“If Jesus manifests what God is doing, Mary exemplifies how to receive what God is doing and hand it on to others. In art, she is invariably offering Jesus to the observer or inviting us to come to him.” (Sisters of the Presentation)

As we prepare to celebrate the bicentenary on August 15, we recall that day which was to leave a permanent impression on the history of our Mazenodian family – and so it is important to explore what happened. Achille Rey, who knew Eugene well, wrote in his biography:

August 15, 1822 witnessed a feast in the Church of the mission of Aix. Fr. de Mazenod blessed, in the presence of a large gathering of his youth congregants and of other pious faithful, a statue of the Most Holy Virgin, under the title of the Immaculate Conception. It is to this same statue that he came for long and frequent prayers: it has become one of the most precious souvenirs of the origins of the family. (Rey I, p. 280)

In the review, Missions O.M.I., of 1908, p. 279, we   find the following description:

“Her head, crowned with twelve stars, is   lifted toward heaven in an attitude of prayer. She wears a golden veil, the   same colour as her long robe and her mantle. She is portrayed as the   Immaculate Conception with one foot standing on the crescent moon and the   other upon a serpent she is crushing. Her right hand is resting on her heart   while her other hand is open, spreading graces on her children who are   praying to her.”

In a July 15, 1889 report from the Oblate house in Aix, Father Prosper Monnet described the internal chapel of the Mission church at Aix with the altar of the vows and the “antique Virgin which formerly smiled upon our venerated Founder and today still stands on her rich marble pedestal…” (Missions O.M.I., 27, (1889), p. 285).

Yvon Beaudoin, “Oblate Madonna” in Historical Dictionary, Volume 1 (

 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.      Genesis 3:15

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.       Book of Revelation 12:1

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I look at this picture of the statue of the “Oblate Madonna” which now sits in the chapel at the General House in Rome and I remember my very brief visit with her some years ago. I stayed there after leaving the Czech Republic and was on my way to Aix. The director of the house told me that he would take me to the Chapel to so that I could sit there with her and even though I insisted this was not necessary, (I was afraid – I did not know why, only that I was afraid) but he insisted and so after breakfast we went to the chapel, and after showing me the rest of the chapel he left me sitting at the front staring at Mary. I felt that I had no choice but to agree to the will of Fr. Richard and to Mary, Mother of God as depicted in the statue. The tears that ran down my face gave witness to the inner ‘letting go’ that I experienced with her standing there before me. There was a certain sense of being where I was supposed to be and a certain peace in being in that place.

    I sit here thinking of the various levels of my devotion to Mary, Mother of God, and who I have slowly come to know as the Oblate Madonna. It is not a little ‘mini-me’ version of Eugene’s experience, but simply how I relate to her.

    This morning as I have sat here remembering that meeting with Mary in the chapel at General House the sun began to rise behind my apartment building and the sun’s brilliance was reflected like fire in the windows of a few buildings before me. As I reflected on my reactions and my response to Mary that morning in Rome the brilliance seem to grow and then slowly lessen at the same time as many of the tall business towers and apartment buildings were bathed and suffused with an orange-pink colour affecting not only their windows but the very materials they were made of. The image continued to slowly change as clouds deepened and passed by until there were only a couple of buildings where the colours settled on to the individual window panes, seeming to enter and become a part of the building and perhaps those who lived in them.

    This panorama of life seemed to give witness to the depth of Mary as being a part of Eugene’s life and in a way of the deepening of my own devotion to Mary… and to our ever-deepening relationship with God, then and now.

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