HERE WE HAVE NOT ONLY NUMBERS AND CONTENTMENT, BUT ALSO PIETY AND RELIGIOUS FERVOR

Until the time of his death, one of Eugene’s greatest joys was to receive letters from the Oblates in the foreign missions. He would immediately have them read in the houses of formation so as to whet the appetite of the novices and scholastics for the foreign missions. In this extract he writes to Father Vincens, the Novice Master, to give him news of the Oblates in Canada.

Finally, I have learned that our travelers have arrived in Canada. They had left on September 1 and, since we had come to December without my having received any news. I was truly anxious. A letter has arrived  to reassure me: they arrived at Longueuil forty-two days after their departure from Le Havre. The travelers were Father Telmon, returning from the General Chapter, and three new members of the mission, Father Allard and Deacons Loverlochère and Brunet.

The crossing was rather long, but rather good. The community there is very happy indeed. Father Allard has pleased everybody; he is himself quite pleased in this house which is doing very well.. Our two deacons are also very happy. “Oh, what an interesting community,” they write to me. “Be consoled. Here we have not only numbers and contentment, but also piety and religious fervor as they should be in the most fervent of our communities.”

Letter to Father Ambroise Vincens, 10 December 1843, EO X n 825

Posted in WRITINGS | 1 Comment

THE GREAT PRIVILEGE OF OUR MOTHER, QUEEN AND PATRONESS

Father Dassy had written a book and had consulted Eugene about whether to use the Oblate crest in the printed version. The response gives an idea of the fluidity of our name. It always had “Oblate” and “Mary Immaculate” in the title but it was expressed in different ways. See the article “Oblates of Mary Immaculate” in https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/oblates-of-mary-immaculate/

I do not think it necessary to put our coat of arms on the book’s frontispiece. I see it sufficient to indicate the author by your position as priest at Notre-Dame de L’Osier as you style yourself; but at the bottom of the dedicatory letter you should put your full and complete name, with your true and complete title of Oblate of the Immaculate Conception written out in full: in Latin you should put: E Congregatione Oblatorum B. V. Maria sine labe conceptae, for that is the title given us by the Apostolic Letters of our Institution. This beautiful title has but one defect, it is a bit too long. It is impossible to use in French: “of the Congregation of the Blessed Virgin Mary conceived without the stain of Original Sin.” It should be shortened into of the Immaculate Conception, an expression which the Church has adopted to state the great privilege of our Mother, Queen and Patroness, an expression which is, besides, the heading of our Constitutions.

Letter to Father Louis Toussaint Dassy, 8 November 1843, EO X n 822

Today our title is “Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate” – a name we carry with honor and pride as our “Passport to heaven”, as Eugene had written in 1825:

Oblates of the Immaculate Mary. But this is a passport to heaven! How have we not thought of it sooner?

Letter to Henri Tempier, 22 December 1825, EO VI n 213

Eugene “seems to become aware of the fact that, even if he had always loved Mary, he had not yet understood the essential role she played in the plan of Redemption. In searching for the patron who best expressed the goal of his Congregation – that is a person walking in the footsteps of Christ, committed to the apostolate of service and to the instruction of the poor – he had not thought of Mary. While in Rome, he understood who Mary really was. The title of the Congregation was thus born from a discovery that, in order to respond in an authentic way to the urgent needs of the Church, its members should identify with Mary Immaculate “to offer themselves” to the service of God’s plan of salvation like she did.”   Casimir Lubowicki, “Mary” in the Dictionary of Oblate Values, https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/mary/

Posted in WRITINGS | 1 Comment

HOW THE LORD MOVED THE SPIRIT AND THE HEART OF THE SOVEREIGN PONTIFF TO GRANT ME WHAT HE HAD THUS FAR REFUSED TO OTHERS

Eighteen years earlier, in 1825, Eugene had gone to Rome to try to obtain official recognition and approbation of the Oblate  Congregation. It was at the time when the Vatican was not approving any new religious congregations. Eugene now recalled how was kneeling next to the Pope and enthusiastically describing all the marvels that God was working through the Missionaries in Provence. At a certain moment during the narration, the Pope closed his eyes in prayer, during which ” the Lord moved the spirit and the heart” of the Pope. Eugene recounts what happened.

Your Eminence, it would take too long to narrate how the Lord moved the spirit and the heart of the Sovereign Pontiff to grant me what he had thus far refused to others. Suffice it to say that the Holy Father did not merely make his will known to the Archpriest Adinolfi, at that time replacing the Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Religious, by telling him “We wish to approve it”, but he himself selected the Eminent Cardinals who were to examine the Constitutions.

These Cardinals unanimously expressed their favourable opinion on February 15, 1826 and asked the Holy Father to approve them by Apostolic Letter. The Holy Father placed his seal of approval on the Congregation as well as its Rules and Constitutions on February 17 and ordered the Apostolic Letters to be sent under the form of brief. As I indicated earlier, these letters were sent on March 21, 1826.

Letter to Cardinal Fransoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, 6 November 1843, EO V n 3

The Pope had discerned that the Oblate Congregation came from God and was brought about through the work of the Holy Spirit and was not the invention of Eugene. Today we recognize this as a charism: the Mazenodian charism as a gift to the Church in her mission of evangelization. This is the heritage of every member of the Mazenodian Family.

Posted in WRITINGS | 1 Comment

WE DO NOT WANT TO FORM CLERICS FOR PARISH WORK

For a long time the system of minor seminaries was customary in the Church: schools run by a diocese or religious congregation for youngsters considering a priestly or religious vocation. The Oblates had just started their first one at the Shrine of Notre Dame de Lumières.

… The establishment that has been formed at Lumières has no other goal than to prepare young people to enter novitiate for diocesan or foreign missions. I would never tolerate that this establishment be in the least deflected from this purpose, for any reason whatsoever. Their occupations have only clerical instruction as their goal. They will all wear the soutane at all times. Previously, five of their fellow students were sent to the novitiate; several of those now at Lumières are about to be sent to the same place.

As soon as we notice that there is someone who is not fit for the vocation for which he presented himself, we hasten to send him away. We are all that much more strict in this regard for it is extremely important that the house avoid entirely the spirit and character of a boarding school; and, what is more, all those young men supported there for a special vocation do not even pay their board and lodging expenses.

We have definitely a different idea than simply to give a free education to children called to some worldly profession. The latter is a kind of good that we cannot and do not want to do, not any more than we want to form clerics for parish work.

Letter to the Rector of the Academy at Nimes, 3 November 1843, EO XIII n 101

Eugene stresses that our formation houses intend to form missionary religious brothers and priests whose main occupation is not mainly to be clerics for parish work, but missionaries in whatever situation they find themselves. The same principle holds for the laity of our Mazenodian Family: each person has the vocation to be a missionary cooperator rather than just “Father’s helper.”

Posted in WRITINGS | 1 Comment

COMPASSION ALWAYS PREDOMINATED IN MY RESOLUTIONS, AND I CONTINUED TO SHOWER HIM WITH ACTS OF GENEROSITY

This extract from Eugene’s Diary gives an insight into his care for the members of his Oblate family, and for his concern for those who misbehaved. Father Reinaud had become an Oblate in 1830 and for the following 13 years had been a successful seminary professor in Corsica and Marseilles. He was also very ambitious, hoping to be made a bishop, and had engaged in serious deceitful behaviour at times to achieve his own ends.  Eugene noted in his diary:

I did not reply to him at all, because in doing so, I ought to have previously provoked his expulsion from the congregation, which he dishonored by the principles which he professed, by his remarks and by his conduct. If there are some setbacks in the calculations of his ambition, it is a just punishment by God. He was mistaken, if he believed that we were duped by his duplicity. Alas, we knew all his intrigues, and, if I agreed to his departure, this was only in order to avoid an inevitable scandal which would not have delayed in happening if by any chance I should have hesitated in taking this course of action. Did not the madman say that he had been called to destinies other than the tight circle wherein he was enclosed?

He had previously asked for some time away from the Congregation, which Eugene had agreed to in the hope of his changing. His mother had incurred debts and the Oblates had provided her with a livelihood.

It would have pleased God if justice had been done to this malicious subject during this period! We would have spared ourselves some grief. But compassion always predominated in my resolutions, and I continued to shower him with acts of generosity to the point of annually giving him a very considerable sum so as to support his mother too given over to vice and to furnish her with everything she needs. I am not speaking about the expenses of journeying to Lyon and elsewhere, in a word, of everything that could be done for the subject, the most precious and the most worthy of a congregation which his malicious heart made him detest, as he proved on a hundred occasions… It is with sorrow that I write all this.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 23 October 1843, EO XXI

He was finally to be expelled from the Congregation the following year and he became a diocesan priest and worked in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where, again, he set in motion events involving the Oblates to enable him to become a bishop. He failed again!

I reflected on this extract because of the words ” compassion always predominated in my resolutions, and I continued to shower him with acts of generosity.” No matter what mistakes Oblates made, Eugene always tried the way of compassion in order to help them to amend their ways. If this did not work, then he had no choice but to turn to the most severe course of action: expulsion.

Posted in WRITINGS | 1 Comment

YOU SAY TO ME: THAT IS NOT WHERE THE MOST ABANDONED SOULS ARE

The Missionary Oblates were founded to evangelize among the most abandoned – usually in rural areas. This is how they began in Canada. Eugene realized, however, that it would be essential to have a community as a base in the two large cities: Montreal and Quebec. These establishments would provide a means to finance the work among those in the poor rural areas.

I would insist that we establish ourselves at Quebec and Montreal…

With the trend of all the Congregations, old and new, to establish themselves everywhere, it is impossible that an important prospect will go begging. You say to me: that is not where the most abandoned souls are. True, but in establishing yourselves there, you provide yourselves with the means to come to the aid of those most abandoned souls, without taking into account that you will also do much good to many of those who, while not abandoned, are nonetheless in need.

Letter to Fr Jean Baptiste Honorat, 7 October 1843, EO I n 27

A reminder that the “most abandoned” are not always necessarily the materially poor – they are all those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Posted in WRITINGS | 1 Comment

LET US GO ABOUT OUR BUSINESS AS WE PLEASE: HONNI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE.

Eugene’s advice to the Oblates in Canada to focus on doing what is right rather than trying to please the opinion of others.

Furthermore I would wish that all of you, each as much as the others, focus yourselves more on your interior relations. What a mania you all have to speak of your business to everybody! Be polite but extremely reserved. Go about your business without troubling what all and sundry think of it. You often report to me the opinion of such and such a priest. What does it matter to me what they think? Where would we end if we were ever consulting the petty views of a flock of people? What concern is it of theirs? Is it not amusing to see them worrying about the opportuneness of the voyage of the particular Father whom you have sent to the General Chapter? In one of your letters, you told me you had to explain why, how, etc. What good is it to be so obliging? Once again, let us go about our business as we please: honni soit qui mal y pense. [ed: “shame on the one who thinks evil of it”]

Letter to Fr Jean Baptiste Honorat, 7 October 1843, EO I n 27

Posted in WRITINGS | 1 Comment

JOIN THE WORLDWIDE MAZENODIAN FAMILY FOR A MOMENT OF PRAYER

Posted in WRITINGS | 1 Comment

IT IS THE DUTY OF THE SUPERIOR TO UPHOLD THE WORTH OF HIS MEMBERS, AS IT IS THE DUTY OF THE MEMBERS TO UPHOLD THE WORTH OF THE SUPERIOR

Continuing from the previous entry, we find Eugene correcting Father Honorat for having shared on the weakness of some of his community members with the diocesan bishop.

It is the duty of the superior to uphold the worth of his members, as it is the duty of the members to uphold the worth of the superior. This concerted charity profits the entire body and facilitates the good that it is called upon to do. So put aside such worry and know how to make the best of all that is given you, always allowing for what is human without being surprised or upset.

Letter to Fr Jean Baptiste Honorat, 7 October 1843, EO I n 27

I learnt the power of these words from former Superior General, Father Marcello Zago, a successor of St Eugene. He had appointed me to a position of responsibility and during this ministry I had made a short-sighted decision on a course of action that involved others and could not be changed for a year. He called me in and made me aware in no uncertain terms of the shortcomings of the decision. After dressing me down, he added: ” You know that I do not agree with you, but outside I will support your decision and defend it.” The following academic year I was able to correct the policy. I have never forgotten that lesson on how an authority figure relates with, corrects but supports his co-workers.

Posted in WRITINGS | 1 Comment

PREJUDICES DISAPPEAR BETWEEN BROTHERS BUT THEY REMAIN FOR EVER IN THE MIND OF A STRANGER

Father Honorat, the superior of the Missionaries in Canada, had confided the difficulties within his community to the Bishop of Montreal. Eugene found out about it and was not happy.

I fear that in your intimate interviews with the Bishop, you may have spoken too openly about the one amongst your brothers of whom you should be most considerate and you may thus have to blame yourself for having transferred to the mind of the Bishop the prejudices which dominate you at the moment. This would be extremely annoying because prejudices disappear between brothers but they remain for ever in the mind of a stranger.

What good is that to anyone? You may well have had momentary relief by confiding in this way but the wrong that is done to an individual and which has repercussions on the family is irreparable.

Letter to Fr Jean Baptiste Honorat, 7 October 1843, EO I n 27

A pointed reminder to us today too.

Posted in WRITINGS | 1 Comment