I am a lay Associate of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), Lacombe Province Canada. I was called to this through Marie’s contact with the Galilee Centre in Arnprior where I met my first Oblate priests – Fr. Jack Lau and Fr. Roy Boucher, some 8 years ago.
I recently took a course about the life of St. Eugene de Mazenod, the founder of the Oblates. I wish to discuss a few ideas here so that I don’t forget what I learned!
Eugene de Mazenod was born into a noble family in Aix-en-Provence, France in 1782. His family had to flee to Italy during the French Revolution, 1789 to 1799. Returning home, he had a conversion experience in church on Good Friday in 1807. It led him to become a priest, found the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and become Bishop of Marseilles. He died in 1861 with his last words practice charity, charity, charity. He was canonized in 1995 by Pope John Paul II. You can read his full biography here.
The charism of the Oblates is a love of Church and desire to evangelize the poor about the immense love Jesus Christ has for each and everyone of us. In the process we are evangelized ourselves: Evangelizare pauperibus misit me
St. Eugene taught us “We must strive first of all to lead people to act like human beings, and then like Christians, and finally, we must help them to become saints.” Oblates live in community where they strengthen each other in faith, in charity, enriching each other from discovery of God and of Christ who lives and works in us and in the world. As a lay associate I get to know many Oblates, learn from them and strive to live my life in a way that is in harmony with this charism.
It is indeed a privilege, honour and blessing. What attracted me to the Oblates is their accessibility – as missionaries, they are among the people. In an Oblate gathering you would not automatically know who are the priests and who are not! Secondly, they are Christ focused. My personal relationship with Jesus Christ is extremely important to me. Thirdly, there is an emphasis on life long formation (learning) and conversion (perfecting my relationship with God and Jesus Christ).
Mary Immaculate is our patron saint and model. Lastly there is hospitality, something magical that happens at every Oblate gathering. I wish to borrow a few words from Fr. James Behrens a Trappist monk as they gave me insight to write this posting about the Oblates. He says:
“God reveals himself through the communal ritual of eating and drinking. Through the Eucharist, we believe God remembers himself for us. He is brought to our midst and once again nourishes us with his very flesh and blood. We consume his life and he becomes, very intimately, a living part of us. When we leave the sacred table and reimmerse ourselves in the mundane routines of life, we bear God within us. The body and blood of Jesus is indeed food for our journey through life.” (Living Faith, June 3, 2018)
Thank you St. Eugene for your apostolic zeal and the gift of the Oblate charism – love, patience, acceptance of differences and a focus on the poor which the world needs now more than ever. And, most importantly, being nourished ourselves on the journey to sainthood.