Regard the Rule as our law, the superiors as God, our brothers like our other selves.

Letter to Hippolyte Guibert, 29 July 1830, EO VII n 350

The expression, “Regard… the superiors as God,” may sound very surprising and, perhaps, we are tempted to think almost blasphemous. Our current Rule of Life clarifies what Eugene wanted to communicate:

“Our Superiors are a sign of the Lord’s loving and guiding presence in our midst.” CC&RR, Constitution 81

The Missionary Oblates were born because God wanted us to exist in the Church. Eugene never wavered from the conviction that God had called him and had entrusted to him the charism of his missionary family. In this way, the community superior was to be regarded as having a God-given function, and represented and reflected the presence of God in the community. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20)

Our Rule of Life continues on the role of the community superiors:

 They call us to live up to our Oblate vocation and provide us with the support we need. In a spirit of co-responsibility, they lead the community, making decisions, supporting initiatives and implementing policies, according to the spirit and norms of the Constitutions and Rules. Superiors must know how to delegate authority as well as assign responsibility. CC&RR, Constitution 81.

A question: would the coordinators of our various Mazenodian groups see an invitation to be something of this in their ministry to their groups? It would be great to get a reaction…

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I read this line yesterday but simply passed over it in my reflection – not that I found it blasphemous, but as I read the title this morning my reaction I was very uncomfortable in myself. Constitution 81 “Our Superiors are a sign of the Lord’s loving and guiding presence in our midst.” Those words like a balm on a wound. Although I am not an Oblate I have not been able to really separate myself in some ways from the Constitutions and Rules.

    Returning to the Church more than 30 years ago there were things that I intuitively knew that I had to let go of if I was to become a part of her – and when I made silent private vows of poverty, chastity and obedience it was not just to some hidden God, but it was then also to the Church, trusting her, serving her. I did it the same with my spiritual directors over the years – it was necessary for me. It was reflective and prayerful. It was the same when the Oblates came along into my life. It took a while but eventually I ‘put myself under (silent) obedience’ to a few levels of superiors – not because it was asked or demanded of me, but because I felt it was the way for me to be. To a distant Superior General, easy trusting that he was a sign of God’s loving and guiding presence in our midst and so I did not immediately look for any ‘ways out’ when something was said or written that touched me. It was almost the same with the local Provincial, but he was a little closer to home and so at times there could be some struggle. In all honesty he was also a ‘he’ and I had to work through that. With the local superior it was harder sometimes because I knew him and did not always agree with him. Trust became vital, and I needed to learn to see him through the eyes of Jesus.

    Here in the Lacombe Province the Associates in each district have co-animators (a professed Oblate and an Oblate Associate) whose names are put forward to the local superior and then up to the Provincial. In saying yes to that service they have had to open themselves to God’s will every bit as much as we have, as I have, for it is not just them who serve but also we. There is a mutuality here somehow. I have to make sure that within the deepest part of me I allow them to be my ‘superiors’ in a way as we walk together.

    I believe we come to love each other more deeply, to serve each other. Oblation figures so prominently into this. “…Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. I feel as if I am hanging myself out naked for all to see this morning – not because so many will read what I have shared here, but simply because there is vulnerability that any could see. Trust in God, trust in those that God sends to speak through to me.

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