On the 14th of September this year, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate will convene for the 37th General Chapter in Rome. The Chapter will be celebrated on the 200th anniversary of the beautiful experience of Eugene in front of Mary, when he felt one of his highest consolations, in a difficult circumstance of his life and of the life of the Society he had founded. The General Chapter gathers representatives from all of the oblate provinces, delegations and missions throughout the world. It is the largest decision-making body of the congregation and happens every 6 years. During the General Chapter, a new superior general will be elected from the Congregation. The representatives will hear input from various regions, discern together the needs of the Congregation and vote on important decisions.
For this month’s Moments of Grace, we take time to reflect on the theme of the General Chapter, Pilgrims of Hope in Communion, and how it is relevant in our own lives.
I can recall some of the conversations that I had with De Mazenod Family members during the Lenten Program this year, and one that has stuck with me is that God knows the masterplan, beyond what we can possibly comprehend in our human minds.
God is bigger!
Yes, God is always much more than what I can conceive or even imagine. I am a pilgrim who goes forward, little by little embracing that Mystery in itself unfathomable. And I’m not alone; all of humanity is on a pilgrimage journey, perhaps along different paths. Always open to the Mystery, as pilgrims, we must leave behind so many things that get in our way. A pilgrimage is an act of faith, an act of full trust. Some even compare it to jumping into the void. Pilgrimage is accepting the challenge of tentatively reaching out toward the footsteps of the One who is at the origin and draws us towards the goal. We believe that in Jesus, God has become a pilgrim, travelling to meet us. And this forces us into a permanent and active contemplation of what is happening and who is walking by our side. For this reason, in any circumstance and at any age, we must be open to God’s surprises and take risks, venture down those new paths that the Spirit places before us.
So today, as we begin this very intentional pilgrimage, may we hold close to our hearts that St Eugene is with us, guiding us as we walk these paths together.
As a pilgrim of faith, what are the inspirations of the Spirit that I feel in order to be able to better embrace the Mystery of God and the mystery of my Oblate/St Eugene/De Mazenod vocation? What do I have to give up? What new path should I take? What is my dream (our dream) so that the whole Oblate family can make a pilgrimage growing in faith?
The Dream of Communion
It seems that this pandemic we are suffering has drowned, like a tsunami, all our dreams. In addition to the direct victims who have suffered, there is talk of the long-term consequences. Cases of mental illness and suicide have increased, especially in the younger population. To escape so much suffering and anguish, some have immersed themselves in the virtual world that, without adequate discernment, alienates us and dries us up spiritually. What a paradox that for the majority, their only dream for the future is to return to what there was before! Go back to pre-pandemic normalcy after everything we’re going through? The truth is that perhaps we do not dare to dream otherwise. They have robbed us of our ability to dream! Who dares today to speak of a new heaven and a new earth where justice dwells (2Peter 3,13 – But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.)? Who defends Jesus’ dream “that all may be one like You Father in me and I in You” (Jn 17:21 – that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us,[a] so that the world may believe that you have sent me.)? Who dreams with Saint Eugene that in our communities and homes, we are to be of one heart and one soul? Our communities are called to be like a sacrament, an effective sign of the “dreams of God” in each particular context, since “the characteristic of a local community is to be a prophetic sign that gives the world reasons to hope in the search for integrity and harmony” (C.91)
As a pilgrim of communion, how do I feel that God is asking me to collaborate in the dream of Jesus Christ of realizing humankind as reconciled, fraternal and in communion? What is my dream for humanity, for the Church, for the Congregation and the Oblate family? What steps can we take to make the Oblate family a sacrament of these dreams?
Servants of Hope
In Australia, we find ourselves living in an increasingly secular society. As Christian and Catholic people living this every day, we can often see ourselves as servants who sow hope. Being servants is a call that the pilgrim must accept if we are to understand what the Spirit asks of us as individuals, as a congregation, or as a Church. As we journey, as we take on pilgrimage, we can place ourselves at the service of the poorest. Putting oneself at the forefront of service is already, in itself, a reason of hope, not only for the poor, but for ourselves. To know who we are and where we are going, we must put ourselves at service, as did Jesus who told us to do so in memory of Him (John 13:1-15). To put ourselves at the service of others, we need to be humble. This isn’t our mission, but the mission of God, One and Triune. We are not the protagonists; only Jesus and the poor can be that. They are not our programs, or our strategies: we are the servants – coworkers – not the saviours. Perhaps we are simply called to “unleash processes whose fruits will be gathered by others, with hope placed in the secret forces of the good that is sown” (Evangelli Gaudium 196). What is “ours” is to put ourselves always a the service of the most abandoned (OMI Constitution 5).
As a pilgrim of hope, what do I have to do to be a servant of hope in my current context? What processes are we called to begin personally, as a Congregation, as an Oblate family? What is my dream (our dream) as to how the Oblate family should respond to being servants of the most abandoned?
Pilgrims of Hope in Communion
In this video, members of Oblate Youth Australia share with us their reflections on the theme for the 37th General Chapter.
Prayer for the 37th General Chapter
Finally, we invite you to continue to pray for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate as they prepare for this graced moment in the life of the Congregation.
God of Infinite Goodness,
We thank you for all the blessings, poured out upon our Congregation and our extended Oblate family. As we approach our General Chapter, we call for a fresh outpouring of your Holy Spirit.
We are grateful to you for our charism gifted to us through our Founder, St. Eugene, and kept alive through the dedicated lives of all who live that charism with creative fidelity and apostolic zeal.
On this pilgrimage of hope, set our hearts on fire and give us new life to carry out our mission, strengthen our resolve to be in communion with you, with one another and with our broken world.
In our service to the poor and suffering, grant us a renewal of our lives and a greater commitment and dedication to our mission.
We offer this prayer, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, and through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, St. Eugene and our Blessed Oblates.