The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1) in a specific historical context in a time and place. In order to understand the message of Jesus we need to understand the context in which it happened – and then interpret the message for our own times and historical situations. The same principle applies to Eugene de Mazenod. The charism that God gave him was within a specific historical context in France. To understand the charism deeply we need to understand how and why it was expressed in this way within the history of France. The spirit of the words and actions reflected in our daily “Eugene de Mazenod Speaks to us” is the same spirit that continues to inspire us today in many different contexts.
This is why I began a series of presentations on Eugene and the history of France.
What a rich background to his life the events in France formed! Born in the nobility Eugene benefited fully from the Ancien Regime, and shared its fate when the French Revolution swept it away. Eleven years of exile followed, in which this adolescent and young adult was buffeted by the violent changing forces in Europe. Finally, with Napoleon on the throne, it became possible to return to France and resume the lifestyle of a rich young nobleman. It is here that God intervened and called Eugene to respond within the context of Napoleon’s persecution of the Church and of the religious ignorance and indifference of the people. Understanding the historical context, we understand and appreciate our Mazenodian charism and its message better.
I invite you to re-read the entries on the history of France which began on 14 March 2017 (http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?paged=3). The series was interrupted by Holy Week and my summer break. Tomorrow we continue the journey…