Bishop de Mazenod suffered when he saw people in Marseilles whose lives were far from good living. Once, for example, passing a group of people who were living lives of dissipation led him to express his pain at their situation in his diary:

The inability to reach such a great number of souls like them, the pain of seeing them losing themselves without being able to do anything to turn them away from vice and help them save themselves, causes me great pain and sorrow.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 22 April 1839, EO XX

How could he be close to this portion of his flock?

The inability to reach such a great number of souls by conventional means led him to invite the cooperation of many in the diocese to form various groups to reach out to all areas of society and their needs beyond the parish structures. The list is an extraordinary testimony of the closeness of the Pastor to all the flock, especially the most abandoned who were far away from the Church. Through charitable societies and works, not linked to the local parish structures he held out a helping hand. He established and supported a network of people through whom he could express his pastoral closeness to those in need.

Blessing the new house of the Sisters occasioned this grateful reflection:

How consoling for the heart of a bishop to see rising up around him, in the midst of this immense populace where so many vices abound, where so many Christians live in a perpetual state of apostasy, communities more or less numerous, but entirely animated by the best spirit which produces, so to speak, the counterbalance to the mass of iniquities which unceasingly call forth the anger of God, in order to appease it by the sanctity of their life. It’s a veritable compensation to offer to the Lord. Here are the just who would have saved Sodom, if it were present, from the devouring flames which reduced this guilty city to ashes.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 27 December 1842, EO XXI

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I grew up with a God who was a punishing God, a God who was filled with wrath, a wrath which gave life to a sense of retribution and punishment for any kind of an imperfection or sin.

    My experience of God though is of a God who loves, a God filled with compassion, a God who forgives and does not hold a grudge… It is we humans who judge and punish.

    As I pause and allow my heart to be filled rather than fueled, I sense love and compassion within Eugene for all those who are living a life of “dissipation” as Frank put it. Rather than looking down upon these people with disgust, Eugene loves and is filled with compassion for them. So much so that he finds others who can work with those lost sheep in his flock.

    Rather than allowing himself to try to define God in his own image Eugene tries to define his own life and that of others in his image of God. This because of his oblation, of emptying himself and his heart to invite God to enter and take possession of it.

    As I entered this place this morning it was still dark outside and looking at the darkened shapes of buildings and hills, I saw small rods of red lights; supports and guides to pilots to avoid getting too close and flying into them. And as the sun began to rise and bring light into the skies above us the red lights could no longer be seen but were replaced with powerful and pulsing bright white lights that could not be missed and that would catch the attention of pilots anywhere in the vicinity.

    God has brought in specialists to design and implement that which will help keep us from certain harm and to “counterbalance” possible danger.

    I am struck with consolation and gratitude of the living realities of everyday life that God inspires for us.

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