Joel Faye is a missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate originally from Sénegal, he is currently finishing his studies at the Italian Scholasticate in Vermicino. He recently spent a week with the community in Aix preparing himself for his Final Oblation, on Sunday 1st March he professed his Final Vows in Rome; here he shares his Aix Experience with us,
“To live my preparation for perpetual oblation where it all began for our congregation is an exceptional grace. It was for me, the invitation of our Lord to go aside with him, accompanied by Saint Eugene to stay in what I consider to be our ‘Bethlehem.’ The graces of this moment of spiritual nutrition can still be felt even today and I pray that, like Mary, I will be able to meditate and keep this in the bottom of my heart like a precious treasure that is rooted in the gratitude and acknowledgment that accompanied this experience. Thus, it will be the Bethlehem (house of bread) that I will carry with me to nourish my spiritual life and find strength in difficult times.
Aix is for me our holy land, one of our sanctuaries, a suitable place for what has been my preparation for perpetual oblation, because not only did I come into contact with the physical place of our birth as a congregation, (places which constituted different phases of Saint Eugene de Mazenod towards his total offering to God, to the Church and to his brethren.) In addition, I was also in contact with our Oblate charism. Being in Aix was a pilgrimage, an interior and physical exodus, for example going to Saint Laurent du Verdon was for me like going up to Mount Sinai and questioning myself about the meaning that I give to our Rule of Life in relation to the experience I have made.
Barjol was a moment to rejoice once again in my choice of missionary life for its beauty lived in community and to let the fiery flame of the proclamation of the Gospel rise to the surface for those who are most abandoned. The moment of prayer, meditating on the conversion of Eugene on a Good Friday, with the Oblate Cross in the cathedral of Aix, the same place where he had his Experience, was a call to my personal and permanent conversion.
The house of Aix as such with some of its particularly symbolic places facilitated my dialogues with Saint Eugene. For example, in his room from where he prepared his correspondence with the Oblates, seated on his chair I wrote him a letter telling him about my life, the feelings that animated me and asking for his paternal and affectionate guidance and his intercession. This experience provoked within me a strong feeling of trust in God and a deep feeling of belonging to our religious family, because I did not make this experience alone but I was with other Oblate brothers of the community of Aix but also with others from various horizons, that maybe, I will never see again, but Oblate charity, Eugene’s testament, made us live the joy of fraternity and will certainly keep us united in prayer.
I will preciously keep in my heart this moment of grace and blessing which I lived in Aix during my preparation for the total gift of myself for the Reign of God. I wish that all those who are inspired by Saint Eugene could be able to meet him there in Aix because he is waiting for us there, and there, one is able to make an awesome experience of personal contact with him.
Joel Faye OMI