THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION – THE OBLATE MADONNA

We go back to 1822. In the midst of all his concerns for the survival of his newly-founded Missionary family, Eugene celebrated the feast of the Assumption. It was a day which was to leave a permanent impression on the history of our Mazenodian family. Achille Rey, who knew Eugene well, wrote in his biography:

August 15 1822 witnessed a feast in the Church of the mission of Aix. Fr. de Mazenod blessed, in the presence of a large gathering of his youth congregants and of other pious faithful, a statue of the Most Holy Virgin, under the title of the Immaculate Conception. It is to this same statue that he came for long and frequent prayers: it has become one of the most precious souvenirs of the origins of the family. (Rey I, p. 280)

Eugene’s letters of 1822 have shown the many concerns and difficulties he was experiencing. Not least among these was his worry about the survival and future of his small group of Missionaries. It was in this spirit that he blessed the new statue in the chapel, which became the opportunity for a powerful life-giving insight. He immediately wrote to Henri Tempier, who was in Laus.

I believe I owe to her also a special experience that I felt today; I will not go so far as to say more than ever, but certainly more than usual.

Eugene was usually very reticent about describing his deep spiritual experiences. His “more than usual” experience was connected with the life of the Missionaries of Provence, who were experiencing external difficulties and whose future existence was in the balance.

I cannot describe it too well because it covered several things, but all related to a single object, our dear Society.

He then described the confirmation that he received that the foundation of the Missionaries had come from God and that God assured him of a solid future for this group.

It seemed to me that what I saw, what I could put my finger on, was 
that within it lies hidden the seed of very great virtues,
and that it can achieve infinite good;
I found it worthy,
everything pleased me about it,
I appreciated its rules, its statutes;
its ministry seemed awe-inspiring to me, as it is indeed.
As I looked at the Society I found in it a sure, even infallible, means of salvation.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 15 August 1822, EO VI n 86

This was the grace that the Oblate Madonna had obtained for Eugene: a God-given assurance that he was on the right track and that he needed to persevere despite all the external storms raging around him that seemed to threaten the existence of the Missionaries.

Two hundred years later we continue to reap the harvest of this boost of confidence which our Oblate Madonna “smiled” on us.

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One Response to THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION – THE OBLATE MADONNA

  1. Eleanor Rabnett says:

    I sit here this morning as we prepare for our great Feast Day tomorrow. I remember how during our 2015 Convocation for OMI Lacombe Province – Fr. Louis Lougen, OMI Superior General was speaking to us by Skype from Rome and towards the end of the session (and I can only paraphrase here) he told us ‘that we were right where we were supposed to be’. Here we had the man who was successor to Eugene de Mazenod, our Founder and first Superior General. He spoke to us as we struggled to find and continue our journey, as we accepted our growing diminishment in numbers, in people, in a time when all around us there were struggles and pain. I remember hearing Fr. Louis say those words and at that time how I thought very briefly of Eugene’s experience with our Oblate Madonna who I had met a few years before that convocation. Maman. Our Oblate Madonna continuing to smile on us.

    What Eugene wrote in his letter to Henri Tempier – those words hold the truth of our own particular vocations as members of the Mazenodian Family. Can we say them aloud – without any measurements or conditions? Here we are two hundred years later preparing to celebrate tomorrow in and with our various communities.

    I remember Mary telling the servants at Cana to ‘do whatever he tells you’ and still she does that – with her Son, with Eugene our founder, with the Superior General(s) of our times, with each other.

    Tomorrow as I begin my day of celebration, reflecting and praying I want to look at this ‘Society’ Eugene founded, this Congregation of Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and at all who are members of the Mazenodian Family – that each of us continue to find in it a‘sure, even infallible, means of salvation’.

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