Having enthused about the lofty ideals of the Missionaries and having drawn up the plan of action to achieve them, Eugene now returns to reality. The Nota Bene was written in response to the havoc being caused in the Church by priests who were not living up to the ideals of their vocation, who were blocking the way to God for others through their bad example. So he returns to that painfully negative theme.

We have to penetrate even more deeply – to the very heart of the sanctuary, to sweep away so much refuse collected at its entryway, its interior to the very steps of the altar where the Sacred Victim is sacrificed,

The ministry of those who have remained faithful, despite persecution, danger of death and derision and indifference, is compared with a fire struggling to stay lit. The Missionaries must help these priests at all costs:

to rekindle the sacred fire of pure love which is nurtured only by a small number of holy ministers who carefully guard the final sparks which will soon become extinguished with their passing, if we do not hasten to step forward to gather round them

By the quality of their lives and their generous oblation, the Missionaries can make a difference – they can be agents of renewal, conversion and new hope. They do this through their ministry of preaching parish missions and in their various permanent missions from their community – but most of all by the quality of their generous oblation. It is a question of “BE” in order to “DO”:

and there, acting in concert with them, to offer to the living God in reparation for so many crimes, the most thorough and total homage and devotion, the sacrifice of one’s entire being to the glory of the Savior and to the service of his Church.

1818 Rule, Part One, Chapter One, §3. Nota Bene

The vocabulary may have changed, the painful situations may have taken other forms, but today that challenge to generosity still resounds in the Mazenodian Family


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  1. Eleanor Rabnett says:

    I think of how Eugene chose for his ordination to make his oblation – to be with the poor and the voiceless. Rather than simply condemning all that he saw which was bad and which blocked the way to God – he looked to God for the way to go and then stepped forward with a new heart and spirit, a new mission. So many of us being the fruits of that gift given to Eugene.

    With our very breaths we are invited to breathe into dying embers of love and life until they slowly come together and become a small fire, a community of small fires. Like Eugene we step forward and walk among those whose only glory is that which they try to create for themselves. It is with small and seemingly insignificant steps that we tread softly, allowing God to walk into the hearts of those who oppose us and those who hunger to hear the words of God speaking through us in our lives.

    I think of Eugene moving with a power that came to him from God. I think of how like Jesus, he was ridiculed and rejected by many of the powers that be in this world. I think of my friend who wrote here yesterday and how she perseveres in the face of powerlessness with a love that fills her as she continues to blow life into small embers so that they might grow into mighty fires.

    I am reminded of Eugene’s feelings of powerlessness and futility when he had to take time to heal from an illness and worse when he was bound by his beloved Church to remain silent and all that was left to him was to go deeper and be. I too feel that same kind of powerlessness, unable to go out to mission to any others but rather must wait for God who slowly heals me, and who prepares within me a new heart, a new spirit and a new mission.

    I realise that as I have sat here looking at Eugene’s words and those of Frank that I have been saying from a small quiet place within me the Serenity Prayer. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

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