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Sunday, May 27, 2018

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Oblate Feast Day

Fr. Fernand Jetté, Oblate Superior General from 1974 -1986, reflects on the meaning of this anniversary of the Church’s approval for us.

It is essential for a religious family to be recognized by the Church, for it is the Church who “constitutes” us, as the Founder put it; it is the Church who gives us our “mission”, who sends us as an apostolic corps to evangelize the world.
Father de Mazenod’s diary and letters reveal that he greatly valued this Roman approbation. He prized it highly, to be sure, for whatever freedom it would give him in his dealings with diocesan bishops; but more so for a deeper reason: to have some sort of divine guarantee for the work undertaken and the form of life he was offering his confreres.

For a religious family the issues at stake are substantial; it invites men to leave everything, to give up establishing themselves in this world in order to commit themselves in a radical way and within a group to the following of Christ. In such a project, each one stakes his own life. Who will guarantee the Gospel authenticity of the way that is proposed? Furthermore, if new formulations and important changes occur within the Institute in the course of history, who will guarantee the authenticity of these changes?

Before one can offer men a particular way of evangelical life, it is necessary that there be signs from God, discernment and the Church’s official confirmation….

That is what prompted the Founder to write on the day after the first approbation, February 18, 1826:

“No mere trifles, these are no longer simple regulations, no ordinary pious directions; they are Rules that have been approved by the Church after the most minute scrutiny. They have been judged holy and eminently capable of leading those who embraced them to their destination. They have become the property of the Church that adopted them… We are thus constituted… Be aware of your dignity… In the name of God let us be saints”  (Letter to Father Tempier, February 18, 1826).

It is the Church therefore that “constitutes” us what we are. She vouches to the faithful for the Gospel authenticity of the life-project we offer them.


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