By Joseph Cipolla, Oblate Associate, Houston, TX.
On November 5, Brother Victor Silva, OMI, lead approximately 25 Oblate Associates on a retreat day in preparation for their yearly commitment/oblation to be taken at Immaculate Conception parish on December 8, in conjunction with their parish feast day.
For the retreat environment, Brother Victor prepared an altarcito in the room upon which he placed a relic of St. Eugene (which he borrowed from San Antonio’s Sexton House) and a personal candle he brought from his profession of Oblate vows in Aix, France, the home of our Oblate Founder, St. Eugene DeMazenod. Brother Victor asked two retreatants to light the candle as an expression of our Gratitude to God and desire to know and grow in God’s Mercy.
The retreat centered on the Year of Mercy and the 200th celebration of the Oblate order. He referred to the Oblate 36th General Chapter as a time of looking at the past with gratitude and of gathering a vision of the future, living it with an authentic life of the Oblate charism. He explained how the Year of Mercy was an “extra” jubilee year designed to get to know what God’s mercy is all about. He reminded us that Pope Francis said ‘no one is excluded from the mercy of God’ and that the Church needs to’ realize this and practice it.’ Then Bro. Victor told us that as Oblate Associates we are meant to be “missionaries of mercy” which set the tone for the time of reflection.
The quality of mercy we offer in our lives is directly related to an appreciation of our own conversion through and to God’s mercy. Brother Victor read with us St. Eugene’s Good Friday experience and asked us to think about what started our own conversion. Brother offered us variations on Fr. Frank Santucci’s reflection questions regarding our Oblate Associate’s vocation, such as: How does my Oblate Associate vocation give life to my own personal vocation? In which ways do I feed my Oblate vocation? Do I pursue further formation in my Oblate vocation? Does our Oblate family help me to grow in my faith and love? In which ways am I a missionary of mercy? How can I see my Oblate Associate commitment more as an oblation?
Following some quiet time for reflection, Brother Victor invited us to share in small groups our thoughts on these questions and our prayers. One of his most memorable comments to us was that the body of Jesus on the Oblate cross is one with Jesus’ head held up (not down) with eyes open which reveals that Jesus sees (and enters into) the world’s suffering, and that we, as Associates, are to see the world through the eyes of the suffering Jesus and have compassion for our fellow man, to be ministers to the abandoned, to be ministers of mercy.
We concluded with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It was a very meaningful time for all in attendance. Our thanks go out to Bro. Victor, for his time, preparation and commitment. His pastoral year has proved already to be a blessing to us in our Oblate life!