Why did the sight of the cross became the life-long focus and starting point of Eugene’s spirituality – and the spirituality of all who are part of the Mazenodian charism? Why did it make such an impact? Because it was a manifestation of transforming love:

Blessed, a thousand times blessed, that he, this good Father, notwithstanding my unworthiness, lavished on me all the richness of his mercy.

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

It changed Eugene because it was a confirmation of God’s love for him. Looking at the cross he became aware of being in God’s embrace, as God lavished all the richness of mercy on him. Eugene’s life would henceforth be a focused response of love to this lavish God. He was transformed into a lover – in the same way as, in the history of spirituality, countless persons have been transformed by the realization of God’s love for them.

Joseph LaBelle, in his scholarly study of Eugene, summarizes how God became a loving master whom Eugene would give his life to in loving response:

An important point to note in Eugene’s perception of Jesus was that it was largely informed through his personal experience of the Son of God, inflaming him to expressions of love and gratitude. His language betrays a closeness to the Savior; such a relationship incited him to grow in his love for Jesus, and to love what He loved.”   T. LaBelle, “TRULY APOSTOLIC MEN. Apostolic Life in the Early Ministry of Saint Eugene de Mazenod”, in Oblatio Studia 3, Missionarii OMI, Roma 2014, p. 33.


“Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible – it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.”   B. de Angelis

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    So extravagant is the word ‘lavish’ that I don’t believe that I have ever used that word except when I am speaking of God and God’s love. For me the cross is a symbol of God lavishing me with love, an extreme, immeasurable love – so great and limitless that it orders all that is.

    It transforms, as Frank said, each of us if we but allow it. I grew up believing that I was totally unlovable by both my parents and by God – it was what I was taught and I secretly yearned to become, to be made ‘good’ so that God might love me a little bit (not so much my parents because I inherently knew that if God loved me it would be enough and would order the rest). I would secretly, in the silence of a heart that I believed to be all bad, beg God to put just a touch, a speck of good in me. As the years passed that desire, that need became hidden so deep that not even I could see it or be aware of it.

    It was only once I sobered up and got off of the drugs (which in itself was a miracle and a grace) that I remembered what I was missing. Oddly enough it was in a make-shift confessional that I heard God say my name: “Eleanor, I love you. I have called you by name and you are mine.” I knew, I knew instantly that this was the voice of Jesus, this was the voice of my most Beloved. I was taken into an embrace that has never let go. “Will I ever forget…” That was almost 36 years ago and it is still indelibly written in my heart, it still has the power to bring me to tears and to stop me in my tracks of whatever I might be doing. Wonder! Transformation had begun (and most thankfully continues to happen). The word ‘behold’ comes to mind. It was only about a year and a half later that I sat before a crucifix in a midst of pain and struggle. Not a vision but more an experience. I looked up at Jesus on the cross and sensed he was crying with me. Jesus on the cross crying with me. The affect was profound. At that moment the cross became engraved on my heart so indelibly that now it is simply a part of me, of who I am.

    This is just the beginning of my story for it grows, it explodes spilling out onto the world just as did the love of Jesus and of Eugene de Mazenod. I think of Eugene during what we call the “Icosia Affair”. The Cross – a symbol of death and life and of a love so wondrous that there simply are not the words to adequately describe it. This Cross – such a perfect symbol of love lavished upon us.

  2. Michèle says:

    Thank you so much for this beautiful witness Eleanor.

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