Even before his time in the seminary Eugene de Mazenod was moved by the needs of the poor and abandoned. He joined a group in Aix who looked after the prisoners in the local prison. In the seminary, he was assigned to teach catechism to the poorest children in the local parish. Even when he was offered a ‘better’ group, Eugene opted to stay with those children, who were the ‘poorest of the parish’. The word ‘abandoned’ often appears in his writings, and it is clear that this group were his preferred lot. When he returned to Aix as a priest, he asked the church authorities to leave him free from regular parish duties so as to be able to search out the poor. He was brave enough to ask for elbow-room to take care of those who were not being ministered to by the normal structures of the church. He was “deeply moved by the deplorable situation of the small towns…that had almost completely lost their faith “.
His series of Lenten sermons in the church of the Madeleine in Aix shows the direction his life would take. In his first sermon he preached to the servant class in Provençal. He spoke to them in this way, “You, the afflicted and the wretched. .. you are the children of God, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ “. Eugene thus acknowledged their dignity as human beings.
This would later feature in the Preface to the Rules of the Oblates, “help them first of all to become human… “.
- St Eugene wanted to honour the person in their current situation. Reflect on how he might have shown this to the poor to whom he ministered.
- Many of us have family members who have lost the faith. In what ways are they struggling to cope with ordinary life? In what ways can we help them in these aspects, show compassion for their situation and acknowledge their dignity as humans?
Fr Andrew Chen OMI
Br Joshua Nash OMI
Fr Christian Fini OMI
Fr Patrick Moroney OMI