I visited the new cemetery in Aix where I would like to build a chapel to place the venerable remains of my two families…

 I would authorize that they publicize all the dead whom they bury in this cemetery and that they celebrate Mass whenever their devotion inspires them to, in the confidence that the souls of our loved ones will benefit.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 21 February 1838, EO XIX

From childhood, Eugene had loved his family: “I have not changed over the years. I idolize my family. “I would let myself be cut up into little pieces for some members of my family.”

From 1816 onwards the Oblates also became his family, which he wanted to “be the most united family in the whole world.”

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.” (Romans 8, 28-29)


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In 1813 Eugene had started a congregation of youth in Aix that had had much success. Twenty five years later he was delighted to receive a letter from two former members: Fr Leblanc (who was now a diocesan priest in Paris) who had recently met Adrien Chappuis (who was now an advocate in Paris) and had “chatted a lot about our father and common benefactor. Believe us that the memories of our past relations are so precious after so many years that they are still alive in our hearts.”

The three-page letter is full of fine feelings. “You are today,” this dear child tells me, “what you have been at all times in your ministry, as I observed you when I had the happiness of always being around you, who knew so well how to reconcile the kindness of charity with attention to duty.”

This recognition is very dear to me. It comes from a good priest whom I esteem to the extent that I have always loved him and that goes back to the first years of my ministry when this good Leblanc was among the most fervent disciples of my beautiful congregation of Christian youth, of which he was one of the first members,

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 18 February 1838, EO XIX

Eugene echoes sentiments of Paul’s last lines in his First letter to the Corinthians 16:15-18), when he refers to people who have served in the community :

“they have devoted themselves to the service of the holy ones—be subordinate to such people and to everyone who works and toils with them. 

 I rejoice in the arrival of … because they made up for your absence, for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. So give recognition to such people.”

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Presentation 9 of the series “Eugene de Mazenod 101” is now available online.

A reminder that you can enroll for this course at any time. It is a basic introduction to Saint Eugene de Mazenod, with suggestions for personal and group prayer and reflection.

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In the prolonged silent prayer we make each day, we let ourselves be molded by the Lord, and find in him the inspiration of our conduct” (OMI Rule of Life, 33).

The practice of Oraison was an important part of St. Eugene’s daily prayer during which he entered into communion with the members of his missionary family. While they were all in France it was easy for them to gather in prayer at approximately the same time. When Oblate missionaries started to be sent to different continents it was no longer possible to pray at the same time, yet each day there was a time when they stopped and prayed in union with one another – even though not at the same time.

This is a practice that Eugene wanted the members of his religious family to maintain. This is why you are invited to take part in this practice of Oraison on Sunday, June 21, 2020, as we commemorate the feast of Blessed Józef Cebula, O.M.I. on June 12th.

John 12:24-25

Jesus said: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.

Matthew 20:22-23

Jesus said to them: “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

 Texts from witnesses:

“Father Cebula was in no way a worldly man He was not brilliant. He led a simple, ordinary life, but in a spirit of faith.  … He lived his priestly and religious life in a profound way. He got along well with others even though he did not have a winning manner nor was he outgoing.” (Jan Geneja O.M.I., May 29, 1992)

His words were simple but penetrated to the very depths of one´s heart. They would lead us to reflect on the meaning of life. … Father Cebula was also much sought. Long lines would form up outside his confessional.” (Mrs. Franciszka Koloch, 1993)

In 1939, when the Nazis occupied Poland, they declared loyalty to the Church illegal. On May 4, 1940, the Oblate novices at Markowice were arrested by the Nazis and sent to the concentration camp at Dachau, Germany. However, Father Cebula continued to minister as a priest in secret, despite the ban on it, until he was arrested on April 2, 1941.

“During the days of his house arrest, Father Cebula´s life was difficult. It became even more difficult after the deportation of the [novices]… During the day, he worked as a simple laborer; in the course of the night he celebrated Mass; in secrecy and disguised, be brought consolation to the dying… and baptized the newly born.” (Jan Nawrat O.M.I., December 29, 1948)

Sixteen days later, he was taken to a concentration camp at Mauthausen in Austria and was harassed and forced to work hard. Three weeks later, on May 9, Father Cebula suddenly summoned up his strength and said, It is not you who are in charge. God will judge you. The Nazis ordered him to run, with a rock on his back, towards the camp’s barbed wire fence, where a guard shot him to death with a submachine gun and declared that Father Cebula “was shot while trying to escape”. His body was taken to a crematorium and burned to ashes. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on June 13, 1999 as one of the 108 Martyrs of World War II.

(See also:

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Friendship was always an important and necessary aspect of Eugene’s life. It is thus easy to understand his special relationship with Lazarus, the Gospel friend of Jesus. It was a relationship that he translated into everyday life.

Tradition had it that Lazarus, Martha and Mary came to Provence, and that Lazarus was the first “Bishop of Marseilles” – a tradition that Eugene obviously held dear. It was important for him to have a church dedicated to St Lazarus in his city and he took steps to ensure this. (including getting his wealthy mother to contribute financially to the project).

The Municipal Council yesterday unanimously adopted the findings of the commission regarding the recognition of St.-Lazare parish. Now a matter of great importance has been concluded, in a short time and by mutual agreement; it was necessary that our great patron get a little involved from the heights of heaven where he is still the friend of his Divine Master, Our Lord.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 13 February 1838, EO XIX

So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” (John 11:3)

And Jesus wept.

So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” (John 11:35-36)

Each year, the Diocese of Marseilles used to celebrate the Feast of the Resurrection of Lazarus” on March 30.


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Once Eugene had been installed as Bishop of Marseilles. one of his first actions was to insist that the diocesan priests stop living alone, or with their families, and come to live together as a community of priests in the parish they cared for. Eugene was a religious and was convinced of the importance of community life and the mutual priestly support needed for successful parish ministry. It was to be an uphill battle for the next 24 years, because the majority preferred their independence to the yoke of community life

Letter to M. Gay, parish priest of Cassis, to invite him to come to an agreement with me regarding the arrangements for the new situation that I have arranged for him. I very clearly express to him my unshakable intention of establishing community life for the pastor and the curates in all the parishes successively, while starting with his.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 11 February 1838, EO XIX

Apostolic community was the foundation and the reason for the success of all the Oblate ministries. Eugene was convinced of the efficacity of this Biblical model of discipleship which gave witness to the ongoing presence of the Savior – despite the human difficulties sometimes encountered:

“Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”(Acts 4:32-33)

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Eugene noted with sadness in his Diary:

Letter of Fr. Courtès informing me of the sudden death of the esteemed Madame de Bausset, friend and distinguished benefactress of the Mission. I immediately wrote to all our houses so that every priest say a Mass for the repose of her soul, that every oblate novice and brother make five communions for the same intention, and that the indulgences, good works, etc., be especially applied to her for eight days, regardless of the rights that she has forever to all the merits of the Congregation…

We are conscious that this charitable Christian and good friend provided 600 francs per year, over a period of ten years, for the education and the living expenses of our Fathers. God should already have rewarded this holy soul, but it is the duty of the Congregation to maintain an eternal obligation to her. As for me, I miss her loss with the pain that I cannot prevent myself from feeling when such dear and precious friends are taken away from me; … The good Madame de Bausset will have a place in my prayer of remembrance of the dead every day of my life, and I would never know how to run dry on the praise of her virtues and her good qualities.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 7 February1838, EO XIX

Jesus, too, was accompanied in his evangelization by his disciples and supporters, and Paul refers to this when he speaks of serving as different parts of one body (I Corinthians 12)

Luke 8, 1-3 “Soon afterwards Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

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Eugene, whose life had been changed at the sight of the Cross, and who saw the image of the crucified Savior as the most important Mazenodian symbol, was horrified that one of the Oblates did not see any meaning in carrying the cross in the penitential procession.

Bishops and Cardinals carry the processional cross during Jubilees and times of disasters, and a missionary would blush if he were to carry this precious burden when it is a question of drawing God’s mercy on a people gone astray! Would he not realize that it is so much in conformity with the spirit of Jesus Christ to make public reparation in the name of the sinners he has come to save?

Eugene calms down and assures Guigues of his paternal affection:

Good-bye. my dear son, a quarter of an hour of meditation will put you back on the right track.    I embrace you.

Letter to Eugene Guigues, 26 January 1838, EO IX n 657

But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”    (Galatians 6:14)

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In January 1838 the Oblates were in full swing preaching parish missions throughout the south of France. Eugene was receiving regular reports from seven of them and was exultant about the fruits that were being produced. Father Guigues, however, was having doubts about two of the processions. Eugene reflected in his diary:

Father Guigues would like to suppress the entrance ceremony and the penitential procession. We must not give in to that…  He needs to have less confidence in his own enlightenment, and to enter into the spirit that inspired them and led them to be approved by the Church, and then he will experience the good results that are experienced elsewhere.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 22 January 1838, EO XIX

Eugene then wrote to Guigues directly, correcting him in strong language, but with no intention of hurting him.

If it were a question of modifying some customs, that would be understandable, but to change according to each one’s fancy now one thing, again something else, that will never be as long as there is order and a sense of religion, and some religious who wish to preserve our traditions in the Congregation.

Letter to Eugene Guigues, 26 January 1838, EO IX n 657


The temptation to relativism in the practice of our faith is still very much alive today: if I don’t like it, I ignore it or change it to suit myself.

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