To ensure ongoing harmony in relationships in the villages the missionaries established the “peace offices.” Thus during the mission at Barjols, for example, we find Eugene saying:

People are publicly and spontaneously reconciled at the foot of the cross. It is marvellous

Letter to Fortuné de Mazenod, 22 November 1818, E.O. XIII n. 20

The peace offices aimed at backing up the preachers’ work. Yvon Beaudoin explains their importance: “Thanks to the moral authority and Christian spirit of the leading men who composed it, this office, while having no official standing, brought those who spontaneously had recourse to it to acknowledge their general reciprocal wrongs.”(Diary of the Marignane Mission, O.W. XVI footnote 18).

The letters of the Oblates describing their experiences in the villages show the importance of this practical step. An example is found in the account of the mission of Rouviere:

A scandalous court case between a father and his son was suspended; we were the ones who actually wrote the letter to stop the proceedings. Father and child were in tears as they hugged each other.

Letter of Hippolyte Guibert to Henri Tempier, 16 December 1825 in PAGUELLE DE FOLLENAY, Vie du Cardinal Guibert, p. 180

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    How could it be otherwise? What is with and in God will always be healing in some way, courts and laws might bring a form of justice but I do not see them as being agents of healing. What an incredibly wonderful way to do it. Bringing people together, at the foot of the Cross, within the embrace of God. There is no space there for fear, blame, self-righteousness, legal loop holes, lawyers, etc. But there is within God’s embrace the opportunity to embrace, ask for forgiveness, forgive, listen, share, love.

    Peace offices – where do we find those today? I guess they could be any room, any place where people feel safe, loved, away from prying eyes. A chapel, a church, a pastor’s office, a reconciliation room.

    The thought of it – a little scary. I think that this takes great courage. To say to another human being, this is how I feel, this is how I hurt, forgive me for the hurt I have caused. In a society where the focus and emphasis seems to be on the “I” rather than the “other”, to be on blaming rather than taking any kind of responsibility for, to be on individualism rather than community and togetherness. It does take great courage, each and every day, over and over again. It is a part of our journey to Jerusalem, and indeed through the streets, with the cross and up the hill to Golgatha. Shall I stand by (perhaps in fear of been recognized or truly seen) or will I step out, take up my cross, help another somehow as they carry theirs. What will I find the courage to let go of as i walk this chosen path, not focussing on the sins of others, their shortcomings and weakness, but only on my own. Then reaching out to them to experience healing and forgiveness. Odd – it is a journey between me and God and yet done through and with others.

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