Rummaging through his old papers, Eugene came across a letter from Father Duclaux, his former spiritual director in the seminary in Paris. It had been written nearly 30 years earlier, in 1815, when Eugene was discerning whether God was calling him to bring together a group of priests to respond to the spiritual needs of the most abandoned in Provence. He wrote in his diary:

Today, in paging through my old papers, in order to relegate a cartload to the fire, I found a precious letter from the saintly M. Duclaux, my director at Saint Sulpice, who died as Superior General of that congregation. It is entirely good, like everything that came from his wonderful soul; but, among other things, he wrote to me, in 1815:

“For me, I can only thank my good Master for all the pious sentiments that he inspires in you. Continue to work with all your strength for the restoration of religion; preach, instruct, enlighten the French about the cause of the evils that weigh them down; may your voice be heard in every region of Provence; the good God waits only for our conversion in order to shower us with his grace.”

It was the encouragement that Eugene needed to hear as he discerned God’s will and brought together the future Missionary Oblates.

Father Duclaux also stressed that it was not sufficient to bring the people to know Jesus Christ as Savior through parish missions and preaching: it was essential that there be good priests to shepherd the people on a permanent basis in their parishes.

But, above all, form an ecclesiastical spirit among the priests. You will not achieve any good, as long as you do not have excellent priests at the head of parishes. Therefore, urge all the ecclesiastics to be saints; may they read the lives of Saint Charles and of Saint Vincent de Paul; they will see if it is tolerable for a priest, for a pastor to be lukewarm and without zeal.

Duclaux, October 2, 1815.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 30 July 1843, EO XXI

Eugene never forgot this good advice and from the start of the Oblates, one of their works was retreats and times of renewal for diocesan priests. In time this led to the opening of seminaries in France and other parts of the world.

This entry was posted in WRITINGS. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    There is a certain joy in reflecting with Eugene this morning as he is reminded of the import that Fr. Duclaux had on him, not just in the early stages of his conversion, but ongoing throughout the remainder of his life. Duclaux’s way of being was a great and lasting influence on Eugene, every bit as much as Dom Bartolo, Forbin Janson, his parents and so many others and not excluding his sons, all those men with whom he shared his spirit, his charism.

    And so, this morning I find myself looking at the tremendous effect that so many have had on me in my life which I can truly state has been an ongoing and ever-living conversion by God. And it is not just some external and out of touch God from the beginning of time, but rather a living God who is independent of time and who comes to us and speaks through others. Never just one moment in time but a part of our ongoing journey: it is not simply about me but rather about our selves, each one of us.

    There are those who stand out in my mind as I reminisce; some greater than others. I especially look upon Eugene himself and so many of his sons and daughters who I love and admire and who like Duclaux in Eugene’s life have had a tremendous impact on who I am, who have formed and walked with me as I realise and live what is my vocation and even avocation.

    I am a part of all that I have met; yet some have become more foundational within me. It is not that I am any less of a disciple of God, or the Church, but they have been in their own discipleship models for me and who I am. Most of them members of my Mazenodian Family, great and small.

    I find myself pondering what this looks like and can only use the image of the hearts on fire, with the same flame emanating from Jesus in the centre to and from the original disciples, back and forth and from one to the otherand ever outward. I always return to that image because it expresses what words and human boundaries cannot on their own.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.