For Saint Eugene, Holy Thursday marked two important events: his first communion and his private vow of saying “yes” to God on this night when Christians keep watch with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and Jesus said “yes”. This year, being unable to celebrate the liturgy in our churches, I invite the members of the Mazenodian Family to spend time with Jesus in his agony in the garden. This year we can appreciate more deeply that lonely agony of Jesus as he grappled with what was happening.

This is how Eugene and his closest Oblate companion, Henri Tempier, spent that night in 1816.

Briefly put. Father Tempier and I felt that we should not delay any longer, and on Holy Thursday (April 11, 1816), when both of us had taken our place under the structure of the beautiful repository we had erected over the main altar of the Mission church, in the night of that holy day, we pronounced our vows with an indescribable joy. We enjoyed our happiness throughout this beautiful night, in the presence of Our Lord.

Rambert I, p. 187

This time of reflection recalled the time Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane at prayer while struggling to live the events taking place at that moment. The “not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36) of Jesus to the Father became the commitment to the “not what I want, but what you want” of Eugene and Henri Tempier to the Father – and consequently the key to understanding the meaning of self-giving – which we know as “oblation.”

As we meet in the Garden of Gethsemane today, let us be united with one another in giving each other strength as we struggle in our aloneness. (“Oraison”)

Let us also be conscious of the courageous oblation of those who are caring for the sick and the dying, and of those providing us with “essential services” that make our daily lives possible. As we keep watch with Jesus and St Eugene in Gethsemane, let us pray for these ministering angels and let us become ministering angels to one another.

The altar referred to today was originally in Aix, but is now in Rome.

“If we are to share our lives with others and generously give of ourselves, we also have to realize that every person is worthy of our giving. Not for their physical appearance, their abilities, their language, their way of thinking, or for any satisfaction that we might receive, but rather because they are God’s handiwork, his creation. God created that person in his image, and he or she reflects something of God’s glory. Every human being is the object of God’s infinite tenderness, and he himself is present in their lives. Jesus offered his precious blood on the cross for that person. Appearances notwithstanding, every person is immensely holy and deserves our love. Consequently, if I can help at least one person to have a better life, that already justifies the offering of my life. It is a wonderful thing to be God’s faithful people. We achieve fulfilment when we break down walls and our heart is filled with faces and names!”

Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 274

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Holy Thursday. I cannot help but notice that even the agony in the garden begins with the Last Supper – which I suppose could be called the “First Supper”. I think about that celebration which also had moments of foreboding (Jesus speaking of the betrayal which had already been set in motion). And then moving towards the Garden.

    To look at this, to dare to enter in and be with Jesus (as Frank is inviting us); to dare to stay awake with Him who is our Beloved… I don’t think I even want to pretend a “no”. Eugene de Mazenod and Henri Tempier; their joy in speaking out and sharing their vows to and with each other and so with the whole community. And today sitting in the light of Frank’s invitation to be “united with one another in giving each other strength as we struggle in our aloneness. (“Oraison”)”

    I am reminded of Judas leaving the 12 to go and betray Jesus – saying beforehand that he could not, would not join in what Jesus is speaking of, hinting at… I think of Fr. Mark Dean’s ‘pause button’ and of my own practice of helping to coordinate our parish celebrations with busyness (good busyness that helps others to enter into the presence of God). Which now with the lockdown is suddenly taken from me; leaving me open, vulnerable with no pause button or door to use as an escape.

    I am reminded for a moment of when a Pope is chosen, called and elected and then is led into ‘the room of tears’ – I do not know what all the room contains, but the surrender, the dying to self… I am reminded of the look on Fr. Louis Lougen’s face as the ballots containing his name were read out. I do not know if he cried afterwards but the depth of his ‘yes,’ his surrender and his oblation showed readily on his face and in his body posture.

    This is not ‘sack cloth and ashes’ stuff, but rather accompanying Jesus, in the darkness and joining him as he says that he is not sure he wants what he is about to experience but still surrenders and tells the Father ‘alright I’ll do this’. No shout of triumph but a groan of agony.

    Not a place that I consciously wanted to be invited to join this morning but one that I will return to with small steps during my day and which I will sit in with others tonight for Mass and oraison following the Mass. Our love of our crucified Saviour, our surrender to reside in his presence, in his heart, our oblation precludes any other way of being. External and internal lockdown in the Garden.

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