Eugene emphasizes these powerful words to all those who exercise the ministry of being instruments of God’s mercy. He speaks primarily of confessors, but surely it also applies to anyone who deals with the brokenness of others as a listener, counselor, mentor… in exercising “inexhaustible charity.”

After bringing home to him the importance of this ministry it adds: A missionary will, therefore, never refuse the request of those who seek to go to confession, whether during the time of missions, or outside of it. (Art. 2).
Let no one seek for excuses to escape this service. On the contrary let each one generously offer to undertake this ministry, and do whatever he can to lead to the tribunal of penance any whom he sees inclined to resist the call of grace. Indeed out of merciful compassion, each, mindful of the words of the Gospel: “Make them come in,” should try, if he can, to win by constraint those who remain obstinately unwilling. There are many examples of conversions brought about in this manner, and lower down: For the rest, let the missionaries be ever ready to receive sinners with inexhaustible charity. Let them encourage the penitents by their warmth, and by showing a sympathetic heart. In a word, let them treat them as they themselves would wish to be treated if they were in the same unfortunate condition. (Art. 3 and 12 ibid).

Retreat notes, October 1831, EO XV n. 163

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    In other words, let them love. Exercising the ministry of being instruments of God’s mercy. Imagine it – to be an instrument of God’s mercy. Only then can they/we receive anyone with inexhaustible charity, with warmth and an open heart – treating them as they themselves would wish to be treated. That is love; a love without boundaries, expectations or measurements of any kind. It is only with that gift of love that we can receive anyone and recognize their incredible beauty, recognize the courage they live as the come before us, whether we be priests, ordained to give the sacrament of Reconciliation, teachers, counselors, mentors, family or friends.

    I think for a moment of Blessed Joseph Gerard – it is easy to see where I am focused on any given day or week by who has touched me in a most significant way. All are loved but some touch more deeply than others. Last week and now this it has been Joseph Gerard, who for most of his life was this incredible ‘presence’ with the Zulu peoples, and especially his friend King Moshesh who he loved dearly. He was unable to ‘convert’ the king and it broke his heart when his friend died without having been baptised. Still Joseph Gerard never gave up. His letters to St. Eugene attested to his struggle and sorrow, his desire to do more, to be more as he had been trained. And I think too of Eugene whose warm and tender responses to Fr. Gerard’s letters were filled with the same love, suggestions, and counsels that he was urging Fr. Gerard to continue with his beloved Zulu peoples.

    Looking again at Eugene’s words – it seems to me that all of us at one time or another (or perhaps often) find ourselves in the same unfortunate condition and need to have someone listen, and then counsel, mentor, give us the sacraments if appropriate, foremost though, to listen with love. I think of Fr. Joseph Gerard and the four Oblate vows – poverty, chastity, obedience and perseverance – he lived all of them. God grant me the openness, the humility, the vulnerability and the courage to live those out in my own life with all whom I meet.

    When I lived at Madonna House so many years back there was a sign over the entrance door to the Priests House which read “open your hearts to let the world trample through” (not sure of the exact wording but you get the idea). It seems that is what Eugene is inviting each of us to do – an invitation to love.

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