In the pitiful religious state in which the people of Provence found themselves, the ordinary means provided by the Church structures were not enough. The people had been at the mercy of various currents of thought over the past 27 years: sometimes motivated by fashionable philosophies, at other times by political fervor and anti-religious slogans, at other times by terror…

They had “gone astray” and were lost with no sense of direction and were the victims of a system that took them even further away from God and from the direction of living their lives according to Gospel values. The only means to remedy the situation were the “shock tactics” of parish missions:

 The undersigned priests: …
convinced that missions are the only means by which these people who have gone astray can be brought out of their unfortunate condition…

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

The solution proposed was that of a team of missionaries taking over a village parish for between 4 to 6 weeks and giving a thorough response to the situation of the people who had gone astray.

People who had not been catechized for over 25 years needed to be instructed, and so the mission was a “shock treatment” of daily catechesis over a prolonged period to give the people a thorough knowledge to the main aspects of their faith.

People who had been the victims of ever-changing thoughts and movements for a quarter century needed practically every aspect of their lives to be converted to God. The shock tactics of the missionaries aimed at this holistic transformation: using every imaginable means to teach how to relate to God, how to pray, how to participate in the sacramental life of the parish, and how to live their daily lives and relationships in the light of Gospel values.

Today the Mazenodian family continues to be urged to dare the same spirit of responding with shock tactics to situations of “people who have gone astray” and need to “be brought out of their unfortunate condition.”

We will spare no effort to awaken or to reawaken the faith in the people to whom we are sent and we will help them to discover “who Christ is.”  CC&RR, Constitution 7

To seek out new ways for the Word of God to reach their hearts often calls for daring; to present Gospel demands in all clarity should never intimidate us.”   CC&RR, Constitution 8


Do I need “shock tactics” to make my faith more alive? The means of acquiring knowledge of the faith has changed since Eugene’s time – we no longer need prolonged missions because we have printed and media resources that we can access. Where and how do I need to educate myself to fill in the gaps in my faith, and to deepen its practice?

This entry was posted in WRITINGS. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    For many years after returning to the Church, I was a good person; I certainly did some good deeds and a few times I did step out of my comfort zones, let go of the safety of my world. But I was pretty placid; something was missing and I usually tried to cover up that wanting, that longing with whatever society had to offer. And then just as my world had been rocked out of orbit when I had heard God say my name and tell me that he loved me, I heard new words – “immense hope”. They touched my very soul, entered in and refused to leave or be silenced. A new journey began, one that not only included the Oblates but that was really led by and with them. I was drawn to them, to what they preached and how they lived. I wanted to know more about this man who founded their community and so asked one of those Oblates to tell me about their founder, about this Saint Eugene de Mazenod. I swear as he read to me Eugene’s first letter to Henri Tempier I experienced it as Eugene speaking directly and personally to me, inviting me to stand at the foot of my crucifix… I have never been the same since that moment! God in the most tender of ways using “shock treatment” to awaken a heart that was living in the ‘relaxed’ mode.

    Today, as a member of the Mazenodian family I “dare the same spirit of responding…” without quite using those same words. It does not look the same as efforts of some other members of the family; I do it by sharing the many wondrous gifts that God has lavished upon me. I am a work ‘in progress’. I dare to toss aside my measuring stick and look with truth at how I live in my family and friends; in my parish and further afield.

    This morning I look at Constitutions 7 and 8. I DO live them – not perfectly but I am able to see and say that I do live them. What joy and gratitude fills me in being able to recognize that. When I heard those words ‘immense hope’ and felt as though God was giving the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to me as a gift, and I to them. I did not yet know anything about this these beautiful Rules of Life but I knew, I just knew that God would lead me to be able to live this new gift.

    One more day to go. I feel like I am a little child with one more sleep before the ‘big day’. Such joy and gratitude, such excitement fills me as I begin this day. I look at this day the Lord has prepared for me – it is a snow storm outside – silent, beautiful as if God is wrapping the world as a gift for each of us.

  2. Anda says:

    “People who had not been catechized for over 25 years needed to be instructed, and so the mission was a “shock treatment” of daily catechesis over a prolonged period to give the people a thorough knowledge to the main aspects of their faith.”
    This is such a factor in the church in which I live today. However, the people do not have time for Mass, or if they have that, certainly not a half hour after, or something on another day. Materials are made available, but few in the grand scheme of things, avail themselves of the wonderful opportunities. I think that I need to get out of the field; a feeling of helplessness born of frustration, and can cut deep.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *