Meditations to prepare for the anniversary of the first vows of November 1, 1818

From our Constitutions 25 and 39

“By obedience we become the servants of all.  Challenging the spirit of domination, we stand as a sign of that new world wherein persons recognize their close interdependence.  Religious obedience is our way of making real the freedom of the Gospel, in common submission to God’s will (cf, Gal 5:13).

Our life is governed by the demands of our apostolic mission and by the calls of the Spirit already dwelling in those to whom we are sent.  Or work makes us dependent on others in many ways; it requires real detachment from our own will and a deep sense of the Church.”  Constitution 25

“In humility and with the strength of charity, we express our responsibility for each other in fraternal correction and forgiveness.” Extract from Constitution 39

The Founder truly counted on Father Tempier: “I assure you that I consider it very important for the work of God that you be among us; I count on you more than on myself….”[1]   This bond with Eugène de Mazenod was sealed on Maundy Thursday, 1816 by a vow of reciprocal obedience. Unable to get his first collaborators to all agree to bind themselves by vows, the Founder decided to make a personal commitment with Tempier: “On April 11, 1816, we placed ourselves under the structure of the beautiful repository we had set up on the high altar of the Church of the Mission, and on the night of this holy day, we made our vows with indescribable joy… ”[2]

Father Fabre underlined this event in Father Tempier’s obituary:It was not an empty ceremony.  On both sides it was a great act, one of those acts that influence destinies. The day of eternity alone can reveal to us the number of merits for these two religious that flowed from this source. The one who remained as the first Superior all his life, also knew how to remain the first subject.  We do not know to whom to grant the better part: to the Superior who many times obeyed his subject, or to the subject who had the power to command the one whom he respected and loved as the living image of the authority of God. This is perhaps a unique fact in the history of religious congregations; we record it with the humble gratitude that comes from the gifts of God.”[3]

Father Tempier obeyed the Founder, always and everywhere; but, on the other hand, he had to exercise authority over the Founder, as their vow required. In the summer of 1816, he reminded the Founder of the care of his health during the Barjols mission: “know, at least, how to take care of yourself.  It seems to me that it would be easier to say your office at that time … So I leave that to your conscience …”[4]  But it was at the time of the Icosie affair, in 1835, that Father Tempier had to exercise an instance of his calculated anger:   “Do you or do you not want to get out of the awful position in which you find yourself? …  This is the last time, I think, that I will speak to you about all this, because I am tired of it.”[5]

The Founder was accustomed to ask someone to correct his faults. At the end of his retreat in 1813, Father de Mazenod had already made this resolution:  “10. To charge Maur[6] to apprise me of my faults in the morning at oraison.”[7]

In accord with the Rule of 1818, the Chapter appointed an admonitor, in the person of Father Tempier, who was responsible for supervising the conduct of the Superior General.[8]


In his Apostolic Letter for the Year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis said: “To live the present with passion means to become ‘experts of communion”.  And in 2015, to the religious of Rome[9] he said:  “If we have to say something true, we say it face to face, but with love   Pray before you reproach and then ask the Lord to promote love by the correction. This is a concrete love!  A sister cannot afford a love in the clouds.   No!  Love is concrete.”

It is not a question of going back to the “culp”.  But this vow of reciprocal obedience between Father Tempier and the Founder is a constitutive act of our Congregation. We invite you to take time to reflect on it, in the community or with your spiritual guide.

[1] Lettre du Fondateur à l’abbé Tempier du 15 novembre 1815, cf. collection Ecrits Oblats VI, Rome 1882, pp 11-12.
[2] Leflon tome II, p 49
[3] Notice nécrologique II, 85.
[4] Cf. lettre du P. Tempier au P. de Mazenod du 17 novembre 1818. Collection Ecrits oblats II,1 Rome 1987. p23
[5] Lettre du P. Tempier au P. de Mazenod, 24 août 1835, collection Ecrits oblats II,2 Rome 1987, pp100-101.
[6] Frère Maur est cet ancien religieux qu’Eugène choisit comme domestique dès la fin de son séminaire à Saint-Sulpice, lorsque le P. de Mazenod devient le directeur et celui-ci l’accompagne à Aix, en 1812.
[7] Cf. Ecrits Spirituels 1812-1856, Roma 1991.
[8] Règle de 1818, 3e partie, Chap I, paragraphe 3, l’admoniteur.
[9] Discours du Pape François aux religieux de Rome, Salle Paul VI, samedi 16 mai 2015