THE CROSS OF THE UNKNOWN OBLATE

They must be passed on to the new Oblates who will profit from such a heritage. I wish to have proper care shown in this distribution.

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 8 March 1830, EO VII n 343

Eugene’s biographer, Rey, recounts that the Founder ordered that the name of the deceased Oblate be engraved on the upper part of the copper plate which covers the arms of the cross (REY, I, 482).

On the day of my lifetime oblation I was privileged to receive the Oblate Cross of Fr. Maurice Foley, who had been the second South African to have become an Oblate. He had received the cross in 1903 and only wore it for twelve years until his death in 1915 at 33 years of age. Between his death, and my receiving it on 17 February 1974, 59 years had passed and one, or possibly two, Oblates had carried this cross as their companion during their ministry. Their names were not engraved on the cross and I have been unable to trace who they were.

Thus, I like to think that I carry the cross of the “unknown Oblate” – in the spirit of the memorials which honor the “Unknown Soldier.” What a powerful reminder of the thousands of Oblates and lay associates who have evangelized in so many countries and brought countless people to know the love of the Savior – and whose names are no longer remembered. What a privilege to have been called to follow in their missionary footsteps.

The Oblate cross which is received at perpetual profession is a constant reminder of the love of the Saviour who wishes to draw all hearts to himself and sends us out as his co-workers.

CC&RR, Constitution 63

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One Response to THE CROSS OF THE UNKNOWN OBLATE

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    One of the things that I have come to realise of late is a deep awareness that the spirit of Eugene has lived on in each of the Oblates and lay associates. In turn their spirits have been shared and passed on to each of us, helping to make us who we are today. And although I will never receive a large ‘mission’ cross I have come to know many of the Oblates who came before me simply by visiting them in the Oblate graveyards that I have visited. Introducing myself to them, thanking them and asking them to pray for me. It sounds fanciful but it is very real – the Body of Christ – the Communion of Saints. We all come together in the heart of our crucified Savior.

    I have the privilege of helping to update the necrology of our Province. Of all of those who died in Canada. Reading and typing a name and each man’s particulars is a silent introduction, an acknowledgement of them as persons, as Oblate and saints in their own rights – and it a gift to be able to repeat their names and learn a little bit about them. The Oblates allowing me to serve in a small way by updating their directory and necrology listing. What a gift to be able to introduce myself to those I am meeting for the first time. Gratitude and joy fill me.
    We Oblate Associates who receive our small cross when we make our commitment are chosen and blessed in so many ways that they cannot be counted. It is for us a constant reminder of the love of the Saviour who wishes to draw all hearts to himself and who sends us out as he co-workers. We join and become members of a most awesome family and we never walk alone.

    I think of the many Oblates and Associates who have gone before me. As Frank has written “what a privilege to have been called to follow in their missionary footsteps.” I can truly repeat my favorite line from the poem Ulysses: “I am a part of all that I have met.”

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