For Saint Eugene, Holy Thursday marked two important events: his first communion and his private vow of saying “yes” to God on this night when Christians keep watch with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and Jesus said “yes”.

I invite you to spend some quiet time with Jesus in his agony in the garden. With all that is happening around us, we too need to be strengthened.

This is how Eugene and his closest Oblate companion, Henri Tempier, spent that night in 1816:

Briefly put. Father Tempier and I felt that we should not delay any longer, and on Holy Thursday (April 11, 1816), when both of us had taken our place under the structure of the beautiful repository we had erected over the main altar of the Mission church, in the night of that holy day, we pronounced our vows with an indescribable joy. We enjoyed our happiness throughout this beautiful night, in the presence of Our Lord.

Rambert I, p. 187

This time of reflection recalled the time Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane at prayer while struggling to live the events taking place at that moment. The “not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36) of Jesus to the Father became the commitment to the “not what I want, but what you want” of Eugene and Henri Tempier to the Father – and consequently the key to understanding the meaning of self-giving – which we know as “oblation.

”As we meet in the Garden of Gethsemane today, let us be united with one another, in the spirit of “oraison,” in giving each other strength as we struggle with so much darkness in our world.

The altar referred to today was originally in Aix, but is now in Rome.

“If we are to share our lives with others and generously give of ourselves, we also have to realize that every person is worthy of our giving. Not for their physical appearance, their abilities, their language, their way of thinking, or for any satisfaction that we might receive, but rather because they are God’s handiwork, his creation. God created that person in his image, and he or she reflects something of God’s glory. Every human being is the object of God’s infinite tenderness, and he himself is present in their lives. Jesus offered his precious blood on the cross for that person. Appearances notwithstanding, every person is immensely holy and deserves our love. Consequently, if I can help at least one person to have a better life, that already justifies the offering of my life. It is a wonderful thing to be God’s faithful people. We achieve fulfilment when we break down walls and our heart is filled with faces and names!”

Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 274

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    As I sit here this morning I think of how at one time I would have withdrawn to this place, to be alone with the Beloved, full of youthful piety and holiness, with no idea of sharing this place with any other. But recent events have caused some of the walls of my heart to be broken down, allowing entry to new names and faces that I carry with me. Not just those who come from war-ravaged countries, but whose home is close to many of us in our very own neighbourhoods, right where we live and be.

    They are the ones who I have met on the journey of reconciliation, and who I have gathered close on the Synodal Journey of our parish. Faces and names of many Metis, Inuit and First Nations peoples, as well as those who are a part of the LGBT community. My heart carries them with me as I join with all of you in this place which is most surely called the “Place of the Hearts.” They are the lepers of Jesus’s time who he met with, touched and freed.

    What I thought was the sound of my heart breaking in the midst of such pain and suffering was simply the sound of the walls around it breaking apart and falling away. And there is a release, a freedom in introducing them and claiming them as part of my heart. We have journeyed together to get here, but now together we take off our shoes because this is sacred and we are all on holy ground.

    And as I look around there are more faces and names and still there is room for more.

    It is Holy Thursday. A re-enactment, a “do this in memory of me” as we join each other at the table of the Lord. I think of Ciardi’s words as together we are “at the service of the whole mystery that is celebrated on that night, enclosed and expressed in the washing of the feet.”

    “As we meet in the Garden of Gethsemane today, let us be united with one another, in the spirit of ‘oraison,’ in giving each other strength as we struggle with so much darkness in our world.”

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