“They Will Constantly Renew Themselves in the Spirit of Their Vocation” (St Eugene de Mazenod, Preface)
This is the theme of the forthcoming April 2020 Convocation. It is an invitation to renewal for everyone connected with St Eugene de Mazenod: Missionary Oblates, Honorary Oblates, Associates, Affiliates, Employees, Mission Supporters, Partners, and Youth – in other words, every member of the Mazenodian Family. each according to their state of life and involvement. Each month some texts will be made available for your personal or group reflection and prayer. Several texts are offered in the hope that you will find some beneficial to use.
“They will constantly renew themselves in the SPIRIT of their vocation.” In the previous reflection, we focused on the meaning of “vocation” in our personal and communitarian lives. This month we are invited to reflect on what St Eugene called, the “spirit” of our being part of the Mazenodian Family.
What is a Family Spirit?
Every family has a spirit. It is difficult to define, yet we recognize it when we encounter it. Each family has a “culture” of the ways in which values are expressed and relationships are lived within the family itself and in the family’s dealings with others
Spend a while thinking about the “spirit” of the family you were born into. If you are married, what is the “spirit” of the family you and your spouse have created?
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners.”
Jesus quotes these words to describe the spirit of his God-given ministry in Luke 4:14-17 and the spirit that must animate us, his followers.
In the Acts of the Apostles, there are several mentions of the followers of Jesus being known as those who belonged to the “Way” – those who lived by the spirit of Jesus, now identified as the Holy Spirit. For example:
… that, if Paul should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the Way more accurately.
What is the spirit that guides my “Way”?
Saint Eugene de Mazenod
First companion of mine, you have from the first day we came together grasped the spirit which must animate us and which we must communicate to others. (St. Eugene de Mazenod to Fr. Henri Tempier, 15 August 1822)
“Each Society in the Church has a spirit which is its own; which is inspired by God according to the circumstances and needs of the times wherein it pleases God to raise these supporting bodies” (Fr. Henri Tempier, August 22, 1817)
“We must be filled with our spirit and live by it. This is so evident that it needs no explanation. Just as in a Society there is a common dress, common Rules, here must also be a common spirit that gives life to this particular body. The spirit of the Bernadine is not that of the Jesuit. Our spirit is also something particular to us.” (To Fr. Hippolyte Guibert, July 29, 1830)
Where do we find the Mazenodian Spirit?
When St Eugene composed the OMI Constitutions and Rules, his aim was to capture his God-given spirit into words in such a way that succeeding generations could understand and be filled with the same spirit as they lived those words. He wrote:
“Let us, therefore, value these Rules as precious, let us ever keep them before our eyes, still more in our hearts; let us nourish our souls regularly with the principles contained in them, let us act, speak and think only in conformity with their spirit. It is only in this way that we can become what God expects of us and can become worthy of our sublime vocation… Hence what matters is that we be imbued with the spirit of our Rules and, to arrive at this, we must make them the topic of our regular meditations.” (St. Eugene de Mazenod Retreat Notes, October 8, 1831)
Each branch of the Mazenodian Family has its own lived expression of the spirit of St Eugene which is articulated in a directory or goal or activity.
1/ As a member of the “Mazenodian Family” what do I perceive as the “spirit” of the particular branch that associates me with St Eugene?
2/ How do I personally live the Mazenodian spirit of my vocation in my daily life within community and the ministries I am part of?
3/ How can I/we intentionally make this spirit more present and visible in my/our words and actions?
Some Further Reflections
What Fr. Jetté says about the Oblate spirit, applies to the whole Mazenodian Family:
“The Oblate’s authenticity, however, or his marginality, cannot arise primarily from that area, that is, from the external work. It will come from within, first of all, from the interior disposition of the apostolic man. For me the authentic Oblate is one who has truly left all to follow Jesus Christ, the Oblate who works seriously at becoming a saint and who at all times carries within his very being the concern for evangelizing the poor”
Fr Fernand Jetté (Superior General 1974 – 1986)
The following text sums up the dynamism of our theme: “They will constantly renew themselves in the SPIRIT of their vocation:”
“The spirit is at once a force and movement, insight and expression. It does not allow itself to be bound and no one can imprison it. It is perpetually creating and revealing itself through new forms. It lives only by transforming itself in order to remain itself. Mysteriously, it conceives itself and gives birth to itself in order to survive.”
(A. Dodin, C.M., “Spiritualité de saint Vincent de Paul,” Divus Thomas, 63 (1960) quoted by Lamirande, Emilien, “L’actualité des valeurs de tradition”, in Etudes oblates, 26 (1967), p. 45)