvation but, with the best will of those involved, it still remained insufficient and even useless. The task was too big and the availability of persons was limited. Hence the need for a decisive intervention.

Eugene’s response to this heart-breaking situation was described in the Preface:

The Church, that glorious inheritance purchased by Christ the Saviour at the cost of his own blood, has in our days been cruelly ravaged…

Deeply moved by this, the Missionaries came together to help the local pastors to respond to this situation.

Today the Mazenodian family continues to live this same response as is seen in our Rule:

“Our love for the Church inspires us to fulfil our mission in communion with the pastors whom the Lord has given to his people… We coordinate our missionary activity with the overall pastoral plan of the local Churches where we work, and we collaborate in a spirit of brotherhood with others who work for the Gospel.” CC&RR, Constitution 6

 Edm mission

Through baptism each of us forms part of the Church. What contribution can I make to my local church where I find its response insufficient to reach someone or some situation?

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    There is a spirit this morning of inclusion and oneness. I feal it so very much as I read “today the Mazenodian family continues to live this same response…”. Was I not free enough before now to recognize it? In truth – I have read this before and seen it only as speaking to the priests and brothers and yet now it speaks so clearly to me.

    For the past little while, as I would come here to begin my days I would experience a small niggle of disquiet wondering how I was ever going to know and live these beautiful rules of life in my own way – rules not demanded of me and yet which in truth I have wanted to follow. My experience has been that they are taught to me, broken open so that I might put them on and wear them in small ways, like this morning. When I made my commitment as an Oblate Associate – nothing changed and yet everything changed. It is like this again today.

    There is a deepening measure of gratitude this morning as I look at how God has led me to this point, directed my gaze so that I might see how I have been living, recognizing who I am in his eyes. Here am I in the middle of Lent not feeling as dry and empty as I did a week ago, preparing for another feast day which approaches, preparing to renew my commitment as an Oblate Associate, recognizing in Constitution 6 the small role that I play in my parish community.

    I look at what I have been given with the Oblates, in being a member of this Mazenodian family, this way of life that rather than binding me actually sets me free. The word surrender comes into my mind. There is a joy that does not overshadow the solemnity of Lent but rather which is a base that makes it livable. It is Lent but I awoke today singing part of the Gloria and now I find myself saying ‘O happy day’. I am so very grateful.

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