Happy Oblate Day!
From Geri Furmanek,
Director, Office of Mission Enrichment and Oblate Associates
February 17th is known throughout the Oblate World as “Oblate Day.” It is the day when The Congregation and its Constitutions were formally approved by Rome. In recognition of this special day, please enjoy these excerpts from the Constitution, of which the Preface was written by the Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod.
~ from the
CONSTITUTIONS and RULES
of the Congregation of the
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
Our Lord Jesus Christ, when the appointed time came, was sent by the Father and filled with the Spirit “to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour” (Lk 4:18-19). He called men to become disciples and share in his mission; in the Church he continues to call others to follow him.
Saint Eugene de Mazenod heard that call. Burning with love for Jesus and his Church, he suffered deeply on seeing how God’s people were abandoned. He chose to become “the servant and priest of the poor” and to give his life wholly to them.
Faced with an overwhelming task, he gathered a few priests around him, men who shared his impassioned zeal for the most abandoned. “Live together as brothers,” he urged them; “Strive to imitate the virtues and example of our Saviour Jesus Christ principally through preaching the Word of God to the poor.” At his persuading, they committed themselves permanently to the preaching of mission, binding themselves by religious vows. Soon afterwards he decided to receive Brothers as true sons of the family. Thus began the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary.
On February 17, 1826, the new Congregation and its Constitutions were formally approved by Pope Leo XII. For the Oblates, the Founder’s Preface to the constitutions will always be an unrivalled expression of his charism and a bond of unity for the Congregation. Here, then, is that text which each succeeding generation of Oblates has treasured as its Rule of Life:
The Church, that glorious inheritance purchased by Christ the Saviour at the cost of his own blood, has in our days been cruelly ravaged. The beloved spouse of God’s only begotten Son is torn with anguish as she mourns the shameful defection of the children she herself bore. Christians, but apostates, and utterly mindless of God’s blessings, they provoke divine justice by their crimes. And did we not know that the sacred deposit of faith is to be preserved intact to the end of time, we would hardly be able to recognize the religion of Christ from the few remaining traces of its past glory that lie scattered about. Such is the state of things brought about by the malice and corruption of present-day Christians that it can be truly said that the greater number of them are worse off now than was the gentile world before its idols were destroyed by the Cross.
Faced with such a deplorable situation, the Church earnestly appeals to the ministers whom she herself enrolled in the cause of her divine Spouse, to do all in their power, by word and example, to rekindle the flame of faith that has all but died in the hearts of so many of her children. Alas, few heed their Mother’s urgent plea. Indeed, many even aggravate things by their own disgraceful conduct and, instead of trying to lead people back to the ways of justice, they themselves must often be reminded of their own duties.
The sight of these evils has so touched the hearts of certain priests, zealous for the glory of God, men with an ardent love for the Church, that they are willing to give their lives, if need be, for the salvation of souls.
They are convinced that if priests could be formed, afire with zeal for men’s salvation, priests not given to their own interests, solidly grounded in virtue – in a word, apostolic men deeply conscious of the need to reform themselves, who would labour with all the resources at their command to convert others – then there would be ample reason to believe that in a short while people who had gone astray might be brought back to their long-unrecognized responsibilities. “Take great care about what you do and what you teach,” was Paul’s charge to Timothy, “Always do this, and thus you will save both yourself and those who listen to you” (1 Tim 4:16).
How, indeed, did our Lord Jesus Christ proceed when he undertook to convert the world? He chose a number of apostles and disciples whom he himself trained in piety, and he filled them with his Spirit. These men he sent forth, once they had been schooled in his teaching, to conquer the world which, before long, was to bow to his holy rule.
And how should men who want to follow in the footsteps of their divine Master Jesus Christ conduct themselves if they, in their turn, are to win back the many souls who have thrown off his yoke? They must strive to be saints. They must walk courageously along the same paths trodden by so many before them: apostolic labourers for the Gospel who, while carrying out the same ministry to which they themselves now feel called, handed on such splendid examples of virtue. They must wholly renounce themselves, striving solely for the glory of God, the good of the Church, and the growth and salvation of souls. They must constantly renew themselves in the spirit of their vocation, living in a state of habitual self-denial and seeking at all times to reach the very summit of perfection. They must work unremittingly to become humble, meek, obedient, lovers of poverty and penance, mortified, free from inordinate attachment to the world or to family, men filled with zeal, ready to sacrifice goods, talents, ease, self, even their life, for the love of Jesus Christ, the service of the Church, and the sanctification of their brethren. And thus, filled with unbounded confidence in God, they are ready to enter the combat, to fight, even unto death, for the greater glory of his most holy and sublime Name.
How vast the field that lies before them! How worthy and holy the undertaking! The people are caught up in crass ignorance of all that pertains to their salvation. The consequence of their ignorance has been a weakening of the faith and a corruption of morals with all the licence which that inevitably entails. Thus, it is supremely important, it is urgently imperative, that we lead the multitude of lost sheep back to the fold, that we teach these degenerate Christians who Jesus Christ is, that we rescue them from Satan’s power and show them the way to eternal life. We must spare no effort to extend the Saviour’s empire and to destroy the dominion of hell. We must check the manifold evils of sin and establish the honoured observance of every virtue. We must lead men to act like human beings, first of all, and then like Christians, and, finally, we must help them to become saints.
Such are the great works of salvation that can crown the efforts of priests whom God has inspired with the desire to form themselves into a Society in order to work more effectively for the salvation of souls and for their own sanctification. To bring all this into being, they just carry out their duty worthily, faithfully fulfilling their splendid vocation.
But it is not enough for them simply to be convinced of the sublime nature of the ministry to which they have been called. The example of the saints and the reason itself make it amply clear that the success of such a holy undertaking as well as the maintenance of discipline in any society make certain rules of life absolutely necessary for unity of thought and action among the members. Such unity is a body’s strength, keeping up its fervour and insuring that it lasts.
Wherefore, while pledging themselves to all the works of zeal which priestly charity can inspire – above all, to the work of the missions, which is the main reason for their union – these priests, joined together in a society, resolve to obey the following Constitutions and Rules; by living them they hope to obtain all the benefits they need for their own sanctification and for the salvation of souls.
[British English translation of the original French]