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A big family’s dream
04/05/2011 By Paolo Archiati, OMI, Vicar General

This May is certainly special for the Oblates and for what we now call the “Mazenodian family.” On May 21, 150 years ago, our “father” ended his pilgrimage on this earth and entered into eternity. We owe him our existence as Oblates of Mary Immaculate, missionaries to the poor.

How could we celebrate this anniversary without calling to mind his final wish, a veritable spiritual testament which he left the Oblates just before he died? We can never do enough to make it the source of our inspiration and of our religious and missionary commitment. Eugene de Mazenod was well aware that he was living his final moments on this earth, and that adds even more importance to the occasion and to the spiritual instruction that he left to his family, to his “children” whom he loved with a father’s heart.

“Among yourselves, charity, charity, charity.” He had wanted his Oblates to consider Jesus himself as their founder and the apostles as their first fathers. In these words with which the breath of life of this apostle was stilled, don’t we find the very words of Christ? “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” (John 13, 34a) Among yourselves, charity: there is our way of life, revealed to us by our holy Founder at the most sacred moment of his life, the moment when he was called to reveal to his sons the secret that will keep them alive when he is no longer with them; there is the road to conversion to which we are constantly called. It’s as simple as that, even though our actual and ordinary daily life reveals to us each day the difficulties flowing from our weakness, our fragility, and our personal problems. Among yourselves, charity: that is the rock on which we are called to build our community life. Therein lies the essence of our life, of our relationships, that which should help us live as brothers. St. Eugene wanted his Oblates to be the most united family on the face of the earth, and now the secret, the way to accomplish this, has been revealed. He knew that the strength of his little family would be unity, communion, and to that end, in his letters he never stopped reminding his children. His invitation that they be of one heart and mind, which one finds hundreds of times in his letters, addresses this need.

“And on the outside, zeal for the salvation of souls.” Once this unity is assured within our family, our communities, we must look outwards, toward the world to which our mission sends us. We are not monks; our community life is oriented to the mission. And our mission is this “zeal” for the salvation of souls. “Zeal” is a word that has had its day, a word which might make us smile a little, like another similar word in the dictionary, “fervor.” They are two words that were very dear to our Founder.

Words might well have had their day, but the reality is timelier than ever, especially in a world that shows how much it is in need of salvation. This word energized our Founder; it was at the very beginning of his conversion and inspiration to found a missionary society. Having discovered that he has been “saved” by the mercy of God, he wanted to bring together some companions in order to reveal to the world – and especially to the poor – how much God loves them, so much so that He sent His own Son to save them. Zeal: it’s a fire that should burn in the heart of each Oblate, of each member of the family of St. Eugene, a fire that is meant to engulf the whole world. That was the dream of the young Eugene at the moment he gave origin to his little family; that was his dream at the moment of his death; may that be the dream of his “big” family today, at the moment when we celebrate his departure from here below.