Can I forget the bitter tears that the sight of the cross brought streaming from my eyes one Good Friday?

“Can I forget … the sight of the cross?” asks Eugene, and the peace that flowed into his life as a result.

Never was my soul more satisfied, never did it feel such happiness; for in the midst of this flood of tears, despite my grief, or rather through my grief, my soul took wings for its last end, towards God its only good whose loss it felt so keenly.

Retreat Journal, December 1814, O.W. XV n.130

In 2014 Pope Francis gave a homily at the Easter Vigil ceremony concentrating on the message of the Risen Christ to the first witnesses of the Resurrection: “Go back to Galilee.” Galilee is the place where it all began for the disciples, and now after the death and resurrection of Jesus, they are asked to return there, but with new eyes. Pope Francis puts it this way: “To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory.” It describes the Good Friday realization of Eugene that the only focus for making sense of his life had to be the cross and its victory.

Pope Francis then reminded us that each of us has our own personal Galilee and, in this way for me, captures the meaning of Eugene’s conversion experience, and the invitation this holds for each member of the Mazenodian family:

“In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also a more existential Galilee: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him. It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.”

For Eugene, Good Friday was the culmination of a labored conversion journey – the moment of realization that from the cross Jesus was gazing at him with mercy and asking him to follow him. It was the moment when the eyes of the Savior met the eyes of Eugene, the moment when he made Eugene understand that he loved him. From that moment onwards, and until his eyes opened to eternal life in 1861, their eyes and love never parted. It is because of this that we understand why the Oblate cross became the focal point of Eugene’s life and mission and why it is the only focal point that makes sense to the Oblates and to all who live the charism of Eugene.


Never was my soul more satisfied, never did it feel such happiness.
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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    “To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory”. I look at some of the therapy that I have gone through during my life, the times that I have been revisiting my wounds, the times I have returned to Galilee but have focused only on the cross, neglecting to look up and walk to and through the resurrection. For it is not complete without the resurrection, in fact without the resurrection it is quite meaningless. I do not believe that I shall ever be finished of this – there will always be an opportunity to go deeper and deeper.

    I again think back many years to the time when I was sitting before a crucifix – I was at Madonna House and struggling terribly. So I went and sat there and cried. And at one point I looked up and my experience was of looking up at Jesus – on the cross – and he was crying with me. Jesus, on the cross, my Beloved, fully resurrected, God. I was beyond being able to ever reason it out or make any sense of it – it simply was/is.

    A small story of the cross and resurrection. Yesterday I went to the dollar store to buy some items but was only able to find a few from my list that I needed. As I stood in line to pay I noticed that the man in front of me was most likely homeless, very dirty and he smelled of many things including stale alcohol. I took a small step back and he kept holding up an item asking the cashier how much it was and could he afford it. I sensed that this was not the first time he had asked this question. Eventually he paid for the item and moved towards the door, stopping before a stand that displayed reading glasses. I put my items on the counter and continued to watch the man who asked another customer if he could give him the money for a pair of glasses but the younger man replied no and so this man left the store just as I was paying for my purchases. What a humbling experience to watch a person beg for something like a pair of glasses that cost only $1.25 and to be turned down. When I went out the door the man was there on the street staring intently at what he had bought. I invited him to come back into the store and choose a pair of glasses that I would buy for him. As he tried on the glasses he explained to me that he needed to protect his eyes from the rays emitted by computers but I noticed that he was also able to read the print on the display. So we bought the glasses and this time when he left the store he again took his purchase out of the plastic bag and began to read what it was printed on the package. Not sure the glasses would ever protect his eyes from computer rays but at least he seemed able to once again read. We wished each other a good day and went our separate ways.

    I do not know why I thought of this incident this morning or connected it with the cross and resurrection – I just did. I wonder what that man’s Galilee experience looks like. I want to walk with Jesus on that road to Galilee, to follow him.

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