200 YEARS AGO: THE FUTURE OF THE MISSIONARIES THREATENED FROM WITHIN

Eugene used the annual retreat of the Missionaries as the opportunity to present to them the Rule that he had compiled. The retreat extended from October 23 to 31, 1818. As the events of this retreat, and of our first General Chapter, are an important step in the development of the identity of the Oblates, I will present them in some detail, and let some of the biographers of this period tell us the story.

All members of the small Society being assembled, Fr. de Mazenod, communicated the proposed Rules and Constitutions to them. He made this reading coincide with the exercises of the annual retreat which usually began on October 23. Every day he read the six priests of the Institute a part of his manuscript and commenting and explaining it article by article

Rey I, p 233. quoting the “Diary” of Marius Suzanne

Leflon continues the story:

The six priests, Fathers Tempier, Mye, Moreau, Deblieu, Maunier and Aubert, accepted the first part on the aims of the Society. When it came to the part on the vows, there was a resistance that gave every indication of being insuperable. Only Tempier and Moreau approved the Superior-General’s proposals; the others formed a block to reject them. In spite of the guarded language of the official records, of eye-witnesses and of Oblate historians, one gathers that the reaction was rather spirited.

On coming to live at the former Carmelite monastery, the members had no intention of embracing the religious life or of vowing themselves for life to the Society. On the contrary, they had come with the understanding that they were completely free “to remain or withdraw” whenever it would please them.

Furthermore, it was agreed when they entered that the Society would not be anything more than a simple association of secular priests living in common for the purpose of devoting themselves to the missions. Now everything was being changed and doubts began to arise concerning the Founder’s good faith.

The situation then became extremely serious. If the four dissidents remained adamant, not only would the Superior be obliged to renounce the foundation at Laus and cancel the arrangements made with Bishop Miollis, but the Society he wanted to reinforce would very likely disintegrate.

His personal authority which, until then, had kept the embattled and fragile Society together would be given a stinging and devastating rebuff. Everything would fall apart from the one blow.

Leflon 2, p. 166 – 167

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One Response to 200 YEARS AGO: THE FUTURE OF THE MISSIONARIES THREATENED FROM WITHIN

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I think for a moment of the story of 8 Trappist monks – the movie “Of Gods and Men”. The superior decided they would stay but this did not sit well with all of them. They needed to be able to talk it out, to pray and discern – each of them individually. They had all given so much and now more was being asked of them.

    I think of how Jesus struggled in the Garden. I am reminded of Eugene’s experience of Jesus on the Cross – Jesus who died for him – a deeply personal experience for Eugene. It wasn’t just Eugene asking this of them – it was God. There was no ‘slam-dunk’ for Eugene or for his companions. Like the apostles who followed Jesus – they had to give up everything. This was the model that Eugene was using – to be like the apostles. I think of the words of The Preface. What did Christ do?

    Even my reflection this morning is step-by-step, as it was with the apostles and then Eugene and his companions.

    I am reminded of the poem “Covenant” written by Margaret Halaska OSF.

    God
    knocks at my door
    seeking a home for his son.

    Rent is cheap, I say.

    I don’t want to rent. I want to buy, says God.

    I’m not sure I want to sell,
    but you might come in and look around.

    I think I will, says God.

    I might let you have a room or two.

    I like it, says God. I’ll take the two. You might decide to give me more someday.
    I can wait, says God.

    I’d like to give you more,
    but it’s a bit difficult. I need some space for me.

    I know, says God, but I’ll wait. I like what I see.

    Hmm, maybe I can let you have another room.
    I really don’t need that much.

    Thanks, says God, I’ll take it. I like what I see.

    I’d like to give you the whole house
    but I’m not sure …

    Think on it, says God. I wouldn’t put you out.
    Your house would be mine and my son would live in it.
    You’d have more space than you’d ever had before.

    I don’t understand at all.

    I know, says God, but I can’t tell you about that.
    You’ll have to discover it for yourself.
    That can only happen if you let me have the whole house.

    A bit risky, I say.

    Yes, says God, but try me.

    I’m not sure –
    I’ll let you know.

    I can wait, says God, I like what I see.

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