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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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Dear Eugene, I find myself becoming excited this morning. Between yours and Frank’s words my heart responds as one would on a retreat. And I rejoice that I am a part of this family.
    How is it that suddenly I see and understand things in a way that I never did before? I am referring to your youth congregation as a precursor to the Oblate Associates. And like them are we not also called to be yeast for the societies around us, the societies that we take part in? Our families, our parishes, our work milieus? I dare to say that yes we are in a sense ‘a select group of persons who are to be a source of life for others’ and for each other.

    Is this not how we become models? Is this not how we follow and serve as disciples?
    And how do we model such a way of life, a quality of life to others?. It is in our sharing and serving with each other that we can go out and share the Good News and our experience of God with all others.

    Like you dear Eugene, I want to become a life-giving force in the world today. I want to love greatly, with all that I am and do. I want to support not just those “out there…” but my brothers and sisters in this family that you invited me to be a part of. The word “oblation” comes to mind. That offering of myself as a gift to God and to my brothers and sisters. I want to be a seed in a fruit, something that is a “source of life to others”.

    Once again Franks image of the flaming hearts, with Jesus at the centre, surrounded by his disciples, and the love moving back and forth, in and around, and ever outwards. If the picture was large enough I am sure that I would find you there and not so far from you would be the image of us who make up your family.

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