ST EUGENE: PILGRIM OF HOPE SERVING THE CHURCH

(Eugene’s second “road sign” for the pilgrim)

It was Eugene’s love for the Church that led him to dedicate his life to her, the Body of Christ, as a priest:

So do not grudge, dear mother, do not grudge this poor Church, so terribly abandoned, scorned, trampled underfoot but which even so was the one who gave birth to us all in J.C., the homage that two or three individuals out of the whole of France (a small number I count myself happy to be one of) wish to pay her of their liberty and life.

And what reason could you possibly have for wanting me to delay any longer from committing myself, and devoting to the Spouse of J.C., which this divine Master formed by the shedding of all his blood, every moment of a life I received only to use for God’s greater glory.

Eugene’s letter to his mother, 11 October 1809, EO XIV n. 61

Love for the Church was the constant beacon that led him to gather a missionary family:

Our Lord Jesus Christ has left to us the task of continuing the great work of the redemption of mankind…

This spirit of being wholly devoted to the glory of God, the service of the Church and the salvation of souls, is the spirit that is proper to our Congregation, a small one, to be sure, but which will always be powerful as long as she is holy.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 22 August 1817, EO VI n 21

A year before his death, Eugene the pilgrim continued to express his faithfulness to these important signposts:

How is it possible to separate our love for Jesus Christ from that we owe to the Church? These two kinds of love merge into one: to love the Church is to love Jesus Christ and vice versa.

We love Jesus Christ in his Church because she is his immaculate spouse who came out of his opened side on the cross…

Pastoral Letter to the Diocese of Marseille, 1860

THE WORD OF GOD

… even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Ephesians 5, 25-27

PRAYER

God our Father,
by the grace of the Holy Spirit,
you gave St. Eugene de Mazenod
an unconditional love for the Church.

May we ourselves be inflamed with his love for the Church, the Body of Christ
and receive through his intercession
the particular graces we ask for as pilgrims of hope.

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ST EUGENE: PILGRIM OF HOPE DEDICATED TO THE SAVIOR

(Eugene’s first “road sign” for the pilgrim)

Eugene expressed the goal of his life’s pilgrimage, and the signpost for each day, in this way:

You, you alone will be the sole object to which will tend all my affections and my every action. To please you, act for your glory, will be my daily task, the task of every moment of my life. I wish to live only for you, I wish to love you alone and all else in you and through you.

Notes made during the retreat in preparation for priestly ordination, December 1-21, E.O. XIV n.95

Twenty years later, he shows that God’s love continues to be the pointer as he quotes freely from the first Letter of John in this reflection:

Let us love God because of his infinite perfections, let us love him also because he first loved us, ” since he himself first loved us”  but “dearest, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another,” and take note: “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth” like all those who love with the head, “but in works and truth”. Oh! no! He who does not love does not know God, since God is love. [ed. 1 John 3, 18; 4, 8. 10-11. 19]

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 4 September 1837

PRAYER

God our Father,
by the grace of the Holy Spirit,
you enabled St. Eugene de Mazenod
to express his love for you in these words:

“My God, double, triple, increase my strength a hundredfold that I may love you, not merely as much as I can, that is nothing, but that I love you as much as did the saints, as much as your holy Mother loved and loves you.”

May we ourselves be able to love you as Eugene did,
and receive through his intercession
the particular graces we ask for as pilgrims of hope.

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AN INVITATION TO PREPARE FOR THE FEAST OF ST EUGENE, PILGRIM OF HOPE IN COMMUNION

A pilgrim is “a person who makes a trip, often a long and difficult one, to a special place for religious reasons.” This dictionary definition certainly fits St Eugene de Mazenod as a “Pilgrim of Hope in Communion.” His entire life can be expressed as a long and challenging pilgrimage not to a physical place (like Jerusalem or Compostella for example) but to the “special place” of his ongoing encounter and dedication to his Savior.

Eugene was always on the move, leading and accompanying the members of his Mazenodian Apostolic Family to be witnesses of hope to the most abandoned. This journey is beautifully expressed in the Oblate Rule: ” 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.” (C4)

In preparation to celebrate Eugene’s feast on May 21, I invite you to participate in some days of prayerful reflection on nine of the “road signs” of his personal journey which we make our own as members of his Missionary Family. Through “the eyes of the crucified Savior” these become the signposts or stepping-stones that he holds out to us on our pilgrimage.

WORD OF GOD

St. Paul wrote:

“I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,  I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us”

Philippians 3:13-14

With Saint Eugene, let us intentionally be pilgrims of hope and run with him to the power of the Cross and Resurrection of the Savior.

PRAYER

God our Father,
by the grace of the Holy Spirit,
you called St. Eugene de Mazenod
to gather a missionary family
to announce the Gospel
especially among the poor and most abandoned.
May we ourselves be inflamed with his zeal
for announcing and witnessing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Savior
and receive through his intercession
the particular graces we ask for as pilgrims of hope.

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MAY AS THE MONTH OF MARY AND HER SON, EUGENE DE MAZENOD

May is the month of Mary – and it is also the feast of her son, Saint Eugene de Mazenod, who dedicated each of us in the Mazenodian Family to Mary Immaculate.

I invite you to participate in a novena in preparation for the feast of St Eugene on May 21. I have based it on the theme that the Oblate General Chapter has given us for the next six years: “Pilgrims of Hope in Communion.”

I invite you, each day, to reflect on and pray with Saint Eugene as a Pilgrim of Hope who accompanies us on our daily pilgrimage of life.

The reflections will begin on Monday May 8.

Many of you are already subscribed and do receive the daily reflection by email. If you are not yet subscribed and wish to receive these by email please let me know at: oblatestudies@ost.edu.
(Please note that these sometimes land up in your spam/junk mail folder, so please look in there if you do not receive it)

May this month be a time of rich blessing for each of you and your loved ones.

(Fr.) Frank OMI

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MONEY FOR MISSION DOES NOT FALL FROM HEAVEN

Bishop Eugene’s pastoral letter looked at the various ways in which the faith in post-Revolutionary France had become strong once again. He also showed how the zeal of the missionaries overflowed out of France to bring the Gospel to other countries and continents. He concludes his reflection by pointing out that everyone in his diocese is involved in supporting this missionary outreach.

However, the work of the missionary is not his work alone, the average layman and woman are involved in it, the poor day laborer as well as the rich, the young child as well as the older man, all contribute to it with equal merit.

The Society for the Propagation of the Faith came into existence in France to make the work of the foreign missionaries possible through financial support.

 This association is growing wonderfully under the blessing of Heaven which inspired it. From France, where it began, it is spreading farther and farther, it already includes many countries in its ranks, and by collecting the weekly contribution from the good will of its members, it raises the money which supports the immense work of this glorious army of apostles, which advances every day to conquer the world. The ever-growing cooperation of the people in a work of such immense charity, in the truly apostolic work of the “Propagation of the Faith”, can only have the happiest of results.

Pastoral letter of Bishop de Mazenod to the Diocese of Marseilles for Lent 1847

REFLECTION

“Pennies do not come from heaven. They have to be earned here on earth.”

Margaret Thatcher

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RELIGIOUS SISTERS: NOTHING HELD BACK THESE HEROES OF THE GOSPEL

Bishop Eugene’s pastoral letter continues to extol the missionary marvels worked by the religious Sisters. Here he focuses on the many Sisters who left France to go to mission countries across the oceans. A huge number of them left from the harbor of Marseilles.

But how many of them are not admirably multiplied in our days, to go and make the voice of the apostles resound to the ends of the earth? God has spoken to their hearts and they have risen up more numerous than ever, and each one of them has said with joy: Lord, here I am, I will go wherever you send me; then on the faith of their divine vocation… they went where obedience sent them; they renounced everything, their homeland, their loved ones, all the hopes of the world, to devote themselves unreservedly to the salvation of men whom they did not know, they devoted themselves for them to every kind of hardship and a thousand perils.

Nothing held back these heroes of the Gospel.

Pastoral letter of Bishop de Mazenod to the Diocese of Marseilles for Lent 1847

REFLECTION

“What I try to tell young people is that if you come together with a mission, and its grounded with love and a sense of community, you can make the impossible possible.”

John Lewis

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THE EVANGELICAL LIGHT WHICH SPRINGS FROM THE WORD OF THE RELIGIOUS SISTERS

Bishop de Mazenod’s exploration of the charitable works in his diocese now focuses on the women religious. Reflecting the view of two centuries ago, he praises the amazing achievements of the “timid sex”:

How, in fact, shall we speak of these vocations that the world would never have thought possible, and which are accomplished at the price of the most sublime sacrifices by the timid sex who have become the helpers of the Catholic priesthood?

France is covered with invaluable institutions, which are different monuments of the inspirations of the faith in the Christian Virgin.

These giants of Christian charity do not confine themselves to France.

Nevertheless, France is not enough for zeal and generosity; this courageous virgin goes out, something unheard of, to carry her works of charity across the seas to the most distant beaches. The indigenous and the barbarian, the heretic and the infidel receive her care, and their souls, divided between gratitude and admiration, are opened to the evangelical light which springs from the word of the sacred ministers.

Pastoral letter of Bishop de Mazenod to the Diocese of Marseilles for Lent 1847

REFLECTION

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

Mother Teresa

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PASTORAL CARE OF WORKERS

The city of Marseilles was experiencing the prosperity of an industrial revolution and its Bishop was concerned about the welfare of the workers of all ages. In his Pastoral Letter he referred to the adult men.

We are also hopeful about some gatherings of workers, either because a varied and useful instruction brings them closer and closer to the altars of the Lord, or because it attracts them in the evening to the same bench where their young son sits during the day to receive the lessons of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

Pastoral letter of Bishop de Mazenod to the Diocese of Marseilles for Lent 1847

One of the many examples of this was the Conference of Saint Joseph, which numbered over a thousand men in 1847. They gathered each Sunday to pray and to listen to a catechetical conference. On the first Sunday of each month there was a Mass offered for them at which many received communion.

Convinced of their need for education. Bishop Eugene encouraged them to attend night classes at the schools attended by their sons in the day.

REFLECTION

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.”

Cesar Chavez

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SEASONAL WORKERS: THE CHIMNEY SWEEPS

The houses in the city itself were usually five storied buildings, heated by fireplaces which required tall chimneys, which were covered with soot. Young boys came from the Savoy region to clean these chimneys as seasonal workers. They were known as “Petits Savoyards” and avoided by people because they were always dirty.

Bishop de Mazenod wrote about the response of some of the young men of the diocese who cared for the material and spiritual needs of these poor boys.

There are also among these young people, souls touched by noble sentiments who are worthy of being witnesses of a brighter future, who take care of the little Savoyards who have come down from their mountains to find among us the bread that will feed them during the winter.

They protect them, they guide them, they instruct them every day in the elements of the faith, they come to their aid in their needs, and they prepare them to make their first communion in a dignified manner in order to continue to protect them, to help them and to instruct them.

Pastoral letter of Bishop de Mazenod to the Diocese of Marseilles for Lent 1847

Eugene initially brought them into his house, where his nephew taught them catechism and then fed them. As their numbers grew, it became clear that an Association had to be started to look after them. Bishop Eugene initiated this anf entrusted them to one of his priests to look after. In his Diary, we find references to the great consolation of the Bishop whenever he gave these boys communion and confirmation.

REFLECTION

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him. The people who give you their food give you their heart.”

Cesar Chavez

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GUARDIAN ANGELS OF THE POOR

In contemplating all the charitable works of the diocese, Bishop Eugene now turns his attention to the generous young men who help those in need. As a young priest, Eugene’s first ministry had been to form the youth of Aix to do exactly what he describes here.

Do you notice those many young men from the colleges, from the legal profession, from commerce, from all the occupations and from high society, who, in the evening, gather to discuss among themselves about the things of God and the spiritual and corporal needs of all the needy?

They have spoken; they have contributed their offering; then, the next day, they put into practice what they have discussed. There is, in all our great cities, not a disgusting crossroads, nor a darkened room that they do not visit; not a bed of sorrow that they do not bring consolation to; not a misery of the soul or of the body that they do not relieve.

Through their generous assistance to the one who suffers, they succeed in teaching him to pray to God, to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him; and he who sometimes remembered his Creator only to blaspheme Him, is brought back to Him by the attraction of the mercy exercised by the virtuous young men who, leaving the world and its dangerous pleasures, have become, under the watchful eye of the Lord, the guardian angels of the poor.

Pastoral letter of Bishop de Mazenod to the Diocese of Marseilles for Lent 1847

REFLECTION

“I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars. You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.”

Pope Francis

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