THE MISSIONARY: MEMBER OF A FAMILY

 The next three points of our first Rule seem very dry and technical, but underneath them is a wealth of feeling.

On entering the Society, the Missionaries must resolve to persevere in it until the end of their lives.
The Society is pledged to look after each of its members despite infirmities that may arise either from old age or from the labours of their ministry.
It accepts no obligations with regard to those who may leave its ranks.

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

Those entering the Missionaries of Provence became part of a family, to which they commited themselves heart and soul, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse… until death. The central concept used constantly by Eugene to describe the Congregation was that of the family. The pages of his writings are filled with heartfelt references to his religious family. An example from 1830:

Charity for our neighbour is again an essential part of our spirit. We practice it first amongst us by loving each other as brothers, by considering our Society only as the most united family which exists on the earth, by rejoicing over the virtues, the talents and other qualities that our brothers possess just as much as if we possessed them ourselves, in bearing with mildness the little faults that some have not yet overcome, covering them over with the mantle of the most sincere charity, etc…

Letter to Hippolyte Guibert, 29 July 1830, O.W. VII n.350

 Another example of the father of the family showing his love for his missionary Congregation as he sends Fr Tempier to Canada to do a visitation of the Oblate communities in his name:

 Go then in the name of the Lord, well-beloved son, towards that part of our family which is separated from us by so great a distance, which we have always present and intimately united to us, following it as we do with all the affection of our heart.

Mandate of Visitation to Henri Tempier, 1 May 1851, O.W. II n. 145

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One Response to THE MISSIONARY: MEMBER OF A FAMILY

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    “Go then in the name of the Lord, well-beloved son, towards that part of our family which is separated from us by so great a distance, which we have always present and intimately united to us, following it as we do with all the affection of our heart. Mandate of Visitation to Henri Tempier, 1 May 1851, O.W. II n. 145”

    I wonder what I was thinking when I first read this posting a couple of years ago. In truth I don’t think I really understood it, I probably thought it sounded nice, but didn’t understand it and did not see how it could be at all possible.

    My trip in November certainly managed to change all that in a big noticeable way. For I met for the first time some members of the Mazenodian Family, some Oblates, some Oblate Associates, some friends of the Oblates, some youth and my heart responded in an explosion of love. It was like walking into a room and recognizing instantly members of my family, and yet I had met none of them before. But we were connected, we recognized it in each other. Just to “be” there with them was incredible joy and I received so much life from each and all of them. Since returning home – now a very relative term, I think of them so often, I pray for and with them daily (what a joy is that, to pray “with”) and I see their faces before me, they are in every sense of the word part of my family, just as are those here closer to home.

    This Christmas I received a gift of immense love. My blood family has always been very fractured, it is how we were raised. We are so very far apart in terms of physical distance and it has taken me all my life just to get to know them a little. My sister and I have been close for many years now but not so with all my brothers. And this Christmas I received a call from my brother, wanting to know more about my life, specifically with the Oblates and the Mazenodian Family. He told me he loved me, he told me he so much supported me in my life and asked how could he help so that I would be able to “do” the things I felt God was leading me to. (He informed me that the Oblates were a good cause and doing good things – just in case I didn’t know.) He told me he was lighting a candle for me as soon as he hung up and that was his prayer for me. To know I have his love, his support and his prayers. Wow so many times over.

    On this the 7th(?) day of Christmas I pray for all of you. That you find and recognize your place in your family, your families, whatever they might look like. It seems that they just continue to grow and get bigger and bigger. May you continue expanding your hearts to hold us all, so that we are all held dear “with all the affection of our hearts”.

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