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Oblatio sequitur esse

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Oblatio sequitur esse

For many years, we have been familiar with a saying of John Paul II that a man cannot become happy otherwise than through a sincere gift of oneself (according to Gaudium et Spes 24). One form of gift is sacrifice. St. Paul writes about this in the following way: “I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, what pleasing and perfect “(Rom 12: 1-2).

Referring to the words of the Vaticanum II Fr. Francis Blachnicki, one of the fathers of the pastoral and liturgical reform in Poland, adds that first one has to be an owner of oneself, that is, in a certain way to be an owner of one’s being, to then be able to sacrifice oneself: This way of owning oneself, in order to give oneself, must be consistently pursued to the end. It is an attitude of giving and the attitude of sacrificing one’s time, strength, wealth, etc. This attitude pushed to the ultimate limits of devotion literally means to give one’s lives in sacrifice. One has to be willing to die for others, for one’s brothers, and it is only when we go to the end of this road, we enter into the fullness of life – says Blachnicki.

The first part of this text will be based on a philosophical description of the human being, presented by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, and expressed most fully in his work: “The Acting Person”. There we find the wording operari sequitur esse, which became the inspiration for me to develop a “theology of sacrifice” and referrers to the Wojtyla’s anthropology, combining both philosophical and theological approaches.

The above described attitude of giving and of sacrifice can be expressed in summary form by the Latin adagium, which is the title of my text: oblatio sequitur esse, and referrs also to Wojtyla’s thought. I will try to illustrate how the ability to sacrifice oneself – especially to God – is a well-defined quality of being human.

1. The concept of oblation

The word oblatio comes from the Latin verb offerre, i.e. to offer. Oblation is close to such expressions as sacrifice, gift of oneself, holocaust, and consecration.

In the tradition of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the concept of oblation for many years has been the subject of deep reflection. Oblation is here synonymous with religious vows, thus we speak about “perpetual oblation”. The ​​Dictionary of Oblate Values says that oblation means an act by which the Christian under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gives himself to God (p. 671). The gift of oneself is a condition a Christian comes to when they are aided by the grace of God and reflects, on a permanent basis, his surrender to God in all dimensions of the person: thought, will and action. This gift of oneself is a true oblation. Consecration is a form of an oblation, which involves the future that is entrusted into God’s hands either by an internal decision, or by external act, oral or written. Entrusting is the attitude of surrender to everything that happens, every situation authorized by God, which affects one’s existence.

Oblation is an attitude of trust, as proposed by St. Ignatius of Loyola at the end of his Spiritual Exercises, as well as similarly many other masters of the spiritual life. The Oblates make such surrender to the hands of Mary in their daily prayers. This involves a special fervor and intensity of priestly love and zeal in most difficult and demanding works.

The biblical basis of oblation is found in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus, in his person, reveals a new type of oblation, which involves the whole person, because it gives his life as ransom for many (Mk 10, 45); and teaches that even his disciples are called to this kind of sacrifice (Mt 10, 39). Jesus’ oblation is unique and is perpetuated in the Eucharist. Human oblation is always done through the oblation of Christ, it has therefore Christological foundation.

The desire for a permanent oblation may result in a person entering the religious life, where vows are seen as a form of a definitive oblation. Perpetual vows express the will of a person of total submission to God and an irrevocable offering of oneself.

2. Anthropological foundation

To analyze the conditions to be met by a human person in order to fulfill the act of oblation, I turn now to the philosophical thought of Karol Wojtyla. In carrying out the existential insight into the human condition, he points out that the human being (esse) is determined by two processes:

  • vegetative level, which is characterized by a high degree unawareness (e.g. heartbeat),
  • the experiential level in which a person experiences that he or she is the author of one’s acts.

At the level of experience we encounter consciousness, which emerges as a basis for responsible action. This fact distinguishes the vegetative dynamism from conscious human actions. In classical philosophy there is a division between human act and act of the human. Wojtyla describes this division as imprecise, because every human act (actus humanus) is at the same time an act of the human (actus hominis). What can help to better distinguish the difference of both concepts is the moment of causation, i.e., the human capacity for experiencing the fact that one is the cause of one’s own actions. In this way, every conscious act engages the whole person, not just one’s mind.

The experience of the causality that we see in humans appears to be the basic criterion by which the human person can make differentiations between what only happens, from what is the proper act of a person (action). The human person, and especially one’s moral values, becomes the first material (subject) of one’s own creativity.

3. Offerre (oblatio) sequitur esse

The fundamental truth about the human being, according to Wojtyla, is that one is first an existing being, and only secondarily an acting being. To give oneself, one must first and foremost exist. Wojtyla refers to the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, who distinguishes the essence from the existence, while pointing out to the contingency of the latter. The existence occupies a privileged place as an act. Any dynamics that occur in the human person as an entity remains secondary to the original dynamism, which is one’s existence that is esse.

Oblatio sequitur esse because the presence of an act of offering oneself depends on the existence of the human being. The basis of all human activity is one’s nature (humanity), which permeates the entire person.

What is the way of human existence? Any dynamics in the human person, being associated with humanity (nature and subject), is also really personal. There is no place for real affirmation of the human person without acknowledging the fact of one’s existence – and even the right to exist.

It can be argued that the understanding of the human being as a subject and as a value (as a gift) assumes a pre-existing ontological structure of the person. Axiological human understanding must be preceded by understanding on the ontological level.

Using the principles of St. Thomas Aquinas, particularly distinguishing between essence and existence, we can conclude that all actions and acts are integrated into the person. The element that connects what just happens in us and our conscious actions, as mentioned above, is our very existence (esse). To be able to sacrifice means first to just be!

One of the most important conditions of being (esse), for someone who has the ability to sacrifice oneself, is freedom. An encounter with another person is the beginning, the birth, of a responsible freedom. Freedom allows boundaries, because each person is limited by the freedom of others. John Paul II said that individual freedom is inseparable from freedom of all other people, so that there is no freedom without solidarity.

As previously mentioned, according to Wojtyla, the human person fulfills him/herself through the moral good of their actions. Moreover, without reference to God one cannot protect liberty against fraud. Human freedom is a condition whereby it is possible to praise God through others, in dialogue with “you” and God, for His part, does not rule out human freedom, but instead God raises it to the peak of perfection.

4. Oblatio as a way fulfilling one’s life

The human person is ontologically marked by the Highest Good in such a way that one cannot be fulfilled as a person other than through boundless love and responsibility. Wojtyla says that to fulfill oneself and to be happy is almost the same reality; to be a fulfilled human being and realizing that being a person means to be good, are very close.

The conditions set for fulfilling oneself and one’s readiness to self-sacrifice are primarily truth and freedom. Following in the footsteps of Wojtyla, we can conclude that the fulfillment of a person in action points to the close relationship between freedom and truth. This is an anthropological basis for self-fulfillment. A mere liberty does not lead to the ability of offering oneself, but is its condition sine qua non. The issue at stake here is not the very possibility of being autonomous, but of liberating oneself within oneself in order to fulfill one’s human existence by truth. The fulfillment of freedom in the truth, or on the basis of the relationship to the truth, is equivalent to self-actualization and brings a true happiness in the dimension of the person.

A person fulfills oneself if they use well one’s freedom – i.e. does so in the light of truth and the true good is reflected through a good conscience. Freedom comes about through the desire and choice of true good. The human person is called to victory over oneself, over what restrains one’s free will and makes it impossible to live in truth and love. Such is the condition for fulfilling oneself, which is accomplished by acts of moral goodness. Truth and freedom are the basis for the possibility of self-offering (oblatio) through the love of God and another human being.

It is essential for human happiness to have relationships with other people, because participation (solidarity in being human) unites people, and this brings about happiness – to the highest extent, in relation to God. The highest form of happiness for a Christian is union with God in love and total sacrifice of oneself (oblatio).

The ability to sacrifice oneself is possible through the structure associated with the experience of action, the transcendence of the person in action. On this basis we come to the conclusion that freedom and responsibility are the conditions of sacrificing oneself in the love of God. Freedom oriented towards truth is acquired with great difficulty. Pope Francis adds in this context that in order for a person to come to maturity, which is to achieve the ability of truly free and responsible decisions, requires enormous time and patience.

We can express this truth differently and perhaps even more profoundly: the human person cannot be truer than in loving – free to be responsible. Freedom without responsibility is the antithesis of love. That is a great call to the affirmation of the human person and one’s neighbor. Towards the fullness of freedom leads a radical act of love, expressed most fully by oblation, which largely depends the meaningfulness of human existence.

5. Theology of oblatio

A general rule is that the more healthy and mature a person is in both mental and moral dimensions, the easier it is to develop within the spiritual life. When a person is healthy in nature, it becomes easier to receive grace.  This grace does not destroy one’s nature, but perfects it as belief in God does not exempt one from their obligation of achieving maturity and develop their talents. Union with God and personal happiness also depends on the degree of integration of the personality and the quality of interpersonal relationships. Grace, in a sense, facilitates maturation of the human psyche. A fully mature Christian will also normally be a mature human being who has defeated his self-centeredness and is opened to transcendence and solidarity. The Gospel proposes to people a new dignity as a child of God, and the ability to offer oneself up in love (oblatio).

Looking at the human person we find the fact of being created, which includes both the existence of the spiritual and corporeal. The human soul is revealed through physicality – for example, through facial expressions and other forms of non-verbal communication. The most important type of affective messages, motivations, intentions or passions are often communicated through nonverbal language.

The body on the other hand covers the spirit and remains impenetrable for recognition. The soul reveals itself through the body in an ambiguous way and its understanding requires a careful reasoning based on knowledge of where the acts come from in order to come to know the existence and nature of the soul. The body also appears as fragile, prone to injury and disease and puts forth many challenges that rely on controlling inclinations and impulses.

Looking at the human person from the point of view of theology, it is necessary to mention also the reality of sin; such is the human condition. Sin is a very personal act, but cannot be reduced solely to the act of an individual, or to their totals. Each sin is an implicitly contained attitude toward another, which determines a person’s life. Sin interferes with one’s relationship with the whole of creation, but also with the spiritual world, and finally with God. The source of sin is pride, revealing a desire to become independent from God and to take his place and is often expressed in the desire for immediate pleasure. The human person is still tempted to make the world his first idol, despite many moments of feeling its inadequacy.

The Word of God gives the human person the ability to accept this basic tear, which is an excessive attachment to one’s own I. Thanks to the adoption in faith of a painful truth about human sinfulness one can in the way of love, by a gift of oneself, become in this world more and more the image of God.

The human person inevitably is confronted with one’s own finitude and suffering. If in this situation one rests solely on the strength of one’s own I, a person will not be able to escape from despair against the threat of one’s demise. However, if one begins to exceed one’s own “self” and take the risk of loving servitude, one finds a new meaning to one’s existence that this world cannot take away, as Jesus says.

The human person is a being who is fulfilled by making out of oneself a gift for others (GS 24). The human person is one’s own property only when one is one’s own master, and further, when one gives oneself to others. Internal fulfillment of a person is made in the space between “me” and “you”.

The human person cannot live without love. One remains an incomprehensible being, meaningless, if one does not encounter love; if one does not experience it; if one does not love; if one does not participate in it.

Spiritual development proceeds through reciprocal influence of supernatural communion, the gift of God’s grace, and the specific human personality.  This becomes a gift of God and a human effort. Each person has unique gifts and abilities, but on the other hand, is shaped by influences from the environment. Maintaining an appropriate direction to grow in this context requires considerable effort on the part of the human person.

As a creature the human person still encounters all sorts of limitations of existence, yet on the other hand, as a spiritual being is able to transcend many of them. The human spirit is open – especially to receive God. The soul is not identical to God, but it has something of the divine limitlessness, is a kind of vast empty space that demands to be filled. The human person never satisfies something less than God, and in the sense of action a total gift of oneself. The nature of love is the desire to entrust one’s life to the person one loves. In this sense, obedience lies in the human nature.

The human person is spiritually mature to the extent to which one is able to cross one’s limits. This is particularly true of psycho-physical limitations. The body, when healthy, does not draw attention to itself, however when the body is sick, it will. Through the body a person can enter into relationship with other things, especially other people. The human person is not created to remain in captivity of his own body, but to transcend it. The very word existence indicates a move towards the outside (ex). In a way only the one who is capable of such a move, is truly free, because being a human is apparent the most when it is being for others.

6. Conclusions

The ability to sacrifice oneself in the name of Christian love (oblatio) is one of the most beautiful characteristics of holiness. This ability is not a natural gift a person receives when coming into the world. It is rather a task to be completed and an ability to be achieved through God’s grace. As illustrated in this text the first is the existence (esse) of the human person, and only from this form of existence flows action. The peak of human action is love, and even more specifically the ability to sacrifice oneself through the love of God (oblatio). Given the complicated human esse, the challenge to be ready to sacrifice oneself is a task that never ends.

The primary step in the implementation of the main task of spiritual life is to achieve the ability of being an owner of oneself, in short, authentic freedom. Freedom shall be responsible and bound by the truth, especially by revealed truth.

Cooperating with grace, the human person becomes first occasionally capable of acting out of love, which also means sacrificing oneself in different situations. In this way, the human person is capable of specific oblative acts. As one grows in freedom and truth, i.e. as one becomes more an owner of oneself, the human person comes gradually to an oblative attitude and constant disposal of giving oneself in love to God and to people.

Being one’s owner in offering oneself makes oblatio an attitude that becomes a source of happiness for the person. The joy of this gift is the result of a long process of maturation in the Christian life, which reaches its fulfillment in personal holiness.

Andrzej JASTRZEBSKI, OMI

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The De Mazenod Experience at the service of the charism

studies

Introduction

Animation of the Oblate charism is the primary ministry of the recently constituted Oblate International community of Aix. The De Mazenod Experience (DMX) is at the heart of this community and its ministry. In this presentation I intend to speak of the DMX program at the service of the Oblate Charism.

1. The De Mazenod Experience (DMX)
The DMX is one of the General Administration’ services entrusted to the Oblate International Community of Aix for its animation. A recent work-session between the community of Aix and the General Administration defined the De Mazenod Experience as “a time of spiritual renewal, lived in Aix, the ‘Holy Land’ of the Oblates.”

The DMX is a renewal program which aims, especially, at enabling the participants to look back over their experience of the Oblate charism in the everyday life of their mission and ministry. They do so in an atmosphere of prayer, reflection and fraternal sharing.

The DMX is above all an “Experience” rather than a course, participants are invited to make an experience of the Oblate charism as opposed to studying it. The Experience takes place in Aix, in the house where it all began; making pilgrimages in the places of historic Oblate interest, walking in the footsteps and breathing the same air as our Founder and his first companions.

The DMX is one of the recommended ongoing formation programs for the Oblates. Its program serves as a response to the call of article no.47 of our Constitutions and Rules which states that “Formation is a process which aims at the integral growth of a person and lasts a lifetime… It involves us in an ever-renewed conversion to the Gospel.”[i]

2. Historical Background
The DMX program has its origins in the decision of the General Chapter of 1953 which introduced to the Congregation the Second Novitiate, which, a year later, was to be renamed the De Mazenod Retreat. The first De Mazenod Retreat, given in French, was held in Rome. Subsequently, more retreats followed fairly regularly, in French or English, and were held in Rome, France, Canada, and the United States.[ii]

The General Chapter of 1972 ended the organization of the Retreat at the Congregational level and recommended that Regions should establish their own sessions for spiritual and pastoral renewal. Finally, the 1986 Chapter launched the program called the De Mazenod Experience and chose Aix as a home for such an Experience.[iii] The eligible participants for the program are Oblates of the entire Congregation with at least 10 years in perpetual vows.

Today, over forty De Mazenod Experiences have been held at Aix, and almost 580 Oblates have participated in the program. The last three Experiences were held in 2014, in Spanish and in English, respectively, and the last one in 2015, was in English.

Recently, the De Mazenod Experience has been rethought in the light of the call to conversion of the last General Chapter.

3. Essential elements of the De Mazenod Experience: The Program
The following are the essential elements of the DMX which were clearly defined at a work-session between the General Administration and the Oblate International community of Aix at the beginning of 2015. The essential elements are grouped into phases which together form a two months DMX program.

Phase I: Progressive Integration, sharing, community prayer, pilgrimage in Aix – in the footsteps of Saint Eugene. Fundamental question: How does the Founder’s life inspire my own?

Phase II: History of the Congregation and the first Oblate community. Fundamental question: How does the life and experience of the first Oblates inspire my own mission?

Phase III: Oblate charism. Fundamental question: What is my personal experience of the charism?

Phase IV: Concerning the present missionary outlook of the Congregation, with the presence of a member of the General Administration. Fundamental question: What are the challenges of the Congregation’s mission and how do they align with the challenges of my own mission?

Phase V: Reintegration, Renewal of Vows and Re-commissioning.

A 15 days retreat based on Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, as well as pilgrimages in Aix, Marseille and to the First Missions preached by the Missionaries of Provence, form an integral part of the program.

4. DMX Objectives
From the above elements the following is deduced as the main objectives of the Experience:

I. Reflection on personal experience

The DMX aims at helping the participants to reflect on their personal experience. The idea is to help the participants to remember the history of their journey of faith with God, to be more aware how God has always been present on their journey. Integration in an international community through reflection, prayer, sharing and pilgrimages in Aix, in the footsteps of Saint Eugene, is essential to achieve this objective.

Inspired by the teachings of Marcello Zago which states that,

“Each Oblate draws from the Founder the spirit which animates him, he finds in the Founder a life model. We must never be tired or bored of developing a personal relationship, a more intimate bond, with Eugene… Eugene still remains a living person with whom we have a personal relationship, as a saint to imitate, a founder to follow, a teacher to heed, an intercessor to invoke and above all as a father to love…”[iv]

Therefore the Founder’s life and experience becomes the point of departure, hence the pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Eugene in Aix, Marseille and in The First Missions preached by Missionaries of Provence; allowing the participants to seek inspiration in the Founder’s life and experience.

II. Deeper understanding of the History of the Congregation

To understand and appreciate our identity it is important that we go back to the past and reflect on the origins and history of our Oblate family. Allowing ourselves to be inspired by our forefathers by their life and experience as affirmed by Pope Francis in his letter to the Consecrated,

Recounting our history is essential for preserving our identity, for strengthening our unity as a family and our common sense of belonging. It calls for following in the footsteps of past generations in order to grasp the high ideals, and the vision and values which inspired them. In this way we come to see how the charism has been lived over the years, the creativity it has sparked, the difficulties it encountered and the concrete ways those difficulties were surmounted.”[v]

The DMX aims at helping the participants to appreciate our oblate family by deepening their understanding of its history and origins.

III. Reflection on a lived experience of the Oblate charism

The Oblate charism is something alive and dynamic and every generation expresses it in a new way. The DMX provides the participants with a conducive atmosphere to reflect and share with each other their personal experience of the charism, in that way the charism is deepened in one’s life.

Our charism is not a statement, it is a story to be told. “To tell our story is to praise God and thank him for his gifts.”[vi] Grateful remembrance of the past and retelling their story leads the participants to implement ever more fully and deepen the essential aspects of the charism in their lives and mission.

IV. Personal Conversion

The General Chapter of 2010 called the entire Congregation to, a profound personal and communal conversion to Jesus Christ. The Chapter theme reads: “Centered on the person of Jesus Christ, we commit ourselves to a profound personal and communal conversion for the sake of our Oblate Mission.”[vii] Fr. Louis Lougen, in his Letter of 8th December writes,

What could be more essential, more fundamental, and more life-filled for our consecrated missionary lives than this call? …by affirming the call to conversion, has made the option for the rebirth of the Congregation. We are called to say no to death and stagnation, and, through the Spirit who makes all things new, we are to be revitalized in the Oblate charism.”[viii]

The DMX seeks to provide the participants with an environment to help them hear again this fundamental call to conversion and a change of heart. The entire program is meant to help participants to live together, harmoniously, in an international community, to be more consistent in prayer and reflection, and then cross the cultural boundaries, in this way participants are led to a realization of a need for personal conversion, that their whole life style as missionaries has to change if they are to continue to witness to Jesus Christ to the most abandoned in more creative and effective ways. For “Conversion starts in our hearts and among ourselves, and once it has started, we will clearly see that the whole world is in need of conversion.” [ix]

V. Congregation’s Missionary outlook

It is vital for the participants of the DMX to reflect on the Congregation’s mission, simply, because “we are a missionary congregation”.[x] Mission, in its specific sense, makes up our very identity![xi] The De Mazenod Experience allows the participants to examine their fidelity to the mission entrusted to them with an aim to enkindle in their heart the spirit of missionary availability, daring and zeal.

Since the DMX is one of the General Administration’ services, one of the crucial moments of the DMX is the presence of a member of the General Administration (for a specific period of time) during the DMX program. This presence exposes the participants to a missionary outlook and the current reality of the Congregation. Participants are given an opportunity to reflect together with the whole Congregation on the missionary needs of the Church and on how we as Oblates see these needs and respond to them.

Participants are familiarized with the priorities of the whole Congregation. By becoming aware of the Congregations global mission and reality, participants are called to align their particular mission to that of the whole Congregation.

VI. Renewal and Re-commissioning

Spiritual renewal, achieved through reflection in an atmosphere of prayer and fraternal sharing, is at the heart of the DMX program. The participants are not in Aix to stay; they have come that they might return home with a renewed zeal for mission and community life; that they might yet again leave nothing undared!

Article 9 of our Constitution and rules remind us that as Oblates “We are members of the prophetic Church… We will hear and make heard the clamour of the voiceless, which is a cry to God….”[xii] After two months of prayer, reflection, sharing and pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Eugene, it is expected that those who participate in the program arrive at a certain level of spiritual and vocation renewal, that they would hear afresh the call of Christ and generously respond so to be sent out as Prophets “to wake up the world.”[xiii]

A special liturgical celebration is prepared at the end of the Experience. During this celebration participants renew their Vows, they receive anew their Oblate Crosses and are sent out to mission.

5. The De Mazenod Experience at the service of the charism

The charism remains a gift to be welcomed and made to bear fruit. It is a grace to be asked. Like the Apostles after Christ’s Ascension, the DMX participants are called to gather in the Upper Room ‘together with Mary the Mother of Jesus’ in order to pray for the Spirit and to gain strength and courage to carry out the missionary mandate. We all, like the Apostles, need to be transformed and guided by the Spirit. In this prayer of invocation to the Spirit are united to us the Oblates in heaven and especially Eugene de Mazenod, whom with the whole Church we venerate as saint and our intercessor.

The DMX program is at the service of the charism in a sense that it provides a framework within which the Oblate charism can be lived and experienced by the participants, at the cradle of the Congregation, where it all began. The DMX program opens to the participants the source and origin of the charism. Consequently, the participants are able to experience the charism in a new way as being alive today; as a result, they are exhorted to find new and creative ways to express and retell the story of our charism in their own particular contexts.

I. Participants Testimonies

From the final evaluations of the program by the participants and from their testimonies, the DMX can be said to be a success in many levels. The following are the extracts from some of the participants’ testimonies of the charism lived in the context of DMX:

“The time that I have spent in Aix, has been for me a time of profound life-giving sharing, personal reflection, and a serious evaluation of my life as a Person, a Christian and more over as an Oblate. This has been for me a time to celebrate who I am as a person and as an Oblate, time of self-affirmation, self- appreciation and self-acceptance. But also this time has been a moment of a deep call to conversion and renewal. In moments of prolonged silence prayer and reflection, I have been able to look back and realized how the Lord has been present in my life and how He has faithfully journeyed with me…I feel renewed and called to holiness. I feel grounded in virtue, in touch with the Founder and ready to share with the world the Mercy and Tenderness of God. Through this experience, I have come to understand St. Eugene de Mazenod, I have once again fallen in Love with him, his charism and his spirit, I am really on fire, burning with love for Christ, thanks to the De Mazenod Experince!”

“I am blessed that I participated in the de Mazenod Experience… It was really a graceful moment in my life as a Missionary Oblate and priest. After being a priest for 19 years, I felt that my energy was slowly decreasing… there was a dryness and some feelings of boredom and emptiness in my life… I knew that I needed a break. I needed a new inspiration in my heart, I longed for my earlier motivations when I was a younger Oblate and Priest.

I thank God that I was given the opportunity, just in time, to participate in the De Mazenod Experience. Through the Experience I became more aware that I was in a transition period from “human doing” to “human being.” I realized that since my first assignment as a priest, I have somehow lost my identity as a Missionary Oblate… Thanks to the De Mazenod Experience, today, I’ve come to realize and embrace the fact that I am only a human being, with many limitations and weaknesses. And yet God loves me so much, He asks me to witness to His love through my daily life. I am very grateful to have participated in the De Mazenod Experience that I could be reminded that I am still loved by God!”

“The Experience helped me to situate my own vocation in relationship to that of St. Eugene… I have gained some understanding of how God has worked in my life to make me the priest and religious that I am today. I was specially moved to walk in the footsteps of St. Eugene, to gather with fellow Oblates in the room where it all began, to celebrate Mass with the chalice from which St. Eugene himself drank and to share fellowship with men from around the world who call themselves the sons of De Mazenod…”

II. My personal experience

I am grateful to have participated twice in the DMX, in 2014 as a preparation and formation for my ministry in Aix and in 2015 as an animator. These have been very important and powerful moments of grace in my life as an Oblate where I have witnessed the Oblate charism being shared, celebrated and learned in a profound way.

St. Eugene was never an important figure in my life. I didn’t know much about him and most of what I knew about him was rather negative. I always thought of myself as not an ideal Oblate according to St. Eugene’s standards, that had he been around he would have kicked me out long time ago. Through the DMX, a totally different side of St. Eugene has been opened to me. I have come to discover him and to identify with him in many aspects of his life. A passion for him grows within me with every session that I get to animate. There is a desire within me to grow in a relationship with him and to make him known.

During the DMX the Founder and his vision becomes alive. Based on my experience, I have, through DMX, encountered St. Eugene, a young man, lively and impetuous, with impassioned desires. The DMX has laid bare the heart of St. Eugene before me, a generous heart with ‘an immense capacity to love’, a heart that knew no limits when comes to loving, and I have personally fallen in love with his heart, my desire is to lead others deep into the heart of our Beloved Founder. In St. Eugene I’ve encountered a broken young man in search of meaning, love and friendship, whose encounter with the Crucified Christ brings healing and meaning and changes his entire life. In short, in St. Eugene I have encountered a human being fully alive.[xiv]

His passionate love for Jesus Christ and the Church inspires me to work hard in deepening my personal relationship with Christ. The way he embraced the Cross, in its different forms, allowing himself to be formed by it, gives me courage to faithfully carry mine. His thirst for holiness and to do all things for the glory of God and the salvation of souls has given me a new purpose in my life.

Through the DMX I have witnessed all aspects of our charism come alive. I have had an opportunity to meet and live with some extraordinary men from different backgrounds who come together to build a life-giving community with one heart and one soul, centred on charity. I have witnessed them being attentive to the person of Jesus Christ at the centre of their mission. I’ve listened to the stories regarding their closeness to the poor and the most abandoned. These are simple men who love the Church and who daily give of themselves, generously, in spreading the Good News. I have witnessed the movement of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the DMX participants. The unity of the congregation and its mission is strengthened by the cross-border friendships created during the DMX.

A number of these men arrive in Aix often tired and worn out after years in ministry, it is a fulfilling experience to send them out, after a successful program, renewed, full of life and hope, joyful, burning with zeal and on fire with love for Jesus and His Church!

The DMX has enkindled my hope as a young Oblate, I have come to value our charism and our beloved Founder. I am convinced that our charism is still valid, alive and needed more than ever before in our world today. I uphold what Fr. Louis tells us in his December 8th letter, “I do not accept the ‘death theory’ that proposes in certain places that we have done our work, that we are no longer needed in the Church and so we can die in peace. The Church needs consecrated men living the Oblate charism, because the poor and most abandoned continue to be with us and need to hear the Gospel.”[xv]

Thanks to the DMX, today I feel challenged to make our charism known by living it more authentically in my own life! I feel passionate and inspired by our charism, I am on fire with love for our beloved Founder and our oblate family and I affirm that there is indeed something unique about us as Oblates, something to be celebrated and appreciated.

Conclusion

I concur with Richard McAlear, who animated the DMX in the past, that “the DMX has made a great contribution to the life of the congregation and has the potential to continue to have an impact.”[xvi] It is my wish that more and more Oblates could have an opportunity in the future to participate in the DMX program for their renewal and the renewal of the entire oblate family.

Bonga Majola OMI

June 22, 2015

Bibliography


[i] OMI CC&RR #47
[ii] Jo Bois, CIEM Archives, Aix
[iii] Jo Bois, CIEM Archives, Aix
[iv] Letter of Superior General, Marcello Zago, to the Oblates in First Formation – Jan 25 1995 Rome
[v] Pope Francis, Letter to all Consecrated people, Chapter I, Para #I
[vi] Pope Francis, Letter to all Consecrated people, Chapter I, Para #I
[vii] Acts of the 35th General Chapter, “Conversion” , 2010
[viii] Letter of Superior General, Louis Lougen, to the Congregation, Dec 8 2014 – Tamatave, Madagascar
[ix] Report of Superior General, Wilhelm Steckling, 35th General chapter, p.7. Sep 8 2010 -Rome
[x] OMI CC&RR #5
[xi] Letter of Superior General, Wilhelm Steckling, Oblate Mission Today, Nov 21 2006 – Rome
[xii] OMI CC&RR #9
[xiii] Pope Francis, Letter to all Consecrated people, Chapter II, Para #2
[xiv] Cf. A. Hubenig, Living in the Spirit’s fire…, p. 42 – 46
[xv] Letter of Superior General, Louis Lougen, to the Congregation, Dec 8 2014 – Tamatave, Madagascar
[xvi] Published in Oblatio, no. IV -2015/1, p.31
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