The Constitutions and Rules of a religious congregation are not a set of laws to be slavishly obeyed so as to maintain good order and perfect obedience in the congregation.
Each founder lives her or his life according to a particular Gospel inspiration (in Eugene’s case it was the Good Friday experience of Jesus as Savior). The founder lives and shares this vision with others, who then want to be a part of the life and mission of the institute. At a certain moment, the founding community puts into writing its experience of having lived this Gospel vision so that succeeding generations will be able to enter into this same experience and same spirit. A Rule of Life is all about handing on the founding spirit and vision within the context of an ever-changing world and its demands.

The Rule of a Congregation is the Gospel perceived, lived and shared under a particular aspect. For Eugene it was the viewpoint of the Savior – and of the vocation of the Oblates being “co-operators of the Savior” and bringing the most abandoned to that same experience of being saved. Today we recognize the vocation of all the members of the Mazenodian Family to be co-operators of the Savior.

In this light we can understand Eugene’s insistence of absolute fidelity to the Rule (= to a life of “regularity”) 

The only appropriate expression of the gratitude we owe God for this miracle is a firm resolution to walk always in his presence according to our vocation, in the exact observance of our Rules.

Letter to Bruno Guigues, 3 September 1834, EO VIII n 485

This entry was posted in WRITINGS. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I remember Eugene’s first letter to Henri Tempier, inviting him to join him and a few others. His letter opened with him asking Tempier to stand at the foot of his crucifix as he read the letter. Not just a pious stance but an ‘entering-into’.

    And I remember how many years ago a group of us were gathered at an Oblate residence to celebrate an obedience being given and received. One of the older Oblates was being celebrated before being sent to live at Foyer Lacombe out west where he would receive the care he needed at that point in his life. One of the Provincial Vicars was there and told him this would be his last obedience and those words were given and received with love and joy. That night we celebrated his ‘sending’ with him.

    Frank speaks about the Constitutions and Rules as not being something which subjugate and become a burden. Indeed my own experience shows me that it is exactly the opposite. I liken it to a flower, and the image before my eyes is of a daffodil which when nourished with warmth and life from the sun and the rains, and from the nutrients found within the earth itself will stand tall and graceful; her petals opened outwards to greet life and her colour like a reflection of the sun which gives her life. This is what she has been created to be.

    These Constitutions and Rules rather than weighing us down, are freeing as they help us to open our beings to that which we have been created and called to be. It is in this light that I see obedience being a gift that frees us. I look for a moment at my small green book with nothing on the cover save for three letters: O.M.I. and my heart responds to the gift that they are. This is why I am often moved with deep joy and gratitude to simply hold and kiss them before opening them up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *