The Eucharist from the perspective of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
The Eucharist lies at the heart of the Oblate’s life just as it does at the heart of every Christian’s life. As source and summit of the Church’s life, it cannot be reduced to a devotional practice. We must then grasp the full meaning it has in our overall faith vision.
St. Eugene de Mazenod, the Founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, was favoured with an experience and a view of the Eucharist which constituted the foundation of his teaching to the Oblates as well as to Christians to whom he ministered as a missionary and then as bishop of Marseilles, in the South of France. Put back into the context of the particular era in which he lived, namely the early to mid-19th century, they showed themselves to rather profound and original.
In the earlier part of the 19th century there seemed to be an outward appearance of this devotion falling into disuse, though in practice, in the everyday lives of the faithful, it continued to exercise considerable influence, resulting in the separation between the devotion and the Eucharist, between the spiritual life and the liturgical life. Throughout his life St. Eugene would go against this tendency. First as a missionary and the as a bishop, he would encourage the people to approach the Eucharist with confidence. In addition, he seemed to know how to set Eucharistic devotion in a broader and richer perspective. The Crucified Christ had touched his life in a radical way during his spiritual search prior to his discernment of his priestly vocation. Both St. Eugene’s pastoral practice and his teaching as bishop were coloured by his personal experience of the Eucharist. In his pastoral letters one would see three major themes emerging:
The Eucharist is at the centre of the entire Christian mystery because it is Christ himself.
To speak of the Eucharist is to speak of Christ at the culminating moment of his life here on earth, the moment he gives himself for us out of love.
By allowing every Christian to become united with Christ, the Eucharist leads all the faithful to be united among themselves.
For St. Eugene, the unity brought about by the Eucharist is an experience which harks back to the time of his youth when, upon entering a church he was seized by the feeling of ‘catholicity’ by the idea of being a member of the great family that has God himself as its head.
In a letter to Fr. Lacombe at one of the missionary communities in Canada, dated March 06, 1857, St. Eugene de Mazenod wrote,
You could not believe how much I think in the presence of God of our dear Red River missionaries. I have only one way of drawing near to them, and that is in front of the Blessed Sacrament, where I seem to see you and touch you. And you for your part must often be in Hispresence. It is thus that we meet each other in that living centre which serves as our means of communication.
If the Eucharist is truly the source and summit of our lives, we should surely take full advantage of what is offered to us through this most exceptional gift from the Lord.
Fr James Ralston
References used over the past four days:
Ciardi, F. O.M.I. et als, 2000. Dictionary of Oblate Values, Rome
Dobson, T. E. 1984. How the Eucharist Can Transform Your Life: Mahwah, NJ, Paulist Press
Jones, A. (General Editor) 1968. The New Jerusalem Bible – Popular Edition: London, Darton, Longman & Todd
Nuener, J. S.J. and Dupuis, J. S.J. Eds., 1992. The Christian Faith: Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church.: India, Theological Publications.
Pennock, M. 2007. This is our Faith: A Catholic Catechism for Adults.: Notre Dame, Indiana, Ave Maria Press
Rayappu, B. O.M.I;. (translator) 1984. Selected Texts related to the O.M.I. Constitutions and Rules: Rome, Spedim Press,
Smolarski, D. C. S.J., 1995. Sacred Mysteries – Sacramental Principles and Liturgical Practice: Mahwah, New Jersey, Paulist Press
Sri, E. 2010. A Biblical Walk Through The Mass – understanding what we say and do in the liturgy: West Chester, Pennsylvania, Ascension Press