OBLATES WHO ARE NOT IGNORANT OF THESE THINGS AND SEEM TO DESPISE THEM

 I leave my room to take myself to the cathedral for divine service. Gladly indeed would I prolong still further my period of solitude, but St. Peter too would very gladly have remained on Mount Tabor. He was told as we are that one must come down from the mountain. Rest is neither due nor granted to us this side of heaven.
Eugene portrayed his retreat of Rule-focused prayer as being on Mount Tabor – a transfiguration experience in the presence of his beloved Savior. We have seen how the more he meditated on the Rule, the more amazed and moved he became at the beauty of his Oblate vocation. In the midst of that awe, he was reminded of members of his Congregation who almost seemed to scorn the beauty of their vocation and see their missionary work as a career and not a call.

Happily your last letter reached me at a point during my retreat when by God’s grace I had reached the state of detachment one has to have if one is not to lose one’s peace of mind amidst the contradictions and difficulties of life, and yet it seems to me that my indignation has grown against men who, called to perfection and enriched by the divine bounty with the most efficacious means to achieve it, do not respond to their call.
I have nothing but compassion for poor sinners, for errant men who have never seen the light except from afar, who do not know God and in consequence have no idea of the delight and happiness that there is in his service, in loving him, in devotion to him, in consecrating one’s existence to him, but for those who are not ignorant of these things and seem to despise them, it is only by taking time to deliberate that I can bring myself to endure their ingratitude and folly.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille and to the Fathers and Brothers at Billens, 3 November 1831, EO VIII n 406

Harsh words! A wake -up call to us not to make of our ministry a job to be done, a career to accomplish, but to see the use of our talents as a call – and to rediscover our awe at the beauty of our vocation.

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IN JESUS CHRIST, OUR COMMON CENTRE WHERE ALL OUR HEARTS BECOME AS ONE

The practice of “oraison” that was important for Eugene is illustrated in this beautiful text:

We should often come together like this, in Jesus Christ, our common center where all our hearts become as one and our affections are brought to fulfilment.

Although physically separated from his Oblate brothers, Eugene always practiced the prayer of “oraison” – of being united with them in the Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ. Each day when he prayed in his chapel, he was united with his brothers, wherever they were.

Dear friends, this is my bouquet for this beautiful feast day.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille and to the Fathers and Brothers at Billens, 1 November 1831, EO VIII n 406

What a beautiful tradition Eugene has left us! We can be present with our loved ones in the presence of Jesus who makes us one, despite geographical distance. This is the true meaning of Eugene’s “oraison.”

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OBLATION: LEAVING CHILDHOOD BEHIND FOR THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST

On the Feast of All Saints, Eugene’s thoughts were with Pierre Aubert, who was making his lifetime oblation to God through pronouncing vows for life.

This kiss of peace and all the graces of the communion of saints went forth far and wide and reached as far as yourselves. I have no doubt, as the sacrifice [ed. the Mass] from which they flow was offered for you as for those present.
My joyful thoughts reached all the way to Pierre, our Benjamin, the youngest member of our family, who must this day leave childhood behind and grow up to the measure of the perfect man.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille and to the Fathers and Brothers at Billens, 1 November 1831, EO VIII n 406 

When he says “the perfect man” Eugene refers to Ephesians 4:13 “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” This is the goal of the Oblate initial and ongoing formation process.

Pierre Aubert went on to live his oblation as a great missionary in Canada.

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PRESENT IN EACH OTHER’S THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS

We have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on the private retreat in which Eugene meditated on the Constitutions and Rules. Now it is back to everyday life for him – and his concerns as the superior for his religious family.

To give you tangible proof of my good will. I cannot bring my retreat to an end without writing you at least a few lines.
From this you see, my dear ones, that you are first in my thoughts on my descent from the holy mountain where, in conformity with the Rule and following the counsel of our divine Master. I have just “quiescere pusillum” [ed. Mark 6:31 “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place”.]
I must even admit that I have not waited for the end of my retreat to turn my thoughts in your direction. On many occasions you were in my thoughts and not by way of distraction.

Praying for the members of his religious family was always an integral part of his daily prayer. He wrote this letter on November 1, All Saints Day, the day in which the Oblates renewed their oblation – and on which new members of the family professed their first vows. Eugene gives thanks for the great gift of the Oblate vocation:

This morning as on others, in the deep silence of the pre-dawn celebration of the sacred mysteries in the seminary chapel, you were there in my thoughts to swell the number of the fervent disciples who had anticipated the break of day to give thanks to God for the great gift that has not been accorded to all.

Letter to Jean Baptiste Mille and to the Fathers and Brothers at Billens, 1 November 1831, EO VIII n 406

Today, all of us are invited to give thanks for the gift of our baptismal vocation and to remember that, as members of the Mazenodian Family, we are united in living and expressing our vocation.

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EUGENE AND THE RESURRECTION: DESIRING THAT THOSE IN WHOM HE CONTINUES TO SUFFER WILL KNOW ALSO THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION

Through the eyes of our crucified Saviour we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know also the power of his resurrection (cf. Phil 3: 10).

CC&RR, Constitution 4

From his earliest preaching Eugene constantly invited the poor to understand the transforming invitation of the resurrection in their lives.

Come now and learn from us what you are in the eyes of faith.
Poor of Jesus Christ, afflicted, wretched, suffering, sick, covered with sores, etc., all you whom misery oppresses, my brothers, dear brothers, respected brothers, listen to me.
You are God’s children, the brothers of Jesus Christ, heirs to his eternal kingdom, chosen portion of his inheritance; you are, in the words of St. Peter, a holy nation, you are kings, you are priests, you are in some way gods, You are gods, children of the Most High.
So lift up your spirits, that your defeated souls may breathe, grovel no longer on the ground: You are gods, children of the Most High. (Ps. 81:6).
Lift yourselves towards heaven where your minds should be set, our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), let your eyes see for once beneath the rags that cover you, there is within you an immortal soul made in the image of God whom it is destined to possess one day, a soul ransomed at the price of the blood of Jesus Christ, more precious in the eyes of God than all earth’s riches, than all the kingdoms of the earth, a soul of which he is more jealous than of the government of the entire universe.
Christians, know then your dignity, with St. Leo I will call you sharers in the divine nature,

Notes for the first instruction in the Church of the Madeleine, EO XV n. 114

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EUGENE AND THE RESURRECTION: FROM THE CROSS TO THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION

Eugene’s Good Friday experience did not leave him standing at the foot of the Cross. The focus of his life had changed, and it became a continuous Easter – responding to the light of the Risen Christ’s, “I am with you always.”

Never was my soul more satisfied, never did it feel such happiness; for in the midst of this flood of tears, despite my grief, or rather because of my grief, my soul took wings towards its final end, towards God its only good whose loss it felt so keenly. Why say more? Could I ever express what I experienced then? Just the memory of it fills my heart with a sweet consolation.
Thus I had looked for happiness outside of God, and outside of him I found only affliction and vexation. Blessed, a thousand times blessed, that he, this good Father who, notwithstanding my unworthiness, lavished on me all the richness of his mercy.
Let me at least make up for lost time by redoubling my love for him. May all my actions, thoughts, etc., be directed towards that end. What more glorious occupation than to act in everything and for everything only for God, to love him above all else, to love him all the more as one who has loved him too late.
Ah! The happiness of heaven begins here below. This is the true way to glorify him as he wants.

Retreat Journal, December 1814, EO XV n.130

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EUGENE AND THE RESURRECTION: I WENT IN SPIRIT THROUGH THE CHURCHES OF THE WHOLE EARTH, WHERE AT THE SAME MOMENT THE VAULTS WERE RESOUNDING WITH THE PRAISES OF THE RISEN LORD

Eugene continues to describe his joyful Easter celebration at the seminary:

I went in spirit through the churches of the whole earth, where at the same moment the vaults were resounding with the praises of the Risen Lord.
I was in Aix, I was in Rome, I was in China, everywhere I encountered the same transports of joy for the same reason. Not content with this experience of harmony with every Christian scattered over the face of the earth, I dared to penetrate heaven itself. I was not slow to grasp that all that captivated me here below was but a feeble echo of the joy, the inexpressible happiness, that animated all the blessed on that day that the Lord had made. How great is the heart of a Christian, how many things it grasps simultaneously, it seems at first as if the least consolation will fill it and it is about to burst; not at all, it is always capable of containing more, when full to bursting it still wants more, but this insatiable appetite will be satisfied only in heaven.

Letter to his mother, 4 April 1809, EO XIV n 50

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EUGENE AND THE RESURRECTION: THE SOUNDS OF JOY THAT RE-ECHOED IN MY EARS AND PENETRATED TO THE DEPTHS OF MY HEART

Easter Day found us in the Church at 4:00 a.m. to sing Matins, Lauds and Prime. After Prime, a first High Mass was sung at which the seminary received communion…
We returned at 10:45 for the second High Mass at which I was again the cross-bearer. The ceremony did not finish until 1:30. Vespers began at 4:00 p.m., then the sermon, then benediction, in short we did not get back to the seminary until 8:30. Adding up all these hours you will see it works out at twelve, but you would have a job to work out the amount of happiness I felt during this time that seemed to me to flash by like a minute.
 I was so happy, in the superb Temple I found myself in, at the sounds of joy that re-echoed in my ears and penetrated to the depths of my heart;

Letter to his mother, 4 April 1809, EO XIV n 50

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EUGENE AND THE RESURRECTION: GRATITUDE MUST FILL OUR HEARTS AT THE THOUGHT THAT THIS GOOD MASTER HAS REALLY WILLED TO MAKE US SHARERS IN HIS RESURRECTION

Eugene describes his joy at his first Easter celebration as a seminarian at Saint Sulpice.

What a ravishing ceremony for Christians, how the heart was bursting, what joy as one joined with the whole Church of heaven and earth to celebrate the glorious Resurrection of Our Saviour.
 After journeying with him through the sad event of his Passion, after weeping over the torments that our sins made him endure, how consoling it is to see him rise triumphant over death and hell, and what gratitude must fill our hearts at the thought that this good Master has really willed to make us sharers in his resurrection, destroying the sin that is in us and giving us a new life.
That day we spent a good twelve hours in Church, I would not have wanted it to be a minute less. It was like being in heaven; so what are the joy and happiness we experience in that blessed homeland going to be like?

Letter to his mother, 4 April 1809, EO XIV n 50

 

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LIVING HOLY WEEK WITH SAINT EUGENE:  CAN I FORGET THE SIGHT OF THE CROSS?

 Can I forget the bitter tears that the sight of the cross brought streaming from my eyes one Good Friday?

Retreat Journal, December 1814, O.W. XV n.130

“Can I forget … the sight of the cross?” asks Eugene?

Every action of his life, every time that he preached the Gospel, every time that he held out his hands to the poor and most abandoned, it was a proclamation of: “Never can I forget the sight of the cross!”

It is the only distinctive sign that he gave to the Oblates – under which every aspect of our lives is to unfold: “Never forget the sight of the cross!”

“Through the eyes of the Crucified Savior” is the only point of view through which the Mazenodian family is called to see the world: “Never forget the sight of the cross!”

At the very end of his life, Father Tempier wrote to the Oblates: “It is not possible to tell you the example he gave, the sentiments he manifested during these three days [of preparing himself for the Sacrament of the sick]. We consider it a special grace to have seen and heard what we did. He cried out:

I am on the cross. I gladly stay on the cross and offer my sufferings to God for my dear Oblates

Circular letter no. 2 of January 29, 1861 in Oblate Writings II, vol. 2, no. 116. 

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