Originally Published at centremazenod.org
On the 16 Sunday in Ordinary Time the Church of the Mission hosted a beautiful International Mass animated by the participants of the Scholastics Summer Session. The richness of our Oblate family in culture, language and diversity became evident and was highly appreciated by the parishioners of the Church of the Mission. During Mass three young Oblates shared their vocation stories and gave inspiring testimonies of their experience of the Session, among these was Dan Ziegler OMI a Scholastic from San Antonio Texas, here is his testimony: (Photo below: Antonio Diodati, OMI and Dan Ziegler, OMI (U.S.)
“I grew up near Boston Massachusetts but I met the Oblates of Mary Immaculate when I was living in San Antonio Texas. I can’t say for sure what it was, but it seemed the more I get to know the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, there is something special about them. Being here in Aix-en-Provence helps me understand that specialness a little bit more. It is my pleasure to be here and experience this fine city and share my experiences with you.
The experience here in Aix-en-Provence has been very fulfilling. Not only have I been able to spend time with and get to know my Oblate brothers from around the world, but I have also been able to get to know more about our Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod. It is one thing to read about a person, but to go to the place where he grew up and lived and ministered and preached is an entirely different experience. (Photo below: Mass in the Church of the Mission in Aix-en-Provence)
One of the things that St. Eugene possessed was a deep desire for God. His faith was not superficial in the least but his faith was always a work in progress. Learning more about his life, it is my understanding that his faith was born out of a profound sense of his brokenness and his personal need for God as a healing savior. The divorce of his parents, the loss of his culture and identity in exile, his struggle with boredom and meaninglessness all led him to the realization that only God, through Jesus on the Cross, could give his life purpose and direction. Often times we wonder why we struggle, suffer, or seem lost, but these are the precise times when God is loving us the most, and this, I am learning was the experience of St. Eugene. (Photo below: (Outside the Church after Mass.)
Another thing I have learned about St. Eugene is his fierce loyalty. He was a man who was fiercely loyal and expected nothing less of the men who would be his fellow Oblates. He challenges anyone to love the Lord with their whole heart, soul, strength and mind. In this way, St. Eugene was dynamically dedicated to loving and serving the poorest and most abandoned, including the prisoners, the youth, and the people of the countryside who were lacking spiritual guidance and direction in their lives. This is where I believe St. Eugene saw the face of God and found purpose, meaning and true joy in his life.
I cannot do justice to all of St. Eugene’s life story in this short time, but I can see how the patterns that emerged in our Founder’s life have shaped the international congregation that exists today and the diversity of men that God has called, myself included. I find a part of my own story, with all of its twists and turns, doubts and fears, brokenness and searching, in that of St. Eugene’s as perhaps many of us can. More importantly, it is through this community, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, that God is using all of our personal stories, our gifts and our shortcomings, to draw us closer to Him in a deeper loving relationship. In less than a couple of months, myself and many of my brother Oblates here will be making perpetual vows which means that we will vow poverty, chastity, obedience and perseverance for life. We ask for your prayerful support and we pray that together we can love and serve our Lord Jesus Christ as passionately and daringly as St. Eugene”.
Editor’s Note: This article describes the experience of an Oblate Scholastic visiting the historic birthplace of the Oblates in Aix-en-Provence, France which is now called The Eugene de Mazenod International Center. You may get more information about this special place on their website, centremazenod.org. Here is a description of the Centre from the website:
“The community of the Oblates of Aix-en-Provence is responsible for the upkeep of the historical spot which is the cradle of the Congregation, situated at the ancient Carmel, at 60 cours Mirabeau. Since January 25, 1816, the history of this house is intimately linked with the history of the Congregation. It is written up in all the biographies of Eugene de Mazenod and in all the books which talk about the foundation. Its history, calm at certain times and very eventful at others, was similar to what other religious communities experienced in France. Today, the house is a place of pilgrimage for Oblates from the whole world. For them, it has much the same role as the Holy Land for Christians. The house belongs to the de Mazenod Foundation, which signed a contract with the Association EMIC on December 7, 2011.”