(Originally published on omiworld.org)
*On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Fr. Eugene de Mazenod’s becoming a formator at Saint Sulpice, 1812-2012*
Introduction to the Novena
As we begin to prepare ourselves for the bicentennial of our Congregation in 2016, with this novena, we would like to refer on an important moment in the life of Saint Eugene prior to the founding. Exactly 200 years ago, from January until October 1812, Eugene de Mazenod served as one of the directors of the diocesan seminary of Saint Sulpice in Paris. Perhaps this is a little known time in his life. Napoleon Bonaparte ruled in France at that time and he tried to limit to the utmost the freedom of the Church. Consequently, Pope Pius VII himself and a large number of the cardinals from his Curia were taken to Paris and, for all practical purposes, became Napoleon’s prisoners. The superior of the seminary of Saint Sulpice, the Sulpician Jacques-André Emery, defended the pope actively and courageously – with the help of the seminarian Eugene de Mazenod. In retaliation, Emery was fired, along with the other six formators. In this dramatic situation, Eugene had to take on, for ten months, the responsibility of formator, immediately after his priestly ordination.
During this novena, we are once again praying for Oblate vocations in the entire world. May Jesus of Nazareth and the Immaculate Virgin accompany us and inspire us, in the face of new formation challenges, to be more human, with a deep desire to follow in the footsteps of the Master. We trust in the intercession of Saint Eugene: he who saw the Church of his time “terribly devastated” (Preface to the CCRR) will be able to obtain from God, the author of every vocation, that today too, many workers will be sent and that among them, there will be many Oblates, to go into today’s harvest which cannot wait.