Kneeling before the Crucifix on Good Friday in 1807, St Eugene de Mazenod, the founder of the Oblates, experienced something that changed his life. On that day Eugene became profoundly aware of his own sinfulness and at the same time, of the deep mercy of God. This powerful experience would lead him to commit his life to Jesus Christ, and to share the good news of the Gospel so that others might have the chance to encounter this same transforming love of God.
Eugene chose priesthood as the vehicle for his ministry, and it was to the forgotten people of southern France that Eugene directed his energies. He would reject a comfortable diocesan position and become a priest of the poor. He went on to work in the rural areas, with laborers, prisoners, and young people.
Just as the cross was central in the life of St Eugene, so it remains for Oblates today: The cross of Christ is planted at the centre of the world just as it stands in the centre of our lives. The cross reveals to us the unceasing love of God for us whose confidence in us never runs out. Our charism drives us to present the cross of Christ to the world; to proclaim that the one who is rejected – the crucified, poor, unnoticed, insignificant– is the cornerstone of the final triumph.
(From the Letter of the 1998 General Chapter to the Oblates)
Saint Eugene’s spiritual synthesis is found most clearly in the Constitutions and Rules of his Institute, the Oblates. These reflect both his personal experience and his perception of the needs of the day.
The Oblate Constitutions and Rules reflect his unique personality and Gospel rootedness. “The spirit of total devotion for the glory of God, the service of the Church and the salvation of souls is the spirit proper to our Congregation”, he wrote in 1817. He further stated, in 1830, that we must look upon ourselves “as the servants of the Father of a family commanded to succor, to aid, to bring back his children by working to the utmost, in the midst of tribulations, of persecutions of every kind, without claiming any reward other than that which the Lord has promised to faithful servants who have worthily fulfilled their mission”.
December 3, 1995, Rome. We are living in the second Advent of the world’s history. Eugene de Mazenod was a man of Advent, a man of the Coming. He not only looked forward to that Coming, he dedicated his whole life to preparing for it, one of those apostles who prepared the modern age, our age.
Eugene de Mazenod knew that Christ wanted to unite the whole human race to himself. This is why throughout his life he devoted particular attention to the evangelization of the poor, wherever they were found.
By patiently working on himself, he learned to discipline a difficult character and to govern with enlightened wisdom and steadfast goodness. His every action was inspired by a conviction he expressed in these words: “To love Church is to love Jesus Christ, and vice versa”. His influence is not limited to the age in which he lived. But continues its effect on our time.
His apostolate consisted in the transformation of the world by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What Saint Eugene wanted to achieve was that, in Christ, each individual could become a fully complete person, an authentic Christian, a credible saint.
The Church gives us this great Bishop and Founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate as an example of heroic faith, hope and charity.