The Oblate community was Eugene’s constant point of reference, and he missed it whenever he was separated from it. His model for our religious missionary life was that of Jesus and the apostles. For him our communities were meant to be “cenacles” – just like the original cenacle, the upper room where Jesus gathered with his apostles on the first Holy Thursday, and where they prepared to receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

After his unhappy experience of the Holy Thursday liturgy at the Royal Palace he wrote to his community that he was united with them

when, for consolation, I took myself in spirit to that room that truly resembles the Cenacle where the disciples, prepared by the lessons they constantly receive in the Society, imbued with the spirit of the Savior who lives in them,
gather in the name of their Master to represent the apostles of whom Jesus Christ could say vos mundi estis [ed John 13,10 ”and you are clean”],
and wait silently and devoutly for the representative of the Master amongst them, at the word of commandment of the Lord, mandatum [ed. the command to love one another], to kneel at their feet,
washing and touching these feet blessed and commanded several thousand years previously by the prophet so as to be feet of evangelizers of good [ed. Isaiah 52,7 “How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who brings good news”], of preachers of peace,
touching, I say, respectfully his lips to these feet whereupon flames dart from his heart and envelope it as from a fount of living water which refreshes and spurts forth wherever eyes are turned.
What emotion! What sentiments! What fervor!

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 27 March 1823, EO VI n 98

In this poetic way Eugene describes once again the model of Jesus in the midst of his disciples to form them, to teach them in word and action, and then fill them with zeal to go out and be his missionaries. During this Holy Week, we are invited to the Upper Room of our lives to be formed in a special way through our participation in the Paschal Mystery.

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Eugene had made his first communion on Holy Thursday at the College of Nobles in Turin. It was always an important moment for him to recall the joy of this important event.

Antoine Ricard, who had been a diocesan seminarian in Marseille, showed this:

One Holy Thursday – as I personally recall – we were in the Cathedral of Marseille. The bishop (Eugene de Mazenod) was officiating with the gentle dignity and recollection that made him renowned among all the bishops, his contemporaries. Unexpectedly we saw him cry and, while trying, he could not conceal it. The seminarians who surrounded the bishop’s throne, struck by the emotion of the Bishop, were moved as they looked at him. He noticed this, and turning to one of them, the author of these lines, whose short-sightedness made his staring more obvious:

Young man,” he said with that simplicity that made him win hearts, “do not be startled like that – today is the anniversary of my first communion.

Mgr Antoine RICARD, Monseigneur de Mazenod, évêque de Marseille, fondateur de la Congrégation des Missionnaires Oblats de Marie Immaculée, p. 12.

As we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, perhaps we could make this the opportunity to recall our own first communion with joy and thanksgiving.

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Eugene’s priest friend, Forbin Janson, had gone to visit Rome and Eugene continued his battle of regularizing the festering division in the Archdiocese of Aix, by appealing to him to inform the Cardinals in Rome.

Tell them clearly that the time is ripe to bring about the triumph of true principles. There is no more place in the Church for an episcopal aristocracy than there is for a priestly democracy. All should submit to the head according to the institution of Our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Letter to Forbin Janson, June 1814, EO XV n. 125

Leflon comments. “The young priest’s Provencal fire, which made it impossible for him to accept any half measures in dealing with compromise and cowardice, brought him to the point of lecturing the Roman cardinals, and even Pius VII. Obviously, the fever of the country had taken hold of him.”   Leflon II, p. 10

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There was division in the Archdiocese of Aix between those who had been faithful to the Bishop and those who had not recognized his authority – which had come from Napoleon and not from the Pope. Eugene clearly sided with the latter.

Compromises undermine discipline; advantage is taken of silence when duty called for speaking out. Let us determine, if we cannot destroy outright, these detestable so-called freedoms, dangerous haunt where impiety, constitutional schism, insubordination and the revolt of our Bonapartists have ever sought refuge. In this gloomy lair one ends up being a Catholic only in name; at least one often adopts the heterodox stance. People of this ilk come out with it in all its shades. Not when I am around, for they are afraid of me, I do not know why, or rather, I know very well why.

The fiery young Eugene thundered on:

This is so true that the Bishop of Metz, according to what they write from Paris, sees me as his most feared adversary, not only in Aix, which might well have some basis, but even in Paris, which is absolutely untrue. Anyway, it is only his principles I contest, as they are not in conformity with the truth and the holy traditions of our Fathers. I could go on forever about this, as it is one of the present wounds of the Church, that it must cure with steel and fire, if more gentle remedies should not work effectively. As to myself, I am quite resolved to defend the Church’s discipline with as much zeal and passion as dogma itself.

Letter to Forbin Janson, June 1814, EO XV n. 125

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Bishop Jauffret, who had been Bishop of the city of Metz, was appointed in 1811 by Napoleon to act as Archbishop of Aix – without the consent of the Pope. Eugene never accepted this irregular situation and always referred to him as the “Bishop of Metz” and never as Archbishop of Aix en Provence.

It was this same sentiment that determined my choice when, on returning to Aix the Bishop of Metz, who was the administrator of the diocese at the time, asked me what I wanted to do. There was not a hair on my head that wished to take advantage of my social position to give in to the pretensions that everyone at the time would have found reason able….
I thus responded to the Bishop of Metz that my whole ambition was to consecrate myself to the service of the poor and the youth. I thus started out in the prisons, and my first apprenticeship consisted of gathering around me young boys whom I instructed.

Diary, 31 March 1839, EO 20

Now that Napoleon had been removed, Leflon narrates:

“This spiritual regeneration demanded, as a prerequisite, the restoration of the rights of the Holy See, violated by an imperial Caesarism which attempted to make the papacy a superfluity. At Aix, those rights had to be restored immediately and, at one and the same time, the errors and weaknesses of those who had betrayed and repudiated those same rights had to be penalized. Father de Mazenod, therefore, plunged resolutely and thoroughly into the battle waged against Bishop Jauffret, who had been irregularly imposed upon the diocese and against the latter’s local partisans.”

Leflon II p. 6

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On 4 April 1814, Napoleon was forced to abdicate and the Bourbon monarch was restored under King Louis XVIII. The historian and biographer, Jean Leflon describes the reaction to the fall of Napoleon in France and especially in Provence:

“The fury of the people against Napoleon and his faithful followers was, nonetheless, a fiery one; it even surpassed in intensity the rapture which was then befuddling minds enthused by the king’s return. Impassioned demonstrations in behalf of the legitimate dynasty were added to and intensified by others that were sharply aggressive toward the Usurper and his partisans. Frenzied mobs overturned statues of the Emperor, smashed imperial emblems on the facades of public monuments, harried anyone known to be loyal to his cause and forced generals and military and civil officials to acclaim the Bourbons. Napoleon, himself, passing through Provence on his flight to the island of Elba, ran the greatest risk.

… Feeling she had been victimized by the Corsican’s megalomania, Provence blamed him for all these ills and turned upon him, letting loose an exasperation which had been intensifying for years; the Bourbons, on the other hand, making capital of the people’s hopes that the Bourbon dynasty would end all these miseries and restore peace and prosperity, assumed the role of deliverers.  (Leflon II, pages 3-4)

This was also the time when Eugene was recovering from his near-death experience from typhus. Leflon continues:

Eugene de Mazenod’s personal reactions in 1814 and 1815, like those of his fellow-Provencals, were not all of equal intensity; however, they were all equally inspired by a fiery hostility to the Napoleonic regime. The same inequality would persist in successive reactions while his deep-rooted feelings would continue to spring from that same hostility. It should be clearly under stood, nevertheless, that from the very outset, if one is to judge from existing documents, the young priest stayed clear of all political arenas and remained on priestly terrain… Undoubtedly, he was not indifferent to the claims of Provence and of his royalist friends…  but he left these purely temporal debates to others and, at that time of general reformation, devoted all his efforts to a work of spiritual regeneration which Napoleon’s anti-religious policies made imperative and which his downfall now made possible.    (Leflon II , p. 5 – 6)

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The enterprise is difficult, I am not concealing that fact from myself, it is not without danger even since I am proposing nothing less than to oppose with all my power the sinister ways of a highly suspicious government which persecutes and destroys all who do not support it; but I am unafraid, for I place all my trust in God, because I seek only His glory and the salvation of the souls he has redeemed by His Son Our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom alone be honour and glory and power for ever and ever.

Diary of the Aix Christian Youth Congregation, 25 April 1813, O.W. XVI,

To help us to touch something of what Eugene is referring to, here are two extracts from the Imperial Catechism that Napoleon had published in 1806.

Question: What are the duties of Christians toward those who govern them, and what in particular are our duties towards Napoleon I, our emperor?
Answer: Christians owe to the princes who govern them, and we in particular owe to Napoleon I, our Emperor, love, respect, obedience, fidelity, military service, and the taxes levied for the preservation and defence of the empire and of his throne. We also owe him fervent prayers for his safety and for the spiritual and temporal prosperity of the state.

Question: Why are we subject to all these duties toward our emperor?
Answer: First, because God, who has created empires and distributes them according to his will, has, by loading our emperor with gifts both in peace and in war, established him as our sovereign and made him the agent of his power and his image upon earth. To honour and serve our emperor is therefore to honour and serve God himself. Secondly, because our Lord Jesus Christ himself, both by his teaching and his example, has taught us what we owe to our sovereign. Even at his very birth he obeyed the edict of Caesar Augustus; he paid the established tax; and while he commanded us to render to God those things which belong to God, he also commanded us to render unto Caesar those things which are Caesar’s. ( )

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I am delighted to be able to announce that the Kusenberger Chair of Oblate Studies at Oblate School of Theology is offering an academic program in Oblate Studies. A dream comes true…


Initially offered only online, asynchronously, the courses will consist of lectures, reading, assignments and the opportunity for group interaction.

The entire certificate may be completed in four semesters, or it may be taken in either a more intensive or more relaxed manner.

The goal is eventually to offer all the courses in English, Spanish, and French.


Courses will be offered in the following areas:

 1/ Saint Eugene de Mazenod. The historical background, life, and the key aspects of his spirituality, charism and mission
2/ The historical expansion and development of the mission of the Oblate Congregation from 1816 to the present.
3/ The charism and the Constitutions and Rules
4/ Oblate religious life and spirituality
5/ Oblate mission today
6/ A research project


Those who complete the certificate will be able to:

  • acquire in-depth knowledge of the constitutive elements of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate: the founder, history, Constitutions and Rules, spirituality and mission.
  • understand the historical foundation and comprehend the theological development of the Oblate charism, spirituality and mission, so as to deepen their sense of participation.
  • critically reflect upon the contemporary mission of the Oblates in the Church.


  • Students who successfully complete the program requirements of 12-credit hours will be awarded a certificate.
  • Those who take the program at the graduate level, fulfilling the appropriate additional requirements, earn credits applicable toward the M.A. Spirituality or Theology or M. Div. program, with the appropriate differences and requirements.
  • The courses are also open to any qualified students who wish to register for enrichment non-academic purposes. They will be expected to do the reading required to participate in the classes.


For further information see
For registration and cost please refer to the webpage:

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We have seen that when the Pope had been released, the people of Aix had expressly disobeyed Napoleon’s orders and flocked to greet the Holy Father as he passed by their city. Eugene was one of them. It was a dangerous gesture, in time of persecution, and hence Eugene gave himself a different identity in the letter and passed himself off as a woman who was writing.

The narrative is quite long, but expresses the excitement of the first time that Eugene had any contact with the Pope:

I am feeling well, apart from a sore on my heel, which I developed while escorting the carriage of the Holy Father. I was holding on to the door which, as you know, is very close to the wheel; but, that’s only a minor thing. I was only too happy to be able to hold on to that spot for such a long time, in spite of the inconvenience.
On Monday, the 7th, at 8 o’clock in the morning, we were alerted that the Holy Father would arrive at noon. The rumor spread like wildfire and immediately all shops closed down. In spite of the wind which was acting like an enraged schismatic that day, everyone ran out to meet him. Not only did big fat women like ourselves brave the wind; even the youngest and frailest little misses ran pell-mell with the rest of the population out beyond the city limits where the Holy Father was expected to pass.
Those who had given the orders that he was not to make any stops or even pass through any city if it were possible to avoid it, evidently failed to realize that the inhabitants knew how to get out of the city. The fact remains that only the dying remained behind.
As soon as the Holy Father appeared, a great shout went up from all sides: “Long live the Pope; Long live the Saintly Pope!” They took hold of the bridle, stopped the carriage and then practically carried both the carriage and the horses. It was an immense crowd and yet it wasn’t an unruly one. The joy, love, and respect expressed with all the warmth typical of Southern temperaments were so clearly portrayed on all faces that the Holy Father wept as he kept watching them, and blessing them.
I cut through the crowd until I reached the door of the carriage and I remained there until the horses were changed at a station outside the city. My old crony, the one you met at Grenoble, was with me. She lost her shoe and both of us lost our bonnets in the shuffle. We didn’t get them back until after we returned home. What a picture that carriage made, bearing the most precious person in the world and moving along through fifteen or twenty thousand people who kept shouting words of affection that would have touched the heart of any good father. It was positively thrilling.

Letter to Madame Ginod, 10 February 1814 (Paris, Arch, de la Sainte-Enfance). Forbin-Janson papers.

This Mme. Ginod was evidently a fictitious addressee, used as a cover up for his friend, Forbin-Janson.

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In February 1814, the Pope was released from his imprisonment. Napoleon had expressly forbidden that the Pope pass through the city of Aix because he did not wish him to receive any popular acclamation. Nevertheless the people of Aix flocked to see him to express their solidarity with his suffering and their joy at his release. Eugene was one of them.

When his dreams of military supremacy failed, Napoleon was obliged to free the Pope. The Pope left Fontainebleau on January 23, 1814 and, in stages, made his way back to Rome. On February 7, he passed through Aix. at midday. The people of Aix went out in their thousands to greet him. His vehicle had quite some difficulty making its way through the crowd. On their knees, the crowd shouted: “Long live the Pope,” and asked for his apostolic blessing. Abbé de Mazenod went even further. He gained a position at the carriage door and lost his hat. His foot slipped off the footrest and, as a result, abrasion from the carriage wheel inflicted a scratch on his heel. The coach stopped at the Orbitelle gate without entering the city. After a change of horses, the coach left for Tourves, near Toulon. That is where the Pope was to pass the night. (Eugene to Forbin-Janson, February 10, 1814).

Abbé de Mazenod decided to follow the Pope. He leaped aboard a vehicle and followed Pius VII right up to Tourves. He had the good fortune of being admitted to the papal apartment, to speak with the Holy Father and to receive his apostolic blessing. (JEANCARD, Mgr Jacques, “Mélanges historiques”, p. 235)

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