OBLATE STUDIES PROGRAM AT OST

OBLATE STUDIES COURSES

Please note that we have made a change to the way in which the courses will be presented in the future. This is in consideration to those participants who are not full-time students, and who find the weekly lectures too heavy to do justice to in their busy schedules.

I refer you to the OST webpage for further details: https://ost.edu/oblate-studies/

The courses offered next semester will be:

1/   Saint Eugene de Mazenod. Historical Background, Life, and Key Aspects of His Spirituality, Charism and Mission

2/   Historical Expansion and Development of the Mission of the Oblate Congregation from 1816 to Present

3/   Mazenodian Spirituality

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IN OUR RESURRECTED STATE, WE WILL DIE NO MORE

 Our Lord wanted to experience in his mortal life all the fortunes mortals are heir to, the fortunes of that mortal nature he had assumed in his mysterious Incarnation […] He espoused our cause to the extent of identifying with us. […]
In this wonderful union of Jesus Christ and our souls lies the mystery of our participation in his grace, his glory. […] [The feast of Easter] is ratification of the dignity of other feasts. […] What the Church desires is that we should enter into the spirit of other feasts. They are a sort of journeying toward the great solemnity of the Resurrection; they lay before us the entire life of our Lord who was bound to be born, live and die in order to resurrect; they are distributed throughout the year like wayside stations so that we can restore our strength from time to time on our pilgrimage toward the happy destination where, in our resurrected state, we will die no more.”

Bishop Eugene de Mazenod, Lenten pastoral of February 1846.

Quoted in https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/mazenod-eugene-de/ 

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THE FREEDOM OF GOD’S SPIRIT

As an adolescent in Venice, Eugene had stated:

I shall fulfil those duties at fixed times, but with the freedom of God’s Spirit which will allow me to respond to whatever the circumstances demand. (Rey, Vol. I, p. 26.)

René Motte and Al Hubenig write:

“Freedom” is the key word because it would be an important value throughout Eugene’s life. Later, for example, the aftermath of the 1848 Revolution occasioned universal male suffrage – the first time that such a voting right was granted to the working classes. However, it came with a serious problem. To exercise this new right, voters had to go to the central town of the canton or to a major city. For those living in an urban area, it meant little inconvenience, but the majority of people lived in remote rural villages and hamlets far from the voting centres. Thus, for a peasant, it meant walking all the way to the county seat to vote.

Eugene de Mazenod was then Bishop of Marseille. He wrote a pastoral letter to all parish priests telling them to dispense from the obligation of Sunday Mass all persons for whom that obligation would pose a problem in the exercise of their franchise. It is worth noting that the French general elections of 1848 took place on Easter Sunday!

Living in the Spirit’s Fire, p. 18

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

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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GOOD FRIDAY: THAT MOMENT WHEN HIS EYES MET MINE, THE MOMENT WHEN HE MADE ME REALIZE THAT HE LOVED ME

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

“Can I forget … the sight of the cross?” asks Eugene, and the peace that flowed into his life as a result.

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 through my grief, my soul took wings for its last end, towards God its only good whose loss it felt so keenly.

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

In 2014 Pope Francis gave a homily at the Easter Vigil ceremony concentrating on the message of the Risen Christ to the first witnesses of the Resurrection: “Go back to Galilee.” Galilee is the place where it all began for the disciples, and now after the death and resurrection of Jesus, they are asked to return there, but with new eyes. Pope Francis puts it this way: “To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory.” It describes the Good Friday realization of Eugene that the only focus for making sense of his life had to be the cross and its victory.

Pope Francis then reminded us that each of us has our own personal Galilee and, in this way for me, captures the meaning of Eugene’s conversion experience, and the invitation this holds for each member of the Mazenodian family:

“In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also a more existential Galilee: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him. It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.”

https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2014/documents/papa-francesco_20140419_omelia-veglia-pasquale.html

For Eugene, Good Friday was the culmination of a labored conversion journey – the moment of realization that from the cross Jesus was gazing at him with mercy and asking him to follow him. It was the moment when the eyes of the Savior met the eyes of Eugene, the moment when he made Eugene understand that he loved him. From that moment onwards, and until his eyes opened to eternal life in 1861, their eyes and love never parted. It is because of this that we understand why the Oblate cross became the focal point of Eugene’s life and mission and why it is the only focal point that makes sense to the Oblates and to all who live the charism of Eugene.

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LIVING HOLY WEEK WITH SAINT EUGENE: THE JOY OF OBLATION ON HOLY THURSDAY

… we pronounced our vows with an indescribable joy. We savoured our happiness throughout this beautiful night, in the presence of Our Lord, at the foot of the magnificent throne where we had placed Him for the Mass of the Pre-sanctified the following day.. 

Rambert I, p. 187

Reading Eugene’s description of the Holy Thursday night of their vows one is able to sense the beauty of the gesture of oblation and its importance for him. As he speaks of the joy and the hours spent savoring the depth of the moment, it is an experience of intimacy with Jesus in his Eucharistic presence that he refers to in other writings. In 1830 for example he wrote to Henri Tempier:

This morning, before communion, I dared to speak to this good Master with the same freedom that I would have had if I had had the happiness to live when he walked on earth, and if I had found myself in the same predicament. I said Mass in a particular chapel, I was not impeded by anyone’s presence. I exposed to him our needs, asked his light and his assistance, and then I surrendered myself entirely to him, wishing absolutely nothing else than his holy will. I took communion in this disposition. As soon as I had taken the precious blood, it was impossible for me to withstand such an abundance of interior consolations…

Letter to Henri Tempier, 23 August 1830, O.W. VII n. 359

Meditating on the first Holy Thursday celebration of the Missionaries makes me think of the prayer of Jesus at the last supper where he invited the apostles to communion with his Father: “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26) In the spirit of Jesus’ promise on the first Holy Thursday in Jerusalem: “Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete” (John 16:24) – we can understand something of the fullness of joy experienced on Holy Thursday 1816 in Aix en Provence, which can be ours today.

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LIVING HOLY WEEK WITH SAINT EUGENE: HOLY THURSDAY AS AN INVITATION TO RENEW OUR “YES” TO GOD

Briefly put. Father Tempier and I felt that we should not delay any longer, and on Holy Thursday (April 11, 1816), when both of us had taken our place under the structure of the beautiful repository we had erected over the main altar of the Mission church, in the night of that holy day, we pronounced our vows with an indescribable joy. We enjoyed our happiness throughout this beautiful night, in the presence of Our Lord, at the foot of the magnificent throne where we had placed Him for the Mass of the Pre-sanctified the following day.

Rambert I, p. 187

Eugene and Henri Tempier, being like –minded on the necessity for a formal commitment to God and to each other for the sake of mission, made private vows. Eugene does not tell us the precise content of these vows but it seems, from the context and from later events, that they were focused on obedience to God and to each other in the pursuit of living everyday life in communion with God.

Eugene’s description of the context is important. It is Holy Thursday and the time of prayer at the “Altar of Repose” (where the Eucharist is kept for distribution at the Good Friday service, which was known as the “Mass of the Pre-sanctified” at that time). This time of reflection recalled the time Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane at prayer while struggling to live the events taking place in full communion with the Father at that moment. The “not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36) of Jesus to the Father became the commitment to the “not what I want, but what you want” of Eugene and Henri Tempier to the Father – and consequently the key to understanding the meaning of oblation.

During this Holy Week, may each of us be able to say in a deeper way: “not what I want, but what You want.”

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NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL – AN INVITATION THROUGH THE EYES OF ST EUGENE

As we look with shock and sadness at the destruction of Notre Dame Cathedral, we give thanks for the generosity of so many who have come forward with generous pledges of cash to rebuild and restore this heritage site, and to put into focus all that this building signifies.

Would it not be an even more wonderful gesture if for every Euro pledged, an equal amount could be given for the welfare of the living “temples of God” – the poor and most abandoned?

We recall the words of Saint Eugene de Mazenod in his first recorded sermon to the poor of Aix en Provence:

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.

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

How powerful it could be if the restoration of this priceless treasure could become a monument not only to its religious, historic and artistic significance, but also a monument to the generosity of millions who have given an equal amount to renovate the dignity and livelihood of the poor and abandoned – created in the image and likeness of God and in whom we are invited to bring to life the Gospel promise: “Whatsoever you do to one of the least of these, you do it to me.”

A foolish naive dream? Or is there someone out there capable of making this happen?

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