The confessional was the privileged place of encounter and reconciliation between the penitent and Jesus the Saviour. It is thus not surprising that the missionaries dedicated every available moment to this ministry during their village missions. The pattern was set in their first mission together in Grans:

we never stop hearing confessions. We take in every variety; therein consists our prayers, our preparation, our thanksgiving and everything else, day and night

Letter to Henri Tempier, 11 March 1816, O.W. VI n. 11

 The narrations abound: for example, during the mission of Eyguieres,

So we have to go beyond our strength, we are in the confessional until a quarter to midnight, and at that late hour when we have to go up for something to eat, we are obliged to send people away

Letter to the community at Aix, 7 March 1819, O.W. VI n. 41

From Barjols he wrote:

Here we are in the confessional, without stirring, from morning until evening

Letter to Henri Tempier, 14 November 1818, O.W. VI n. 34

After the Barjols mission Eugene speaks of the positive results of their efforts:

The parish priest at Barjols tells me that during the past 18 years he had only ten men at Mass …, whereas, during the mission we heard more than 3000 general confessions and those who made the mission before Christmas came to Communion again on New Year’s Day to prove they had made the firm resolution to carry out their Easter duties…

Letter to M. Arbaud, 12 January 1819, O.W. XIII n. 22

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I read this today and focus on the missionaries – for that is what they were, giving their all – for that is what they did. I am reminded of what a mother does, she gives her all, for her children – she gives her all through her children. And I think of Mary, the Mother of God, how she gave over her life, her all. Indeed she seemed to start this trend, this truly glorious and wonderful trend. To give such, to love so much as to be there totally for each person, to listen, to allow God to work through you. And to do this for hour after hour, in those small confining dark little confessionals – a total giving of self for others. There is no personal glory in that – it can only be for God. We talk of seeing through the eyes of Jesus, and this is perhaps listening with the ears of Jesus. Co-operators of the Jesus, Our Saviour.

    I think of the gift that is the sacrament of Reconciliation, the gift of being physically listended to, perhaps there is conversation, back and forth and then absolution and all that one word implies. To be able to speak out loud of all the pain, the sorrow, to share our innermost person that we try to keep hidden from the rest of the world. To hear that we are forgiven, to receive that absolution. Freedom – it so very freeing.

    For me, my moments of conversion began in a confessional, where I sat next to a young priest, having poured out my pain and my sin. And like the Oblates, those 200 years ago and those with us today, that giving of himself and allowing himself to be used by God, allowed me to then begin look at how I might give my all to God. A continuous and growing thing. Those hearts aflame touching each other and moving outward.

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