Equilibrium and complementarity summarize the next section of our first Rule:

The Missionaries will divide their group in such a way that while some strive in community to acquire the virtues and knowledge proper to a good missionary, others are travelling in the rural areas proclaiming the Word of God.
 When their apostolic journeys are over, they will return to the community to rest from their labours by exercising a ministry that is less demanding, and to prepare themselves through meditation and study for a more fruitful ministry when next called upon to undertake new work.

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

 Equilibrium: Eugene wanted a balanced lifestyle of distinct moments of being nourished through prayer, study and a quieter community life in order to be missionaries with more energy, spirituality and knowledge. Unfortunately the zeal of the missionaries overturned this idyllic picture because they could not resist responding with generosity to every urgent need that moved them deeply. Their health was to suffer, and several died in their 20’s. Eugene himself led the pack in exhausting himself for the most abandoned, and on a number of occasions had to be banished by Henri Tempier into a forced rest and recuperation.

The ideal of this equilibrium was wise, and as Eugene got older and wiser we find him urging his Oblates to live by it. He himself as bishop had a demanding daily program as Pastor of the second-largest city of France and Superior General of an expanding missionary congregation – yet he was faithful to his daily times of prolonged prayer, study of Scripture and theology, set times to meet people in his office, and moments of rest.

Complementarity, in that while one group was out in the countryside preaching, those of the community who remained supported them in work and prayer. The missionaries who were out preaching knew that their ministry was being supported and strengthened by the prayers of their brothers.

Today this complementarity is expressed in a powerful way in the missionary life of the Mazenodian Family. The fraternal support given to one another as Oblates – particulalry to those who minister in dangerous situations or are suffering or ill. Lay associates who share their particular skills, talents and insights in the mission. Partners who participate in mission through their inidispensible spiritual and material support.


“A system is in equilibrium when the forces constituting it are arranged in such a way as to complement each other, like the weights pulling at the arms of a pair of scales.”   R. Arnheim


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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I think though that when I would always say yes and ‘do’ it was because I thought I had to in order for others to like me; because it would mean that I would be good at something. It would be because of my own needs. But there was also a part of my ‘doing’ that was born out of love. It was not all one-sided or bad. And it is good to be able to recognize just that one small thing in me. I have been learning to let others do some of the ‘doing’. I think for a minute of how I have slowed down – not through any great piece of inspiration but rather simply because of the aging process. I don’t think I can equate the slowing down with equilibrium though. Perhaps God’s way of inviting me into equilibrium and to focus more deeply on life in and with him.

    Equilibrium as mentioned by Frank allows me to spend more time in prayer and reflection. It allows me to step back and support another so that they can know what it is like to be passionately alive in their serving God. It does not mean that I have to stop and be dead. I think of how in the past I have ‘done’ things at retreats, organized things so that others with me will be able to take part more fully in what is being offered
    where I am also able to take part. In truth not only am I able to take part with those others but also it seems that God lavishes upon me so much love that indeed I receive infinitely more than I shall ever be able to give. It is like that in my ministry and life with my parish.

    Equilibrium and complimentarity have become a part of my life most simply because of others around me who live it and who like Henri Tempier when he demanded it of Eugene, so do those in my community demand it of me, all wrapped up in tenderness and love.

    And again today I notice that even in times of struggle and questioning, doubts and trials, like these mornings looking at myself and how I relate to what Eugene has set out for us to share with him, and how imperfectly I am able to do that – there is joy hidden at the root and gratitude which pushes up through the soil of my life. That alone is enough of a gift to last me forever.

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