Two Celebrations of Prayer and Communion at the Conclusion of the Anniversary of the Congregation’s Foundation
January 19th, 2017
Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum
Opening song: Ubi Caritas et amor Deus ibi est
It was in 1866, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of foundation, that January 25th was first celebrated as the date of the beginning of the Congregation. In his Circular Letter No. 15 (March 19, 1865) Father Fabre invited all Oblates to solemnly celebrate the anniversary of the foundation on that day: “That day ought not go unnoticed, and I consider it a duty to call your attention to such a solemn anniversary, so that your hearts may be filled with gratitude to God and affection for our beloved Congregation.” Ever since, January 25 has become the day when Oblates celebrate the birth of their Congregation. We should call this day more properly: the beginning of community life.
Look to the past with gratitude
In this jubilee year of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, we give thanks to the Lord. We look to the past with gratitude, beginning with St. Eugene de Mazenod and all of our predecessors including our living elder brothers whom we greet most especially. (Message of the 36th General Chapter, 1)
Readings of some of the early writings describing the life of the first community in Aix.
We were six… Our community is very fervent. There are no better priests throughout the diocese. (Eugene de Mazenod to Forbin-Janson, October 9, 1816, Oblate Writings, 6, p. 24)
We live in community under a mild Rule which fixes our duties and gives a very great value to the least of our actions. The spirit of charity and of the most perfect brotherhood reigns amongst us. Our ambition is to gain souls for Jesus Christ. (Eugene de Mazenod to a diocesan priest, Fr. Vignier, January 6, 1819, Oblate Writings, 6, p. 55)
(…) We are all striving for perfection, a perfection that we will not fail to achieve by faithfully following our holy rule… In a word… we have one heart and one soul: Cor Unum et anima una… (Jacques Joseph Marcou, a novice to Hippolyte Guibert, a seminarian, May 11, 1822).
We form a family, of which all who compose it wish only to have one heart and one soul. (Eugene de Mazenod to Fr. Guibert, January 20, 1823, Oblate Writings, 6, p. 102)
Remembering our communities
Hundreds of other communities have come forth from that first community in Aix: Notre Dame du Laus, Marseille, Nîmes, then the British Isles, Canada, Ceylon, South Africa…until the community to which you are called by your obedience, in this moment.
We are thankful for the first Fathers who made up the original Aix community, for those who are at the origins of our Unit, for those whom we have known, for those who were for us an example and an aid, and for those who have formed us.
We can take time to name some of them, and to share some memories we have of their presence: moments, words…
Live out the present with passion
Following the example of the Founder, may charity among you be your first rule of life, the premise of every apostolic action. (Address of Pope Francis to participants in the General Chapter, October 7, 2016)
We are committed to live in missionary communities founded on a fraternal spirit and mutual sharing, as we strive to break down the barriers that separate and divide people. We will promote interculturality at all levels in which cultures, religions, and diverse communities can dialogue and enrich one another. (Message of the 36th General Chapter, 4)
Let us compare ourselves with the Oblate ideal:
We have but one heart and one soul… That was always our hallmark, like that of the first Christians… the spirit that I wished to establish in our Congregation. (Eugene de Mazenod to Fr. Durocher, January 17, 1851, Oblate Writings, 2, p. 7).
Today, how can we live this ideal? A text of the Founder suggests three concrete ways:
“Charity is the pivot on which our whole existence turns. We practice it first amongst us by loving each other as brothers,
– by considering our Society only as the most united family which exists on the earth,
– by rejoicing over the virtues, the talents and other qualities that our brothers possess just as much as if we possessed them ourselves,
– in bearing with mildness the little faults that some have not yet overcome, covering them over with the mantle of the most sincere charity, etc. “(Eugene de Mazenod to Fr. Guibert, July 29, 1830, Oblate Writings, 7, p. 202-203).
Taking this text as the point of departure, we can ask ourselves:
– Do we know the life of the Congregation? Do we keep ourselves informed with what is happening in our Unit, and in other parts of the world, making use of the Communiqué, Information OMI, and the OMI World website? Do we have appreciation for the Congregation?
– Do we rejoice in the talents and the pastoral activity of our confreres in community? Do we support their work?
– Do we know how to accept ourselves as we are, with differences in character and culture? How can we emphasize and shed light upon that which unites us, and leave in the shadow (“the mantle of the most sincere charity”) that which divides?
Embrace the future with hope
The future challenges us. The community, after two hundred years of life, is called to persist in the years to come.
– Are we interested in new vocations to the Congregation and the Oblate family?
– How can we pray more fervently for new vocations? How can we prepare, with care, the Week of Prayer for Oblate Vocations?
Prayer of thanksgiving for the congregation and for new vocations
We thank God for our vocation, and pray together that the Lord continue to call other young people to share our fraternal life:
Eternal and Almighty God, we thank you for the gift of our Founder Saint Eugene de Mazenod and his first companions. They let themselves be guided by the Holy Spirit so that the Good News is preached to the poor.
With this same Spirit, you always guided our religious family and the successors of Saint Eugene, spreading your graces in the heart of each Oblate. Thus many young men respond generously to the Lord’s call to follow the footsteps of Eugene de Mazenod, evangelizing the poor.
Lord, we ask you to bless each Oblate so he can rekindle his vocation in this time of personal and communal conversion. Create in us a new heart, give us a new spirit to dare to accept a new mission, to follow Christ wherever the Holy Spirit calls and sends us. Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us, so that each Oblate may renew himself in his Oblate vocation.
Make many young people attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, so that they may respond generously, following the example of the Virgin Mary, the Apostles and many of our Missionary Oblates. Awaken vocations to the Oblate missionary life, priests, brothers and laity inspired by the charism of Saint Eugene.
Mary Immaculate, Mother and Patroness of the Congregation, accompany us on the paths of the mission of her Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Final song: Magnificat anima mea Dominum
Published on the OMI World Website.
God bless you!