CELEBRATING A DREAM THAT BECAME A SOURCE OF LIFE TO MANY
We prepare to celebrate the 206th anniversary of our foundation. The time had come for Eugene to begin to invite others to join him in his missionary dream. As members of the Mazenodian family, lay and religious, we are invited to see in these vocational texts something about our own calling to live out our baptism according to the spirit of Eugene.
In this letter Eugene invites Hilaire Aubert, director of the seminary in Limoges, to join him and gives the main reasons for the existence of the new group: the tragic religious situation of the poor and the scarcity of missionaries to help them through preaching and through their efforts to destroy the power of evil. The situation today still calls out with the same invitation.
The good we intend to do must remedy the greatest evils that face us. Those who deal with them dwindle; there is nothing more urgent.
… Oh, dear friend, if you would be one of us! We would begin in your part of the country where religion is practically extinct as in so many other places. I almost dare to say that you would be necessary.
Continuing to reflect on Eugene’s letter of invitation to Hilaire Aubert, we come across a central concept of Eugene’s thought and action: that of forming a group that would be a life-giving cell in the world. He uses the word noyau, which refers to a group that is a source of life to others, like a nucleus in a group of cells, or the seed in a fruit, or the core of something that has life. When he started his youth congregation in Aix, it was for them to be yeast in the society of Aix. Similarly, the Missionaries were meant to be the same: an select group of persons who would be a source of life for others.
In order to be a life-giving force in France, the Missionaries would have to have a quality of life that would be a life-giving to others. They needed to aim at becoming saints by living the commandment of love, according to a Rule and with a transparent lifestyle like the apostles. In order to be a life-giving force in the world of today, we as members of the Mazenodian family, lay and religious, are called to a particular quality of life so as to be a nucleus in society.
Ah! if we could form a nucleus, there would soon cluster round it the most zealous elements in the diocese.
Think a while about that before the good God. You know that we must have, in order to do any good in our regions, people of the country who know the language.
Oh! do not doubt that we will become saints in our Congregation, free but united by bonds of the most tender charity, by exact submission to the Rule we would adopt, etc. We would live poorly, apostolically, etc.
Letter to Hilaire Aubert, 1815, EO VI n 3
(Note: After being presented with this founding vision, Hilaire Aubert discerned not to join the Missionaries of Provence)
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