I HOLD OUT MY ARMS TO THESE LOST ONES, I OPEN MY HEART TO BRING THEM BACK BECAUSE I REALLY LOVE THEM IN JESUS CHRIST

Eugene’s diary reflection today was focused on his beng bishop of which he says,

I knew well that I would not be assuming a crown of flowers, but rather one with many cruel thorns. Some of them have lost their sharpness, but the burden increased with all the weight of the responsibility of a diocese…

His greatest suffering was to see how many of those living in his diocese were the “most abandoned” because they did not know Jesus Christ as their Savior. He felt helpless.

Blessed be God! I easily come back to the thought that with reason worries me when I consider that I am in the middle of a huge population of whom the greater number are rushing to their loss and it is impossible for me to stop them, neither by my words nor by my wishes. I hold out my arms to these lost ones, I open my heart to bring them back because I really love them in Jesus Christ, I pray continually for them. After all that I should be at peace. I cannot because I feel worse.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 8 May 1839, EO XX

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SAINT EUGENE, THE FATHER AND FOUNDER WHO CALLS US TO LIVE AS HIS MAZENODIAN FAMILY UNITED BY HIS MEMORY

Father Fabre’s first circular letter to the Oblates after the General Chapter which elected him to be Eugene’s successor contains the invitation:

Let us be united in spirit and in heart

and we will be strong for doing what is good;

let us be united in the memory of a Father

forever beloved”

As we give thanks for  the foundation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and subsequently the Mazenodian Family, 204 years ago, these words are as pertinent as ever for us.

If we allow the presence and spirit of Eugene to be our source of strength and unity, then surely our bonds of charity and our missionary zeal will have no boundaries.

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THE SPIRIT OF SAINT EUGENE CONTINUES TO BE ALIVE

After Eugene’s death a General Chapter of the Oblates was convoked in 1861. At the opening session two of the senior members of the Congregation spoke: Father Tempier and Bishop Guibert.

Father Tempier opened the General Chapter by declaring his conviction regarding Eugene:

“This Venerable Man is no longer with us, but his spirit continues to live always in the heart of his children ….”

Bishop Guibert’s address echoed the same sentiments, speaking of the Oblate Congregation as our “mother”:

“Yes, our Father has died, but know that our Mother remains; and I regard her as being immortal; she will live by the spirit of her Founder.”

Joseph Fabre, who was elected to be Eugene’s successor, concluded the Chapter of 1861 by saying:

“I feel the assistance of our much loved Founder; he has not left us!

I was at his deathbed and said to him, “You will always be among us.” “Yes,” he replied, and he has kept his promise.

He remains among us through the Holy Rule which he had left us, and which is the expression of his love for God and the salvation of souls: it is the glorious testament of his enormous heart, and in observing it we will find all our strength.”

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SAINT EUGENE, BISHOP OF MARSEILLE – IN HIS OWN WORDS

1837 – nomination as Bishop of Marseille, the second-largest city of France

Here I am in fact pastor and chief pastor of a diocese which, whatever one says of it, is not inhabited by saints. It was given me, I would not have chosen it. However, I must attach myself to this people as a father to his children. My existence, my life, all my being must be consecrated to it, I must have no thought but for its good, no fears other than I have not done enough for its welfare and sanctification, no other solicitude than that which must include all its spiritual interests and even in a certain way its temporal welfare. I must in a word consume myself for it, be ready to sacrifice my leisure, my desire, rest, life itself for it.

Retreat in preparation for taking possession of the Diocese of Marseille, May 1837, E.O. XV n.185

From the first day I can be canonically instituted, that is to say, placed by Jesus Christ to watch over the fold, charged to instruct it, feed it, edify it … to become pastor and father, invested with the very authority of Jesus Christ whom I must represent in the midst of that portion of his flock that will become thus my own flock for which I shall have to render an account to the Sovereign Pastor of our souls who will have given them to me to save them in sacrificing myself for them.

Retreat in preparation for taking possession of the Diocese of Marseille, May 1837, E.O. XV n.185

For further details, see Alfred Hubenig and René Motte: “Living in the Spirit’s Fire” pages 171 – 205  https://www.omiworld.org/wp-content/uploads/Living-in-the-Spirits-Fire.pdf

 

 

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SAINT EUGENE, VICAR GENERAL OF MARSEILLE  – IN HIS OWN WORDS

1823 : nomination as principal Vicar General of his uncle, Bishop Fortuné de Mazenod. It was a difficult work of restoration and rebuilding a diocese that had not had a resident bishop for 21 years. For Eugene, who was a dynamic preacher and loved being in the field of evangelization, having to be an administrator in an office (and often a disciplinarian to correct abuses) entailed great personal suffering and sacrifice for him. He did it for love of the Church.

I must resume my post. This will be, I hope, again to do my duty there, to try by my every zealous effort to bring a little bit of life back into a dead diocese whatever appearance of health it may have; there will no doubt be new crises, there was never a reform without hurting, wounding plenty of people! No matter; have God alone before us, the honour of his Church, the salvation of the souls entrusted to us; consult only the divine Wisdom, trample on human wisdom, and God will be our help. But one must have much virtue to sacrifice one’s peace for one’s duty, to face the hatred and persecution of men precisely so as to do good for men. This virtue is acquired and conserved only by union with God, prayer and meditation, etc., walking always before God and keeping one’s eyes on heaven alone and its rewards which are none other than God himself. Lord! Grant me the grace of being ever more deeply imbued with these thoughts!

Retreat notes, May 1824, E.O. XV n.156

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SAINT EUGENE, SUPERIOR GENERAL OF A WORLDWIDE MISSIONARY CONGREGATION  – IN HIS OWN WORDS

1818: Eugene’s dream of never-ending horizons to preach the Gospel to the whole world:

N.B. And even though, because of their present small number and the more urgent needs of the people around them, they have to limit the scope of their zeal, for the time being, to the poor of our countryside and others, their ambition should, in its holy aspirations, embrace the vast expanse of the whole earth.

1818 Rule

1841: First Oblates sent to evangelise outside of France: to Canada and the British Isles and Ireland

Foreign missions compared to our missions in Europe have a special character of a higher kind, because this is the true apostolate of announcing the Good News to nations which have not yet been called to knowledge of the true God and of his son Jesus Christ…. This is the mission of the apostles: “Go, teach all nations,” this teaching of the truth must penetrate to the most backward nations so that they may be regenerated in the waters of baptism.

You are among those to whom Jesus Christ has addressed these words, giving you your mission as he gave their mission to the apostles who were sent to convert our fathers. From this point of view, which is a true one, there is nothing higher than your ministry and that of our other Fathers who are wearing themselves out in the glacial regions to discover the people whom it is their task to save.

Letter to Fr Ricard, 6 December 1851, E.O. II n157

1861: at the time of Eugene’s death there were 415 Oblates in 4 continents. Today there are just under 4000 Oblates in 65 countries

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SAINT EUGENE, OBLATE OF MARY IMMACULATE  – IN HIS OWN WORDS

1826, February 17 – Ecclesiastical approbation by the Pope of the Congregation and its Rules, under the title of Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The charism of Eugene was recognized as having its inspiration in the Holy Spirit

Rejoice with me and congratulate yourselves, my beloved, for it has pleased the Lord to grant us great favours; Our Holy Father the Pope, Leo XII, gloriously reigning from the chair of St. Peter, has sanctioned with his apostolic approbation, on March 21 of this current year, our Institute, our Constitutions and our Rules.

See then our little flock, to whom the Father of the family has kindly wished to open wide the field of the holy Church, given a place in the hierarchic order, associated with the venerable Congregations which have spread throughout the Church so many great benefits and enlightened the entire world with so bright a light; see her, right from her birth, enriched with the same privileges of those illustrious Societies, in the footsteps of which, with all her strength and all her means, she will certainly strive to walk steadily forward.

Letter to all the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, 1826, E.O. VII n.232

 

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SAINT EUGENE, SON OF MARY IMMACULATE  – IN HIS OWN WORDS

1819 – The Marian sanctuary of Notre Dame du Laus is entrusted to the Missionaries as a place of permanent mission. During the warm months, the Missionaries welcomed pilgrims and preached the Gospel to them, while during the colder months they went to the surrounding villages to preach parish missions. This sanctuary was the first of 9 Marian shrines entrusted to the Oblates in France during Eugene’s lifetime

To this end, I invoke the intercession of the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, daring to remind her in all humility, but with consolation, of the filial devotion of my whole life, and of the desire I have always had to make her known and loved, and to spread her devotion everywhere through the ministry of those whom the Church has given to me as children, who have had the same desire as myself…

Eugene de Mazenod’s will, 1854

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SAINT EUGENE, FOUNDER OF A RELIGIOUS CONGREGATION – IN HIS OWN WORDS

1818, November 1. The missionary community becomes a congregation of religious priests and brothers who make vows to live the evangelical counsels.

It is necessary that we understand, now more than ever before, the necessity of being perfect religious in order to be good missionaries. We need to be persuaded that the most efficient means of ensuring abundant harvest in souls is the holiness of our lives and the faithful practice of all the duties of our state.

Opening address to the 1850 General Chapter

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SAINT EUGENE, FOUNDER OF A CONGREGATION OF MISSIONARIES – IN HIS OWN WORDS

1815 : Eugene understands that God was calling him to invite other like-minded men to participate in his missionary dream

It is the second time in my life that I am making a decision of the utmost importance as a result of a strong impulse that comes from outside of me.

When I reflect on it, I am convinced that is how God wants to put an end to my indecisiveness.

Letter to Forbin Janson, 23 October 1815, E.O. VI n.5

1815, 2 October: Eugene bought the former Carmelite convent in Aix. He needed a large place in which to gather the nearly 300 young men who came every Thursday and Sunday to participate in the activities of the Youth Congregation. At the same time he needed a place where he could bring together a permanent community of missionaries.

1816, 25 January: the start of the community life of the Missionaries of Provence (later known as OMI)

The undersigned priests… deeply moved by the deplorable situation of the small towns and villages of Provence that have almost completely lost the faith… Convinced that missions are the only means by which these people who have gone astray can be brought out of their degradation… have the honour of asking your authorization to come together in Aix in the former house of the Carmelites

Request to the Capitular Vicars of Aix, 25 January 1816, E.O. XIII n.2

1816, 11 February to 17 March: mission in the village of Grans. It was the first of some 3000 parish missions preached in France during the lifetime of Eugene.

I prefer no doubt that you employ your zeal in favour of the poor abandoned mountain people rather than waste your time with the proud citizens of disdainful cities..

Letter to Pierre Mie, 7 September

For further details, see Alfred Hubenig and René Motte: “Living in the Spirit’s Fire” pages 53 – 67  https://www.omiworld.org/wp-content/uploads/Living-in-the-Spirits-Fire.pdf

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