In October 1847, the Oblates responded to the invitation of the Bishop of Nancy to establish themselves in his city. This community would serve as a second novitiate house as well as being a center from which the Oblates would go out to preach parish missions.
Writing to the Vicar General of Nancy, Eugene stressed an important aspect of our preaching:
I very much want to acquaint you with the spirit of our Society which does not correspond to certain ideas that are usually entertained and which undoubtedly have their good side, but are not ours. You recommend that I send you excellent men and remind me that you are spoilt at Nancy by the best preachers who succeed one another in your area. I will not ask you if these excellent preachers have converted many people. That is not the practice of excellent preachers; and that is what has made a former parish priest of Toulon, who always used to call on all the famous preachers, say that they never drew anyone to the confessional; and that is why he asked me for some Missionaries, whom I constantly refused to send him precisely because people were too accustomed to hearing excellent preachers.
Letter to M. Marguet, Vicar General of Nancy, 21 October 1847, EO XIII n 117
Eugene insisted that every Oblate had to do his utmost to be an “excellent preacher.” The young priests had to spend long periods preparing their sermons for the rural parish missions and these were examined by the more experienced local Superior. “Excellent” for an Oblate preacher did not refer to refined oratory, diction, vocabulary and intellectual exhibitionism. “Excellent” meant communicating Jesus Christ as Savior in the clearest and simplest way so that everyone could open their hearts and lives to Him.
“The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent.” (Pope Francis)
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