THEY COME AMONG US TO SEEK ASYLUM AND THE HELP TO WHICH THEIR SUFFERINGS ENTITLE THEM

Writing to the priests of his diocese, in 1840, about the civil war in Spain, Bishop de Mazenod made them aware of the suffering of their fellow-priests in exile from persecution:

Since a number of years the disorders happening in Spain are bringing to our city a large number of priests from this nation. Forced to flee an anti-Catholic persecution which is linked to their fidelity to the true principles of the Church, they come among us to seek asylum and the help to which their sufferings entitle them.

In order to help them it was necessary to appeal to the people of Marseilles.

Neither you nor I have up to now neglected to show them the solicitude which efficaciously satisfies the duties of hospitality required by charity. However, day by day they are becoming too numerous in our city for our resources to cope adequately for their needs. The time has now come to appeal to the charity of the faithful, in the name of the faith that is being persecuted in the person of these venerable exiles.

(Quoted in Selected Oblate Studies and Texts,  p. 312)

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I WILL EXPRESS MY HORROR FOR THE SCHISM INTO WHICH SOME DESIRE TO DRAG THE CHURCH OF SPAIN

Bishop de Mazenod’s “heart as big as the world” was not limited to the missionary zeal of the Oblates sent outside of France. He had a sense of communion with the Church throughout the world, especially in areas where there was suffering. As Bishop of Marseilles he made his diocese aware of these issues and involved them in collecting material help. We come across one example regarding the Church in Spain.

Eugene wrote in his Diary:

Letter from the archbishop of Paris.  He informed me that the minister took offence at the publication he had made of the jubilee by his pastoral letter

Lamirande gives the background:

“The trials which the Church in Spain experienced around 1840 naturally attracted the attention of Bishop de Mazenod. These difficulties had their origin in the political conflict which opposed the regent Maria Christina and the pretender to the throne, Don Carlos. Rome, though maintaining diplomatic relations with Madrid, refused to recognize the Regent. Hence inextricable embarrassments occured apropos of the appointment of bishops, etc. The partisans of Christina carried out copious reprisals against the Carlists: arrests of bishops, priests and monks, discontinuing ecclesiastical salaries, appointing administrators of vacant dioceses contrary to canon law, etc. Gregory XVI denounced these machinations in a consistorial allocution of February 1, 1840. The Government of Spain protested and the Holy Father, in March 1842, replied with an encyclical prescribing the celebration of a jubilee in favour of the Church in Spain.” ( Selected Oblate Studies and Texts,  p. 313)

The French government supported the schismatic Christina and had taken offense at French bishops who promoted the Jubilee. Eugene’s reaction was to be unafraid and to write a circular letter to his diocese:

It does not matter, I will not hesitate, in this matter, to show myself united in thought and will with the head of the Church. I will no less express my horror for the schism into which some desire to drag the Church of Spain.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 26 March 1842, EO XXI

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THE FIRST CANADIAN OBLATE

Writing to the Bishop of Montreal about the Oblate missionaries, Eugene said: 

I await impatiently some news of the first mission that our fathers have given in the parish where you have placed them… I have learnt from Father Honorat of the blessings God has bestowed on the retreat he gave in collaboration with the charming priest who associated himself with his work and who manifests a willingness to join the Congregation.

He is referring to Father Damase Dandurand, a Canadian diocesan priest, who was so impressed by the missionary zeal of the newly-arrived Oblates that he asked to become one. 

May this first graft on a vine transplanted to so good a soil by the vine keeper that you are be a thousand times blessed! I pray from the depths of my heart to the Father of the Family that he multiply the species and that the example of this first one be soon imitated by a great number of others.

Letter to Bishop Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, 13 April 1842 EO I n 11

“When the first Oblates from France, whom Bishop Bourget had obtained from Bishop de Mazenod, arrived in Montreal on December 2, 1841, Father Dandurand was resident in the bishop’s house. Shortly afterwards he decided to join them, and he began his novitiate on December 24, probably in Saint Hilaire. The following year, at Christmas, he took vows in Longueuil. Bishop de Mazenod rejoiced to have found in him ‘the first fruits of this good country of Canada.’ Starting in 1842, he took part in numerous missions or retreats in the diocese of Montreal and his ministry was specially appreciated by the English speaking Catholics.”

E Lamirande. (See: https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/dandurand-damase/)

Thus began a long and fruitful ministry which ended with his death at 102 years-of age.

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MISSIONARY DEDICATION OVERCOMES PERSONAL PREFERENCES

St. Eugene wrote to the Bishop of Montreal to thank him for the warm and fatherly welcome he had given to the newly-arrived Oblates.

Their letters prove to me that they know and appreciate the sentiments you manifest to them and that in return, they are, amongst your priests, the most devoted and the most attached to your revered person.

The welcome given to the Oblates helped them to settle down smoothly. Eugene was particularly concerned about Father Honorat, the superior of the group, who had accepted this mission out of obedience to Eugene and not out of choice.

Apparently the protection and the kindnesses with which you honour them make everything worthwhile for Father Honorat finds nothing hard or difficult. Even the climate, so unlike ours, is not disagreeable to him. It could be said that they have not made any sacrifice in leaving their native land. Yet this good Father Honorat was not attracted like the others to this far-off mission and, while he did not raise objections, I really believed he sacrificed himself by obedience in an admirably supernatural manner because he understood that such was the desire of his superior.

As a matter of fact, he is a man of eminent virtue. He would wish that I add another two members to his little colony, and I would ask nothing better if the glory of God is at stake and the greater good of souls.

Letter to Bishop Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, 13 April 1842 EO I n 11

Father Honorat showed his strength of character and missionary zeal in the way he sacrificed his personal preferences for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. A good example for us today as we are surrounded by “me first” and relativism.

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IF YOU DEPART FROM THIS RULE OF WISDOM YOU WILL SOON BE LIKE INSIPID SALT

Continuing form our previous entry, we see how Eugene recommended that Louis Dassy not get carried away by his zeal for archaeology. The point he makes is relevant to all of us in our multi-tasking society: do some of our activities take us away from the real focus where we should be placing the best of our time and energy?

I am not absolutely opposed to your accepting to be part of this commission, for the reasons I have alleged, but I request you very explicitly not to establish yourself as the mainspring of this commission and not to be more concerned than the rest about it functioning well. Indeed, to the contrary, due to the duties you have to fulfil and from which I cannot dispense you. I insist that you take a back seat and be on it for giving advice rather than being active.

If you depart from this rule of wisdom, it is I who say that you will soon be like insipid salt, “what if salt loses its flavor”, I say no more, it is up to you to meditate seriously on this text, so that you may be preserved from terrible consequences which all of us must dread.

Thus, even while remaining within the limits I have indicated to you, if you realize that your piety suffers therefrom, your zeal for the salvation of souls is lessening, that you experience some distaste for the great ministry that is proper and characteristic of your vocation, leave aside all the books of science and bury yourself more than ever in the only study that is strictly necessary wherein we are assured of not meeting with disappointment or deception.

Good-bye. my dear child, I am speaking to you as a father, as a superior, as a bishop. I have nothing further except to embrace you and bless you.

Letter to Father Louis Dassy, 29 March 1842, EO IX n 759

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IF YOU FEEL YOU COULD COMBINE THE DUTIES OF YOUR NEW JOB WITH THOSE OF YOUR VOCATION

In the previous entry we saw how the talented and enthusiastic Fr Louis Dassy had become involved in archaeological pursuits. It was an honor for him that the academic world valued his competence. Eugene, however, was concerned that this young man would lose focus.

Do not think, my dear child, that I am happy about this honour or that I consider this could bring the least glory or advantage to the Congregation. I say even more: if I did not know as I do your activities and your capacity for work, I would consider this incident as something unfortunate, for you would have turned away from your principal ministry, from that which is essentially proper to your vocation and which you could not neglect without lacking in your duties and offending God.

So I have to come to the conclusion that if you feel you could combine the duties of your new job with those of your vocation, that the research, which you may be able to make, serves rather as relaxation than as activity incompatible with the missions, retreats and studies required by this ministry, then I authorize you to respond to the trust that has been placed in you.

But note well, my dear child, that it is your duty first of all to sanctify yourself by advancing in perfection. You will be devoting yourself ardently to archaeological studies which demand lectures, meetings and plenty of time. Weigh all these on the scales of the priesthood and reflect on the quid prodest. etc [Ed: Matthew 16:26 “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”]

Letter to Father Louis Dassy, 29 March 1842, EO IX n 759

 

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ORAISON: JOIN THE MAZENODIAN FAMILY IN PRAYER ON SUNDAY APRIL 18

For the text: https://sites.google.com/view/mazenodianfamily/monthly-oraison/april-18-2021

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I DO NOT AT ALL SEE ANY GLORY FOR THE CONGREGATION IN ALL THIS

Young Father Louis Toussaint Dassy was very talented and full of zeal. He wrote to Eugene on March 19 to wish him for his patronal feast day. He also mentioned that the Arts committee of Paris had appointed him the correspondent of its department for historical works and that the Bishop of Grenoble was going to suggest that he be part of a commission “to draw up a statistical account of the monuments, of the finest buildings in the diocese and of all archaeological matters that could be of interest to religion: Church history, Christian literature and the Arts.”

Eugene commented in his diary:

He expresses, in this letter, the best sentiments of dedication to my person and to the congregation. He then comes to his favorite thought, science, archeology, etc. The minister of public education has sent him, in order to encourage him in his works, a superb work: “Les éléments de paléographie” [The elements of paleography]. He was appointed correspondent of his ministry for historical works.

He sees in this some fortunate results for the glory of our holy congregation, “It is always that you will not see me work with another motive. For the congregation, my spirit, my heart, my time and my life.”

What to reply to a man who expresses such wonderful sentiments? Certainly, I am far from thinking like him. I do not at all see any glory for the congregation in all this, but Father Dassy needs activity: that one is worth as much as another.

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 28 March 1842, EO XXI

With a touch of realism, Eugene realized that this young man needed mental stimulation – but had to guard against  losing a sense of priority.

How do we manage the different demands of work and pleasure?

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THERE WILL COME A TIME WHEN THE IMAGINATION WILL GROW COLD AND THEN HE WILL BE HAPPY TO FIND IN HIS TEXTS THE SPIRIT OF HIS EARLY YEARS

The Oblates were primarily preachers of the Gospel, a reality that necessitated well-prepared texts. Writing to the superior of the first Oblate community in Canada, Eugene underlined the importance of good preparation.

Let the youngest amongst you be put to composing a certain number of sermons. I insist that this be stipulated.

Father Telmon was a talented and creative preacher and would be a good mentor for the younger ones.

Father Telmon will be good enough to direct and correct these compositions, this being a duty of charity as much as obedience. He will do well for his own sake to increase his own repertoire. Let him be mindful that there will come a time when the imagination will grow cold and then he will be happy to find in his texts the spirit of his early years. I have long been imploring him to do this work.

Eugene’s realistic warning applies to the whole group.

I shall not rest until I see all of our missionaries who have to announce the Word of God in possession of a complete course of sermons and instructions for retreats and missions. Hold strongly to this point which is essential to the success of your ministry.

Letter to Fr. Jean Baptiste Honorat, 26 March 1842, EO I n 10

Each member of the Mazenodian Family has her or his particular God-given talents which enrich the community.

What is the spirit with which we develop and share these for the good of all?

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DO NOT LET YOURSELVES BE OVERWHELMED BY THE WORK

Knowing the zeal and generosity of the first group of Oblate missionaries in Canada, Eugene encouraged them to maintain a balance. 

Do not let yourselves be overwhelmed by the work which will soon surpass your strength. One must never want to do more than God permits. Plan all things wisely. Above all, always reserve time for study and for your personal sanctification in the interior of your house. That is indispensable.

Letter to Fr. Jean Baptiste Honorat, 26 March 1842, EO I n 10

Each one has to “BE” a person of God who prays and deepens their knowledge and relationship with God. That is indispensable for the success of the ministry, the “DO” of mission.

An invitation to pause in our frenetic world of multi-tasking to examine our own equilibrium – more easily said than done.

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