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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  1. Giovanni Mancini says:

    Thank you fr.Frank. God bless your ministry. Pray for our families

  2. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Some years ago during a convocation the Superior General joined us via Skype, and I remember him saying to all of us that we were where we were supposed to be (not sure those were his exact words but that was what I heard). The Spirit speaking through him just as Eugene shared the grace he had received as he sat with Mary, before her in the chapel. It was not just something that Eugene received and then kept for himself, but rather he shared that with Tempier and then lived it out with the rest of the fledgling congregation; a grace for all of us, then and now.

    And now, some two hundred years later Our Lady continues to smile upon us, each one of us. I think of how she has inspired me, holding my hand with gentleness, tenderness, courage, the strength of steel and more.

    Last night we had the joy of meeting with each other from across the Province via zoom – in prayer, song, listening and sharing… Fr. Jim Probst OMI from the US Province shared with us his love of Our Lady of Guadalupe and her story of how she came and shared herself with a poor Mexican Indian. He shared his love of her in a personal way, bringing her alive and more than just an apparition of to someone else. She was/is alive within us.

    Do we in our beloved family truly appreciate its rules and statutes? And does its ministry fill and inspire us with awe at having come from God? Do we find within her (the congregation) our salvation? I humbly submit it does and we do.

    “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
    my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
    for He has looked with favor on His humble servant.
    From this day all generations will call me blessed,
    the Almighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is His Name.

    Happy Feast Day to each and everyone of you.

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