“Mary was the first person to take the ‘way’ to enter the Kingdom of God that Christ opened, a way which is accessible to the humble, to all who trust in the word of God and endeavor to put it into practice.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

After his conversion journey and discernment that God was calling him to become a priest, the 26 year-old Eugene went to the Seminary of Saint Sulpice in Paris.

On the first page of his study notes at the seminary, he wrote this dedication:

To the greater glory of God and of the Immaculate Virgin. Under the patronage of this Virgin, conceived without sin… so that for these and before them the Immaculate Mother may help me in this difficult course of studies

Traité de la pénitence, Ms. Oblate General Archives, DM-III 8a

As Mary reflected on and learnt from the presence of Jesus in her life, so too did Eugene want to have this same attitude in his seminary studies.

Mary Chapel, St Sulpice Church

After a year as seminarian in St Sulpice in Paris, Eugene reveals the place of Mary in his spirituality:

But devotion to the Blessed Virgin must excel all others; for the glorious Mother of God is called by the Church: our life and our hope. It is morally impossible for a soul to make any progress in the ways of perfection if it lacks this tender and sincere devotion to the most holy Mother of God.

General counsels for achieving perfection, notes taken in 1809, EO XIV n.39

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I must admit that when I read something like this there is a small part of me that tends to just read and then continue on with whatever my next task might be, rather than sitting with it and reflecting. And as much as I would like to dream of one day becoming a saint – well I was and am so very human and weak.

    At first I committed myself to a year… And if what I shared was of no use to any then surely Frank or another Oblate would suggest that my thoughts be kept to myself. This became a way of listening, recognizing, and taking steps forward into my day, with my heart leading the way. After a year it had become an integral part of my prayer – a way of being, much like my breathing in and breathing out.

    “After a year as seminarian in St Sulpice in Paris, Eugene reveals the place of Mary in his spirituality…”

    Many years ago – before meeting and getting to know St. Eugene I adopted the practice of praying the Rosary – well it was reciting the “Hail Mary” as a way of not getting lost in day dreams or fantasies. I did not know all the mysteries and what was entailed in them and had to carry a little card in my wallet (still do). I brought out the rosary when I was troubled, or facing fears, unable to sleep… A way of breathing in and breathing out and being available to God and to the world: in a certain sense – seeing through the eyes of the crucified Saviour and with Mary and the others of standing at the foot of the cross.

    Mary does not always get all of the press – she never did. Her life was about pointing the way to the Beloved. In a small way this is how I too strive to be…

    “In her we recognize the model of the Church’s faith and of our own.” (C 10)

  2. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Although it is Saturday, I am drawn here once again. As I read of Eugene’s discernment and his going to the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris I think of how difficult this might have been for him: he was young, headstrong and passionate and most likely had a lot of “letting go” to experience, as well as to take in his studies.

    And yet after only a year he made new commitments – such as taking on a deepening devotion to Mary, Mother of God which he notes as being sincere and tender.

    It was at the seminary that he began learning ways to carry his doubts, his struggles, his pain… rather than using that as a weapon to strike out with. While he had his moments, don’t we all?

    I think of Mary, Mother of Tenderness as she stood at the foot of the cross and then held him when he was taken down from the cross. She did not strike out at the Roman soldiers, Scribes or Pharisees. She had learned long ago with the birth of her son how to ponder and reflect and to hold and carry many things in her heart.

    Jesus, once resurrected, did not taken on the Roman Empire or the sadly mistaken leaders of the temple. I take heart for how God has slowly been healing me, leading me… Jesus, Mary, along with St. Eugene de Mazenod, priest, founder and friend, members of the Oblate Family, many Indigenous elders and friends, along with my siblings and countless friends, have and continue to teach and lead me on this road of reflection, of holding and carrying, letting go and being…

    I have not been to a seminary, but more than once during my courses in the Oblate Studies Program I wondered it that was not my own some version of being a novice in this magnificent family. And I see how other congregations, both male and female have their own versions of that – and I am glad for them. For me, I am where God has planted me and that is most perfect… after all it is Mary, Mother of Tenderness and Mercy who has been walking with me for so many years.

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