Election day for the President of the Republic. I went to vote. The entire staff stood up to receive my vote. This act of respect for the character with which I am invested edified me.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 10 December 1848, EO XXI


Eugene was convinced that a bishop shared in the responsibility given by Jesus Christ to the apostles and received the Holy Spirit to become the chief pastor of the diocese. In his personal diary he uses the word “character” (as opposed to “position”) in the theological sense of a man being transformed through the sacrament of Orders and given the power to celebrate the sacraments.

It was in this sense that he wanted people to recognize the bishop and not the person, and to acknowledge the office and character of the role he was invested in.

“You must all follow the lead of the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed that of the Father; follow the presbytery as you would the Apostles; reverence the deacons as you would God’s commandment. Let no one do anything touching the Church, apart from the bishop. Let that celebration of the Eucharist be considered valid which is held under the bishop or anyone to whom he has committed it. Where the bishop appears, there let the people be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”  (Saint Ignatius, Martyr and Bishop of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8.)

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Lay Oblate Associate says:

    This morning sitting with Eugene and listening to him speak to us I have become aware of some of the expressions used by Eugene are enlightening as they bring a special awareness of God’s graces given and shared with each of us. I struggle to find words that express their depth and fullness; the best that I can do is to share what it is like…

    Eugene’s use of the word “character” invokes neither a role or cloak that we put on and take off nor a job that we are given to do;, but rather are traits and characters which are both innate and inherent within each of us – something that God instills within us before we are kissed into being and life. Our character is not a measurement of worth or unworthiness, but rather a description of who we are in the eyes of God’s love.

    I am reminded of the expression “…come and see, come and learn who you are in the eyes of God”. While Saint Ignatius wrote about the character of a Bishop I found myself being reflecting on the gifts of my Baptism that I received from God, of Eugene’s 1st Lenten Homily, and my own call to love. They are the qualities of God’s love within me, and the Values carried within the depths of me where lives the divine and the humanness become one in communion with the other.

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