My dear brothers, on February 17, 1826, yesterday evening, the Sovereign Pontiff Leo XII confirmed the decision of the congregation of Cardinals and specifically approved the Institute, the Rules and Constitutions of the Missionary Oblates of the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary…

The conclusion to be drawn from this, my dear friends and good brothers, is: we must work, with renewed ardour and still more total devotedness, to bring to God all the glory that stems from our efforts and, to the needy souls of our neighbours, salvation in all possible ways; we must attach ourselves heart and soul to our Rules and practice more exactly what they prescribe to us…In the name of God, let us be saints.

Eugene de Mazenod to his Oblate Family, 18 February 1826, EO VII, n. 226


Writing to the Mazenodian Family, Father Louis Lougen urges us all to be missionaries according to the vision and heart of St. Eugene, wherever we are and whatever our state of life:

The missionary project of Eugene and companions, expressed in a passionate way in the “Preface”, is written in our hearts… we see its prophetic relevance even today.  The Church in our own times, in various ways and in diverse places around the world, has been devastated.  We experience a Church which is discredited because of its own ministers’ lack of virtue; a Church divided and polarized by ideologies; a Church whose faithful members very often are being persecuted for their faith; and in other places, a Church where Christians have ceased professing their faith; a Church weakened for lack of the Eucharist, lack of priests and difficult accessibility.

This reality cries out with urgency to us and touches our hearts as it did Eugene’s.  If there could be missionaries, filled with passion to bring the Gospel to the poor; missionaries inflamed with apostolic zeal; missionaries committed to a holy life of genuine love for others; missionaries who would share a life in common and collaborate together and with others for the Mission of God… Then, in a short time, there would be reason to hope that people would truly open their lives to God’s Good News.  Eugene’s was a prophetic vision, with a profound pastoral hunger to minister to the people forgotten by the Church. (https://www.omiworld.org/2020/02/02/the-letter-of-the-superior-general-on-the-194th-anniversary-of-the-papal-approbation-of-the-constitutions-and-rules/ )

Father Louis Lougen OMI, Superior General

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This is a practice that Eugene wanted the members of his religious family to maintain. This is why you are invited to take part in this practice of Oraison on Sunday, February 16, 2020, as we remember the anniversary of the approval of the Oblate Constitutions and Rules.

Oraison: Praying with the Mazenodian Family in February

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“In the prolonged silent prayer we make each day, we let ourselves be molded by the Lord, and find in him the inspiration of our conduct” (OMI Rule of Life, 33).

Presented by The OMIUSA Mazenodian Family Committee https://www.omiusa.org/index.php/oraison-praying-with-the-mazenodian-family/

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As he launched the new Oblate mission at Lumières, Eugene was exultant as he considered God’s goodness to the Missionary Oblates: ten missionary foundations in 20 years, all communities from which to go out and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ the Savior.

Here we are in an earthly paradise. Nothing is so beautiful as the church that is built on the miraculous shrine of the Blessed Virgin. It is incomparably the best we have… I do not know of any other Society which in our time has been favoured in a similar manner, and it is with a handful of men that these things are done in times that are bad.

Letter to Casimir Aubert, 3 June 1837, EO IX n 622

He described in his Journal the prayer of taking possession of the shrine and how this fulfilled the task that the Pope had charged the Missionaries with in 1826.

This house, that I was placing at this moment specially under the protection of our sovereign Master and Saviour, was already the tenth foundation of our Congregation. It was again by a wonderful disposition of God’s goodness towards us the third famous shrine of the Blessed Virgin that we were charged with restoring, serving, maintaining using every temporal and moral resource at our disposition so as to restore to honour the veneration of our holy Mother and propagate her devotion in conformity with the ends of our institute.

After recalling the words of the Pope in approving the Missionary Oblates in 1826, Eugene continued:

The Saviour our head it is who confided these shrines to us and placed us there as in a fortress from whence our missionaries are to go out into the various dioceses to preach repentance and gather in those wonderful fruits of conversion that are the subject of our constant wonder and the edification of all who come to know them.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 2 June 1837, EO XVIII

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As Eugene prayed dedicating the new Oblate mission at the shrine of Our Lady of Lumières, he became profoundly aware of God’s goodness and mercy in working wonders through the Oblates, despite his sinfulness and unworthiness to be God’s instrument.

We were calling down his blessings on ourselves and our Congregation that we were representing with all the more fervour because we were few in number,
and for myself, there was joined to all these thoughts a profound feeling of my unworthiness, convinced as I was to the depth of my soul that my sins made me essentially incapable of being the instrument of all the miracles the Lord is working for our men and through them, from the feeble beginnings of our small family up to the present.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 2 June 1837, EO XVIII

A consoling thought in the midst of the brokenness, imperfection and sinfulness of so many leaders and members of the Church today: the Church is the Body of Christ, and He never abandons those He calls into the Kingdom of God.

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Since divine Providence has called on us to restore to honour the devotion to Our Lady of Lumières, we must fulfil our mission in its entirety…
As today is the beautiful feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I did not want to let it pass without consecrating to him the house, our foundation and the community that is to serve the shrine and exercise the holy ministry of missions in the diocese…

He narrated how they exposed the Blessed Sacrament and then did their daily oraison prayer in communion with all the Oblates throughout France.

Then we stayed on for a half-hour oraison. I think these were precious moments. We may have been quite alone in the presence of our divine Master, but we were prostrate at his feet to place our persons, our society, its ministry, its works, the house we had just taken possession of, under his powerful protection; we asked that he alone rule over us, that he be our father, light, help, counsel, support, our all. We were calling down his blessings on ourselves and our Congregation that we were representing with all the more fervour because we were few in number.

 Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 2 June 1837, EO XVIII

Today the Mazenodian Family continues this practice of oraison – of praying in communion with others.

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Eugene’s personal journal gives us insights into his personality and sense of humor that we do not often find in his letters. He describes and incident at Notre Dame de Lumières with the text of the pastoral letter he was going to publish at the time that he would officially take over the Diocese of Marseilles.

… as I wanted to make use of some free time I had for myself in St. Joseph’s [ed. where he had done his retreat], I had the extraordinary idea of speedily composing the pastoral letter for my taking possession of the diocese. So I scrawled seven or eight pages on the subject. As I was being interrupted at every moment, I was not able to finish off this little work. I do not know why, it struck me to put these loose pages into this notebook when I left. Anyway the fact is that they were there when I got here, and I had forgotten all about the matter, when as I went out today with Fathers Tempier and Honorat to survey our mountain these same gentlemen who had gone ahead handed me a page of my script which they had just found on the ground on the high ground overlooking the house. I identify a page of my pastoral. I immediately re-enter the house to see if I might find the rest. To my astonishment I find nothing in the notebook where the pages had been inserted. I am just going to rejoin the Fathers to tell them about my misfortune, when they come up to me with another page in hand that they had spotted in the middle of a field of beans. The thing had its funny side, but I was still short, and in accordance with my bad habit, I only had this wretched draft, and I will not hide the fact that I was extremely annoyed to have to begin again a work that was practically finished, and that would have to be begun all over again as I did not remember anything I had written in my haste. So here we are now searching for the other missing pages. A waste of time, we ranged over a section of the garden without spotting anything, we had reached the point of asking ourselves if our truly flying pages had made shipwreck by trying to cross the river, or if they were flying along the main road to be used as lights for the charcoal burners’ pipes, or if some other still more humiliating fate awaited them, when the gardener’s wife heard us and told us her husband had that morning while digging his garden found underfoot several pieces of paper that he thought belonged to Father Honorat and left in the kitchen. Alas, these poor pages were very close to the flames! After a check, I think everything has been found.
But how explain this airborne rise and miserable fall? It was simply the wind that had blown open the notebook on the desk where I write, which is quite close to the little window… but the pages of the ill-fated pastoral which were loose were the wind’s plaything and it blew them without ceremony out of the window. Once outside, I am somewhat ashamed in my capacity as an author, but it has to be said, they were found so light that they traveled far. It is a bad sign for my poor pastoral that in all probability is not worth much. I am almost tempted to do it again. Anyway what was I doing beginning it so soon? They come out better when they are done the night before… This one will be stale before it gets printed.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 2 June 1837, EO XVIII

The last sentence makes me smile because my collaborator in Oblate Studies always plans everything a long time ahead and finds it frustrating that I work on adrenalin rushes at the last moment. It looks like St Eugene is on my side in this argument!

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The previous two reflections examined the place of Mary in our life and ministry. On 17 February  1826, the Church approved the change of title from Missionaries of Provence to Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Eugene reflected on the meaning of this change: 

May we understand well what we are! I hope that the Lord will give us this grace, with the assistance and by the protection of our holy Mother, the Immaculate Mary, for whom we must have a great devotion in our Congregation. Does it not seem to you that it is a sign of predestination to bear the name of Oblates of Mary, that is, consecrated to God under the patronage of Mary, a name the Congregation bears as a family name held in common with the most holy and immaculate Mother of God?

Letter to Henri Tempier, 20 March 1826, EO VII n 231

Today these sentiments continue as our Rule shows:

“Mary Immaculate is patroness of our Congregation. Open to the Spirit, she consecrated herself totally as lowly handmaid to the person and work of the Savior. She received Christ in order to share him with all the world, whose hope he is. In her, we recognize the model of the Church’s faith and of our own.” (CC&RR Constitution 10)

These are the sentiments of the Rule of Life of the Missionary Oblates, but by replacing the word “Congregation” with “Mazenodian Family” we understand the role of Mary for each of us as it is expressed in our various ways of life. She is the model of our response to the gift of Jesus Christ, whom she received in order to share with the world.

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Father Tempier and some of the diocesan officilas had come to visit Eugene at the convent where he had been recuperating and had insisted that he not return to Marseilles but continue his convalescence by visiting some of the Oblate communities, and especially Notre Dame de Lumières. Six months earlier he had been offered to :

buy the convent and the church of Notre-Dame de Lumières as a future establishment for missionaries… The project pleased me because our missionaries have been specially called to work in the Southern diocese whose language they know and, placed by the Holy See under the protection of the Blessed Virgin, they have a special preference to establish themselves in shrines that are dedicated to her. Thus, thanks to Divine Providence, they already serve several such shrines where they have happily succeeded in making previously neglected devotion flourish again.

Letter to Archbishop Dupont, 7 December 1836, EO XIII n 91

Eugene, accompanied by Fathers Tempier and Honorat (who would be the Oblate responsible for the shrine), stayed in Lumières for six days. Today the Missionary Oblates continue to minister at this shrine of Notre Dame de Lumières. For further details see https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/notre-dame-de-lumieres/

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I went to visit the Aygalades church. Proal [ed. the pastor] was in heaven to be able to show me the magnificence of the throne of the Blessed Virgin for the month of May. There is as well the Blessed Virgin’s statue placed on the altar where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved; never was an altar decorated in this manner for the solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Candles and flowers begin on the sanctuary floor and rise to the inordinate height at which the statue is placed.
This kind of decoration has caught on throughout the diocese. I do not think it can be tolerated. It will be one of the first things I will reform. My perception is that little by little the exterior cult offered to statues of the Blessed Virgin far excels in pomp and circumstance that which is given to Our Lord in the divine Eucharist. This is true for processions and for feasts.
It is a long time now that I have been scandalized by this impropriety which is pushed to excess by the mania that prevails in this region always to want to outdo one’s neighbour. They basically love to make a show. That is alright but they must not stray from the fundamental spirit of our holy faith.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 18 May 1837, EO XVIII

Eugene’s devotion never stopped at Mary – she was the one who accompanied him in his discipleship of Jesus Christ. It is always about God first.

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