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Sunday, August 19, 2018

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Thoughts on the Spirituality of St. Eugene De Mazenod

What can we say about the spirituality of St. Eugene de Mazenod?  I share with you some of my own reflections which come from seeing the spirituality of St. Eugene lived by Oblates I have known, the missionaries with whom I have lived and worked.

My thoughts here also come from speaking with Oblate Associates and listening to their experience of living the spirituality of St. Eugene.

The founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate had a spirituality imbued with the love of God. Eugene experienced God’s love for himself in a very powerful way as he prayed before the cross on Good Friday in 1807. It was that experience of the cross and the love of Jesus as Saviour that shaped the rest of Eugene’s life. This moment held for the young man a fundamental insight into who God is and also a deep insight about himself, into who he was. He encountered a merciful God and he experienced himself as a sinful man, yet saved and loved by Jesus.

I believe that in St. Eugene’s experience of a merciful Saviour his love for the poor – another essential dimension of our spirituality - was born. Jesus shed His blood to save us and so the human person is of inestimable worth. His own missionary focus was on the poor and the abandoned. He reached out to prisoners and to abandoned children.  His heart reached out to the poor of the countryside.  He was driven to share with them the Good News that he had experienced in the Cross of Jesus and desired that all those neglected, abandoned and overlooked might know that love. As a bishop we see the joy St. Eugene encountered at being among the poor, receiving them into his palace and visiting their homes to take the sacraments to the elderly and infirm.

Saint Eugene’s spirituality was lived out in his daily life, and his experience of God’s overwhelming love transformed, bit by bit, who he was and how he lived. He sought to speak the local language of the people because he knew they were loved by God, and ardently he strove to have them hear and know the Good News. In confession he was very merciful and forgiving. His love for the poor soon reached beyond the Aix diocese to other dioceses and then embraced the poor of other lands as he sent missionaries to Asia, Africa and North America. Throughout these years in which his heart grew to welcome into it the world, St. Eugene encountered the unconditional love of the Saviour both in the Eucharist and in the Word of God.

Saint Eugene’s spirituality, based on the experience of God’s unconditional love for the human person, impelled his missionary thrust. Oblate spirituality, always grounded in the experience of being loved and saved by Jesus, is missionary spirituality and goes out to serve, to commit and to work. The fruits are the sign of authentic spirituality: the preaching of the Gospel and the works of justice done with humility and simplicity.

A strong relationship with the Church is also at the heart of Oblate spirituality. Saint Eugene loved the Church because he considered the Church to be the Body of Christ and because Jesus gave up His own life for the Church. Eugene De Mazenod knew from personal experience that the Church was not perfect, and even when he suffered from decisions of the hierarchy he continued to love the Church in its entirety without withdrawing his love from any particular portion of it.  Oblate spirituality, from St. Eugene’s own life, also includes a very special relationship with the Mother of Mercy, Mary Immaculate. We find in Mary a sure help in living our missionary lives in holiness, and we are called by De Mazenod to bring that devotion to the people wherever we labour. We often learn better from the poor how to love Mary than they learn from us.  They are masters in devotion to the Mother of Mercy! 

Pope Paul VI called St. Eugene a man passionately in love with Jesus Christ. Today, Oblates and Oblate Associates continue to live his spirituality as we seek to deepen within us the experience of God’s loving salvation as witnessed in the Cross of Jesus. Like St. Eugene, we spend time each day encountering Jesus in the Word and in the Eucharist. Our passion for Jesus and for the Church impels us as missionaries to the poorest and most abandoned people. We are missioned under the special protection of Mary Immaculate, our Blessed Mother. We ask St. Eugene to bless us with a life in the Spirit springing from his own passionate and generous heart, one that will sustain and enliven our missionary oblation in the face of our challenges today.

Saint Eugene De Mazenod, pray for us!

Fr Louis Lougen OMI (Oblate Superior General)

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