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 fervour 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 degradation…
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 degradation.”
Constitution 7: 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.”
Constitution 8: 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.”