The Missionaries, who spent a large part of their ministry in preaching the Gospel, needed to be clear about their priorities:

we must seek only to instruct the people,
to be attentive to the needs of the majority of the audience,
and we must not be content to break the bread of the Word of God for them,
but also, as it were, to chew it for them.

1818 Rule Part 1, Chapter 3, §1 Preaching

These four directives contain the heart of preaching for the Missionary. He had to be close to the people, so as to be aware of their needs. Only then could he respond by giving them the instruction that they needed.

Their aim was to feed their listeners with the Word of God – but not only in theory. Like a mother-bird feeding her chicks by having chewed the food first, they were to have chewed the Word themselves so as to nourish others. The Missionaries “chewed” the Word of God in their daily times of prayer and Gospel meditation and in trying their best to live it through the practice of the virtues, the lived values of the Kingdom. Then would the Missionary be able to say, like Saint Paul: “I hand on to you what I have received…”


“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”  Francis of Assisi

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I love this side of Eugene – they were not simply to be parrots repeating what they had heard, nor were they to be actors with learned lines. This was something they had taken into their hearts and taken ownership of – it was a part of who each of them was. It was real and it was lived. Only then could they share it with others.

    How often do we hear that he or she “is real”, or that they are “down to earth”? I personally am always drawn and more open to receiving something from a person who is real and who lives what he or she is saying. If it’s too easy or too rosy then I tend to distrust it and not be as open. I need also to be able to identify.

    The combination of of being able to identify with Eugene and his community ( then and now), and to know that it is lived experience, grace and wisdom makes it real and believable. The addition of them “chewing the Word themselves….” is sheer grace and gift. I am not always a fast learner and need to listen to hear the words, go away and come back again to hear more before being able to digest it, take in and allow it to become live in me.

    Just as God does with us, His patience being limitless with the love of a father, so Eugene say this is how we must be. I was contemplating this morning on “Cooperator of Christ the Saviour”, what that means, that idea of “working with”. About how Jesus gave us time and again the same message, broken down into little bits, story by story. And this is how we/I may become little by little, with much love and grace, a Cooperator of Jesus our Saviour. How awesome is our God to give us all of this!

  2. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    25 years ago I did a great deal of public speaking and I guess that now it would come under the heading of ‘motivational’ speaking. I spoke only of what I knew personally, of my experiences and not of anything else. When I spoke I would share with others my woundedness and how I came to be healed. I shared who I was, the struggle, the healing and how life was after all of that. I shared what I knew because I had experienced it, then looked at it bit by bit, chewed it up and took it in again. Only then was I able to share it and give it to others.

    The image of the mother bird chewing the food, breaking it open and apart and only then giving it to her chicks – who will one day feed their young by doing the same thing of taking it in, chewing it then nourishing others. An image of ‘breaking the bread’ comes to mind. I find it particularly appropriate for this is what I experience here. Here in this space of “Eugene de Mazenod speaks to us”, I find myself in a place of listening, reflecting and sharing. Here I learn who I am becoming by taking in, by tasting and chewing what Frank shares with us, what he and others before him have tasted and chewed and then fed to us. And only after being nourished can I then look towards others around me and sharing what I have. The images that come to mind are startling clear, for they are many of them members of this Mazenodian family, but not all. The flavour, the taste though it is how I have been fed. And as I move forward I find myself sharing what I have received in the ways that are appropriate in my life. May I love as I am loved.

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