1. Introduction
  2. The ends of the Congregation as expressed by the Founder
  3. The ends of the Congregation in the 1982 Constitutions and Rules
  4. The ends of the Congregation and Oblate spirituality

In the present-day organization of religious Congregations, one inevitably finds the presence of a twofold end: one that is general or common to all Congregations and the other specific or peculiar to each institute. After a long process in treating of this issue, the Holy See gave a clear formulation to this requirement, especially in the Norms of the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars of June 28, 1901.

The general or common end consists in a striving for Christian perfection through the practice of the evangelical counsels. The ascetics of the first Christian centuries, and then the monks, had no other goal in view other than to follow Christ in a radical way. Very early on, however, the monks, the Benedictines in particular, carried out ministry both inside and outside the monastery. But this same ministry, even if it became an ordinary element of life, still remained something accidental and secondary with regard to monastic life.

The Canons Regular of the 10th to the 12th centuries displayed a tendency toward what we today call a specific end. As their name indicated, they were ecclesiastics bound to the service of a specific church, but they became “regulars” because they decided to live according to a rule of monastic life. For Saint Norbert, for example, personal sanctification was to manifest itself externally in preaching and parish ministry. This always remained a secondary consideration, while liturgical prayer and the Divine Office remained their principal duty. The Mendicant Orders continued on in the same direction with a more specific determination of their own particular end.

In the 16th century the Clerics Regular appeared. Together with the religious life they set for themselves an eminently active goal to the point that one could say that they launched a new kind of religious life. It is in the Rule of Saint Ignatius that we see the appearance of a clear formulation of the two ends: personal sanctification and the apostolate. This Rule exercised a great influence on the organization of religious Congregations founded from that time on, especially during the 19th and 20th centuries. The latter came into existence with the specific goal of putting themselves at the service of the Church. They often started with a simple coming together of people who were leading a kind of evangelical life, but not bound by solemn vows. They followed a way of life of milder discipline, or at least very different from the life of the monks – a lifestyle which was much more directed toward the apostolate in all its forms or towards works of mercy.

According to a 1964 study conducted on a broad spectrum of constitutions, most of the respondents considered that the apostolate was all that much more fruitful to the extent that the members led holy lives, that is, that the general end is directed toward the specific end. For others, the works were presented as a means of attaining perfection. [1]

The ends of the Congregation as expressed by the Founder

From the inception of the 1818 Rule and those of 1825-1826 (1827 edition), Father de Mazenod specified the general end of the Institute he had just founded: “The end of the Institute known as the Missionaries of Provence is first of all to form an association of secular priests who live together and who strive to imitate the virtues and the example of our Savior Jesus Christ, mainly working at preaching the Divine Word to the poor” (Article 1). Article 2 gave an initial explanation with regard to this main specific end.

A number of commentaries have been written on these articles (cf. the bibliography). Here is a summary of the main ones.


a) The first two articles of the 1818 Rule were drawn almost verbatim from the Redemptorist Rule (1791 edition). In the Redemptorist Rule, these articles were part of the preamble. Father de Mazenod brought them into the main part of the Rule to clearly stress that it is a question of constituent conditions.

b) Even if the Missionaries of Provence were secular priests, the first article proposes to them the general end of Religious Congregations, without however speaking of the evangelical counsels. Saint Alphonsus, followed by the Founder, stresses in this general end of perfection two special points: a group of secular priests wholive together and who striveto imitate the virtues and the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Saint Alphonsus had written Redeemer, Father de Mazenod used the word Savior. According to his explanations, we are dealing here with the same reality: “We must say Christe Salvator. That is the aspect under which we ought to contemplate our divine Master. Our particular vocation is such that we are associated in a special manner with the redemption of men”. [2] In both cases, Jesus Christ is seen especially through the aspect of his love which became mercy and zeal for the salvation of men.

If the Founder copied Saint Alphonsus in this way, it was because he had found in this text, approved by the Church, an adequate expression of his past experience and of his plans. Eugene knew and loved Jesus Christ from the time of his childhood and in a special way in Venice, but he had, so to speak, a personal experience of Jesus on Good Friday, an almost palpable and intense experience of the goodness and mercy of Christ the Savior for him personally. As a result, he decided to change his life and to become a priest. His life would remain marked: to love Christ, to imitate, to make him known, “to employ all the means to extend the empire of the Savior”, such was his ideal.

As a young priest in Aix he saw an immense amount of good that needed doing. But how could he succeed single-handedly? Consequently, he sought some co-workers. He understood that an effective apostolic activity had to flow from a community which was indeed united and indeed fervent. Christ the Savior and the community appear simultaneously from the very first article of the Rule like two pillars of Oblate life as willed by the Founder; his sons would always see these as two important elements of the charism of the Congregation.

c) The Latin text of the 1825-1826 Rule made two changes of some importance in the first article. The expression “secular priests who live together” became “secular priests gathered in community and living together as brothers”. Father de Mazenod wanted to see a community where fraternal charity reigned. He would often write that it was a case of one of the distinguishing features of the Congregation he had founded. The second change was perhaps not wittingly done and could have been made by the translators. In the 1818 text, the general end of religious life precedes the specific end. Priests strive to imitate Jesus Christ mainly by working at preaching the Word of God to the poor. The apostolate was presented as a means, a way of imitating Jesus Christ. In 1825-1826 when it was accepted that they should live according to the evangelical counsels, strangely enough the emphasis was not placed on religious life, but rather on the specific end: they would “devote themselves, above all things, to the evangelization of the poor, while diligently imitating the virtues and example of our Saviour Jesus Christ”. Religious life became a way of living more perfectly in order to more successfully evangelize. In this way, as we have seen, our Congregation took its place among the ranks of the majority of the Religious Congregations whose general end is directed toward the specific end, that is, as a confirmation of the striving for perfection to achieve a more effective apostolate.

d) The Latin text of 1825-1826 has two other seemingly apparent surprises in store for us. When the Congregation was approved by Rome as a Religious Institute and the Rule contained a chapter on the vows, the Founder still spoke in the first article of secular priests and did not mention the evangelical counsels. The addition “bound by the vows of religion” had been forgotten and was only added in 1850 at the time of the first revision of the Rule. However, the expression “secular priests” remained unchanged – and that for a whole century. At the time of the 1926 revision, the word “secular” was suppressed because the Code of Canon Law of 1917 had finally officially recognized the genuine religious character of Congregations with simple vows, putting them on the same level as the Orders with solemn vows as far as the essence of the religious life was concerned. So it was that the members of Religious Congregations were no longer “secular priests bound by the vows of religion”, but authentic religious. Nevertheless, the expression “priests bound by vows” still remained an unfortunate formulation since the Congregation had a large number of brothers. We had to wait until the 1928 edition of the Rule to find the brothers mentioned in the chapter on the ends of the Congregation, in article 9.


In the 1818 Rule, the main end specific to the Congregation was set forth in a concise and clear manner: “mainly working at preaching the Word of God to the poor”. The Latin text of 1825-1826 used rather the expression “to evangelize the poor”. In 1818, it was followed in article 2 by this explanation: “Hence the members of this Congregation, under the authority of the Ordinaries to whom they will always remain subject, will devote themselves to providing spiritual assistance for the poor people scattered over the rural districts, and for the inhabitants of the small rural villages deprived of spiritual help. They will provide for these needs by means of missions, catechetical instructions, retreats or other spiritual exercises”.

The Latin text of the 1825-1826 Rule embellished the last phrase of the article and put retreats ahead of catechetical instructions: “They will break the heavenly bread of the Word by missions, retreats, catechetical instructions or other spiritual exercises”. Missions, catechetical instructions, etc., are the means, the works to attain the end. The first part of the Rule then goes on to clarify these means. It is divided into two chapters, chapters two and three. The longer chapter, chapter two, is made up of four hundred and ten lines of printed text (Duval edition) and gives a brief treatment of parish missions, characterized as “one of the main ends”. The third chapter consisting of two hundred and sixty lines suggests other means or “exercises”: preaching, confession, direction of youth, prisons, ministry to the dying, Divine Office, public ceremonies in the church.

Here again many considerations could be offered. Here are the main ones:

a) Saint Francis de Sales wrote to Madame Brulart on July 20, 1607: “Do not try to do everything, but a few things only, and no doubt you will do a lot”. Father de Mazenod manifested a realism and a rather extraordinary instinct for what was appropriate by giving his Institute only one very well defined main goal: to proclaim the Word of God to the poor of Provence, and he proposed the missions to the people as the best means of achieving this.

This is not a case of narrow-mindedness. Eugene was well aware of the evils afflicting the Church and especially in the Preface was able to express in words of fire all the charity and zeal that burned in his heart. “All the means in our power are to be employed to extend the empire of Christ […]”, “the above-mentioned priests while devoting themselves to all the holy works which priestly charity can devise […]”; “having laid this foundation [of virtues], all the subjects of the Institute will without holding anything back dedicate themselves to doing the good that obedience may prescribe”. (paragraph on preaching); “they are called to be the cooperators of the Savior, the co-redeemers of the human race; and notwithstanding the fact that in view of their small numbers at present and the most pressing needs of the people who surround them, they are compelled for the moment to limit their zeal to the poor people of our rural areas and so on, in their holy desires, their ambition should encompass the immense expanse of the whole wide world” (Nota bene of 1818).

The Founder’s realism and instinct for what was appropriate stands out all the more clearly since after the Revolution everything in the Church of France had to be rebuilt from scratch. Carried by their zeal, some churchmen founded a number of Congregations for priests, brothers and sisters and set out to respond to all the needs with a wide variety of ends. Examples of this were the Abbés de La Mennais in Brittany, Chaminade and Noailles in Bordeaux, Colin in Lyon, Moreau in Mans, etc. Father de Mazenod began exclusively with priests to evangelize the poor of Provence especially by means of missions. Consequently, it was a case of a community of priests dedicated to one single endeavor in order to work more effectively and in depth in one single region of France.

b) It has often been written as the Founder did in chapter two of the Rule, for example, that missions were “one of the main ends of the Institute”. End is taken here in a broad, undefined sense. Missions were only the specially favored means of achieving the end specific to the Congregation, that is the evangelization of the poor. Father de Mazenod bore in mind the importance of parish missions throughout his life. He himself and his sons had, however, well understood that it was the question of a means. At the time when the government of the July Revolution forbade the preaching of missions in 1830, no Oblate thought that the Congregation had lost its reason to exist. It was on this occasion that the Founder spoke of parishes, and the General Chapter of 1831, especially at the urging of Father Hippolyte Guibert, made the decision to send some members of the Society to foreign missions as soon as a favorable occasion would present itself. As we know, the occasion presented itself in 1841. However, this did not make its way into the first chapter of the Rules until the 1910 edition.

c) In the third chapter of the 1818 Rule, Father de Mazenod suggests several other means for evangelization, means he calls “exercises”. He lists seven, most of them related to missions. One has the impression that he wanted to venture out only on ground that was very familiar and solid because the seven exercises he set forth were precisely those he lived from the time of his return to Aix in 1812. He preached, heard confessions in various places, including the major seminary, successfully directed youth, cared for prisoners and often of the dying; he recited the Divine Office with Brother Maur and conducted public ceremonies in the church of the Mission.

d) With efficiency in mind so that his subjects might not be distracted from their main objective, the Founder, following Saint Alphonsus, copied articles 15 and 17 of the second chapter in which he forbade the kind of work that would distract them from the main objective of the Society. As a result, he stated that the missionaries “would not take on the direction of seminaries”, “they will not be directors for religious women”, “they will not accept any pastoral charges, nor will they preach Lenten series”. According to our Founder’s way of thinking, this was valid especially for the beginning, “in view of the fact that they were few in number”. Very early on exceptions had to be made and they were required to go beyond the confines of Provence. In addition, they had to expand the list of means of evangelization to enable the fathers to work for the salvation of souls even if they were not gifted with the strength to preach, or yet again to respond to the urgent needs of the bishops who allowed them to found a centre for preaching provided that they would accept some other work, etc. So it was, for example, that already in 1819, Father Tempier was appointed to help out in the parish of Notre-Dame du Laus; that in 1823, Fathers de Mazenod and Tempier accepted the posts of Vicars General of Marseilles, that in 1827 the Congregation took on the direction of the major seminary of Marseilles. During his lifetime, the Founder also accepted a number of other works in spite of the Constitutions. [3]


In the first chapter of the 1818 Rule, two articles (sixteen lines) deal with the main end, taken almost verbatim from the Rule of the Redemptorists. Two paragraphs of three articles each follow to illustrate two other ends: making up for the Orders which disappeared during the Revolution (twenty-five lines) and the reform of the clergy (twenty-two lines).

In this first chapter, we see no apparent hierarchical arrangement of these three ends. The first article does indeed begin with these words: “The end of the Institute […] is first of all”, but this “first of all” is balanced off only by the word “also”: “The end of this association is also to make up for […]”, and at the beginning of the paragraph on the reform of the clergy the expression: “a no less important end of their Institute which they will strive to attain with as much zeal as they address to the principal end is that of reforming the clergy […]”. The words “main end” which appear in the third paragraph also clearly apply to the preaching of the Word of God especially in the missions. However, the second chapter begins with these words: “Since the missions are one of the main ends”, and this leads one to assume that making up for Religious Orders was viewed by the Founder as a main end. Whatever the case may be, these two ends considered traditionally as secondary present many problems. The fact that the two articles on preaching the Word of God come from the Rule of the Redemptorists and that, on the other hand, the two other ends had not been taken from other Rules, one could believe that they enjoy a particular importance in that we are dealing with more personal apostolic projects and problems and these would therefore all the more make up part of the charism of the Founder. On the other hand, when one is well acquainted with the correspondence of the Founder, we know that he spoke much less of these two ends rather than the first and that he, himself, together with the Oblates of his time and after him, had much less of an influence in this area than in that of the missions.

a) Making up for the Religious Orders that have disappeared

First of all, let us reread the text of the 1818 Rule as translated literally in the 1827 edition and make some brief reflections on them.

“Article 1. The end of this association is also, as much as possible, to make up for the absence and loss of fine institutions which have disappeared since the Revolution and which have left a terrible gap of which religion is becoming daily more aware”.

“Article 2. That is why they will strive to reproduce in their persons the piety and fervor of the Religious Orders destroyed in France by the Revolution. Let them strive to become their successors in virtue just as they succeed to their ministry and to the most holy practices of their regular life such as the living of the evangelical counsels, love of solitude, a disregard for the honors of the world, remaining aloof from dissipation, the abhorrence of riches, the practice of mortification, public recitation of the Divine Office in common, ministry to the sick and so on”.

“Article 3. Once again, that is why the members of this Society engage as well in instructing youth about their religious duties in order to turn them away from vice and dissipation and to render them fit to fulfill fittingly the obligations that religion and society can legitimately expect of them in the various social positions they are destined to fill”.

Father de Mazenod did not assign the Oblates the duty of re-establishing the Religious Orders. He asked them to “reproduce in themselves” the piety, fervor and virtues of these Orders and to be their successors in some of their works.

It has been pointed out that this secondary end is not all that distinct from the common, main end [4]. Indeed, in the first part of article 2, the verbs are in the future tense and emphasize the demands of the common end to strive toward perfection, exercising as effectively as possible the discipline, “the piety and fervor of the Religious Orders which had been destroyed…”. Article 3 speaks of evangelization of the dying and youth.

However, it really seems that one can speak of a secondary, very characteristic specific end. The Founder desired to see religious life resurrect in all its splendor just like he set himself the goal of reforming the clergy. The means of attaining this were the vows, common life, a strict regularity borrowed in part from the Orders that had been suppressed as well as their ministry.

No satisfactory explanation has ever been found for this preoccupation of the Founder. When he spoke of this end on a number of occasions he hardly gave the reason for it. It really seems that his life in common from 1812 to 1815 with Brother Maur, the ex-Camaldulese, stirred up in him this interest in the Orders which had disappeared.

In his commentary on the Rule, Father Alfred Yenveux offered another explanation. Father de Mazenod always had a certain sense of the history as well as a great love for the Church. Just as there is much talk in our day of returning to the sources, it was already the Founder’s desire that his religious family should draw its inspiration from the early Church. He concluded the first chapter on the ends with the following words of the Nota bene: “What more sublime purpose than that of their Institute? Their founder is Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, their first fathers are the Apostles. They are called to be the Savior’s co-workers […]” Now, according to the explanation offered by Father Yenveux, the Founder understood that the living tradition of the life of the Apostles and of the first Christian community was to be found in Religious Orders. The monks were the ones who followed Christ in a radical way and passed on to others the riches of the Gospel tradition in their fulness. That is why he wanted the Oblates to walk in their footsteps.

The Apostles had reserved for themselves the ministry of prayer and the Word (see Acts 6:4). The Oblates, too, are called to proclaim the Word of God and to pray, especially by reciting the Divine Office in common (Opus Dei).

As far as making up for the lost Orders goes, only on one occasion did the Founder take someone into his confidence on this matter during his lifetime, and it had to do precisely with reciting the Divine Office in common. At the 1843 Chapter, he was asked if scholastics were obliged to recite the Divine Office in common. He replied that he had been especially struck by the absence of the Divine Office since the disappearance of the Religious Orders and that as a result he had wanted to lay upon all the Oblates the obligation imposed upon all the members of Religious Orders.

In the last century, the Religious Orders were reconstituted in France little by little. Bishop de Mazenod spoke less and less of making up for them, but suggested rather that the Oblates emulate the old, but newly-restored, Orders as to their fervor and to rival the young religious Congregations as well. Nonetheless, the fact remains that this end had a rather profound influence on the second part of the Rule which dealt with the special obligations of missionaries as well as the spirituality of the Founder and of the first generations of Oblates whose life was often enough compartmentalized either in two distinct periods of time or in two spiritual tendencies: almost monastic within the Oblate houses and very active outside. From this end we have especially kept the obligation of the Divine Office in common, and from it we are bound to retain a teaching, one of the Founder’s dreams: his unbounded desire for personal perfection and for the holiness of the members of the Congregation called to reproduce in themselves the fervor and zeal of the lives of the Apostles, the first Christians, the monks, and the religious in the centuries that preceded the Revolution. In the 1837 Chapter, he declared: “What other fanciful idea of perfection might one conjure up if this idea did not consist in walking in the way that Jesus Christ, the Apostles and the first disciples traveled before us? That is our end. Other Orders may have more exacting ends than this one, but there is none more perfect”.

This explains why he so often pruned away lukewarm members from the Congregation. The reason he gave for this was: “Our birth is of very recent date, we should be in the full fervour of the youth of our institute, and already we risk falling into the decrepitude of those old Orders which are in need of reform […]!” [5] All Oblates work at becoming saints. [6]

Father Leo Deschâtelets in the circular letter of August 15, 1951, Our Vocation and Life of Intimate Union with Mary, clearly emphasized the meaning of this secondary end of the Congregation: “We are religious as well: coadunati sacerdotes, religionis votis obligati (art. 1). Need one stress this point too much? To do so, we would have to quote almost the entire Rule, not in order to prove something that is self-evident, but rather to emphasize the distinguishing features of our religious character. Nevertheless, let us examine closely the strongest trait of these features, the one which the Founder most vigorously supported ab initio. In his opinion, in order to realize the end of the Institute, it was necessary that we be up to par in the Church”.

“We also rediscover in the writings of Father de Mazenod, as in the words of the Rule, this idea of reform or of resurrecting the religious life, just like when he spoke to us of the priesthood a while back”.

“Let us take up again the first manu of the Rule”.

“In the first chapter, it states unambiguously: Of the end of the Congregation, paragraph II: To make up for the void left by the disappearance of religious institutes […]”

“Just as he vigorously sought to put to flight lukewarmness in our priestly lives, in the same manner he excluded it from our religious life, whether it was a matter of the living out of our holy vows or it was the case of all the practices of the religious life which always lead to perfection. Was there ever a more holy Founder of some Order who wrote more vigorously than ours when he – we dare to say it – harangued us like a General exhorting his troops before a battle. He called upon us to achieve our aim: ‘By untiring efforts to become saints; by courageously advancing on the same path as that followed by the many Apostles and evangelical labourers … by the entire renunciation of self, with a single view to the glory of God, the edification of the Church, and the salvation of souls; by continually renewing themselves in the spirit of their vocation; by pursuing the path of habitual self-denial and of incessant longing after perfection; by never relaxing in their efforts to become humble, meek, obedient, lovers of poverty and penance, mortified, detached from the world, from family […]'”.

“Could anyone have ever summed up in a few more incisive and demanding terms an entire program of life based on the holy Gospel? In view of this, could anyone doubt that our Oblate religious life, in spite of so many associations with the life of other religious institutes, should already be characterized in relation to these latter by this fervently enflamed exhortation on the part of Father de Mazenod to commit ourselves heart and soul to the pursuit of religious perfection? Does this not urge us on to become better religious than all the others since, according to the daring thought of the Founder, we are a kind of quintessence of the perfection of all those Orders and institutes he wished us to replace?” [7]

b) Recitation of the Divine Office in common

In the Rules of 1818 and 1827, the obligation of reciting the Divine Office in common was included, not among the exercises of piety of the second part, but among the ends and works of the first part. Fathers Joseph Reslé and Nicholas Schaff claimed that this was truly the case of an end or of an important means to attain the secondary end of making up for the Orders which had disappeared. Father Gerard Fortin, on the other hand, maintained that the recitation of the Divine Office in common was neither an end nor even a means to attain a specific end [8]. According to him, the recitation of the Divine Office in common was an exercise of piety, a means of attaining the general end of personal sanctification. From its very nature, it belonged to the second part of the Rule. He refers to the Constitutions of the Dominicans as an example of this, as it was true for the Mendicant Orders and the Clerics Regular. However in general, the Canons Regular and the monks had the divine liturgy as a principal end specific to them, that is the conventual Mass and the Divine Office recited in choir.

Whatever place choral recitation of the Divine Office might have occupied in the constitutions of Religious Orders, the intentions of the Founder were clear and unequivocal. He considered the recitation in common of the Divine Office a work of first rank through which was exercised in an outstanding way the secondary end of making up for the Religious Orders that have disappeared. That is why all Oblates, novices included, were obliged in one way or another to recite the Divine Office in common. There lies one of the characteristics proper to the Institute which distinguishes it from the Redemptorists and other religious Congregations because it is seen as an end and not only as an exercise of piety.

Nevertheless, Father de Mazenod was mistaken with regard to the liturgical-canonical character of our recitation of the Divine Office. Once he had obtained pontifical approbation in Rome, on February 17, 1826, and a sharing of the privileges granted the Redemptorists, on April 23, 1826, he believed that his Congregation enjoyed the privilege of exemption and that our recitation of the Divine Office was the equivalent of choral recitation of the Religious Orders, obliging in virtue of ecclesiastical law and not only in virtue of our own constitutions. This point was clarified after his death, but it would have in no way changed the demands he made.

Certainly, it was only a case of a secondary end and its relationship to the main work which was an apostolic work. That is why he sometimes spoke of it as a means of apostolic effectiveness: “The Institute considers this exercise as the source of all the blessings that should pour down on the entire holy ministry of the entire Society” [9]. This prayer, the prayer of apostolic men, was to be made on behalf of poor sinners and with their intentions in mind, presenting their needs to God, but in the Founder’s eyes, much more was at stake here; it was a case of adoring and praising God.

In the Directoire des novices, which devotes twenty of its pages to the Divine Office, one reads: “The Divine Office recited in choir is one of our obligations, at one and the same time being the most serious, the most holy and the most fruitful. It is of supreme importance that our novices, brothers and scholastics, should be able to fulfill it in suitable fashion”. [10]

“Before beginning the Divine Office, we should arouse within ourselves a keen faith perception of the presence and sovereign majesty of the God whose praises we will have the honor of singing … The recitation of the divine psalmody here on earth is only an echo and an extension of the perfect praise that Jesus Christ offers to God his Father in heaven […]. During the praying of the divine psalmody God is present, and we are speaking to God himself. We are only the instruments that should be animated by his divine Spirit to worthily praise his holy name. It is as if we were transported to heaven to stand in the midst of the angelic choirs. We join in unison with the praises and blessings which they unceasingly offer to the sovereign Master of everything. On earth, we sing unceasingly the hymn that we will have the happiness of singing one day in heaven with the saints for all eternity. We share in the prayers that the Church Militant raises constantly to God, a communion which causes us to unite our voices with those of the most pure, most holy souls there might be on earth. What sentiments of veneration and respect we should have! How deeply must we prostrate ourselves before the supreme majesty of God!” [11]

From the depths of his personal Christological spiritual experience flowed the two demands from the heart of Eugene de Mazenod: the opus Dei or laus divina and the proclamation of the Word which is linked to the two-fold preoccupation of Christ – the glory of the Father, and the salvation of the brothers – as well as the two activities of the Apostles – “We will […] continue to devote ourselves to prayer and the service of the Word”. (Acts 6:4)

In this regard, Father Nicholas Schaff wrote: “In the light of the apostolic element of our life, the other, the contemplative element of meditation and of the praying of the breviary, should not take on the appearance of being a useless luxury, even less that of being an obstacle, but rather as being the source and the touchstone of pure zeal. In praying the divine office in common, I would readily see the great testimony of the purity of our zeal. I say purity, not intensity. Intensity does not necessarily need the psalmody. Alongside these external manifestations of the apostolate, we should maintain as well this testimony among ourselves, a testimony which is in-house, communitarian and spontaneous, an authentic witnessing offered to God by individuals and by others, by individuals in the presence of the others. If the apostolate is directly the proof and fruit of our charity for our neighbor, praying the Divine Office is the proof and fruit of “our sense of God”, the love of God. As with Christ, so should it be with the sons of Bishop de Mazenod: the consuming concern for the salvation of souls flows from a consuming concern for the glory of God through praise to God the Father – “in unione illius divinae intentionis qua Ipse in terris laudes Deo persolvisti”.[12]

The immediate and direct subject of this obligation is the community with a sufficient number of Oblates present, members not legitimately and temporarily absent for various reasons, especially those connected with the main end. This is not the case with the obligations which the Founder characterized as “special to the missionaries”, and set forth in the second part of the Rule, such as observance of the vows, etc. These latter apply to each individual personally and oblige everywhere and always, taking into account the importance of the regulation.

But, even if from this very fact praying the Divine Office in common was only realized by a few communities and by a small number of Oblates, we can say that this end has been observed and that the Congregation has been faithful to it.

c) Reform of the Clergy

This other secondary specific end poses still more problems than that of making up for the Orders that had disappeared.

Few priests have expressed as harsh a judgment of the state of the clergy as that expressed by Father de Mazenod in the three articles of the 1818 Rule concerning the reform of the clergy and in the Nota bene which followed, a passage which later became the Preface to the Rule. What unfortunate experience led him to such a radical stance? In Sicily and Aix, he may have met some priest lacking in zeal, but nothing in his writings allows us to say that he met priests who were depraved and sources of scandal. He did, however, know that during the Revolution many priests had married and had sworn the oath of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. In Paris the Sulpicians certainly put a great deal of emphasis on forming holy priests and must, no doubt, have evoked the weaknesses of a portion of the clergy of the previous century as well as some harsh judgments of Saint Vincent de Paul concerning the clergy of his day [13]. Eugene must have reacted vigorously to this since M. Emery told him one day that he had the temperament of a reformer and on November 22, 1812, M. Duclaux wrote to him that, in Aix, he should not carry on like a reformer. [14]

There can be no doubt that, in this part of the Rule, the Founder drew his inspiration from Félicité de La Mennais’ work:Réflexions sur l’état de l’Eglise en France pendant le XVIIIe siècle et sur sa situation actuelle. This book had been written in 1808 and submitted for criticism to M. Emery, who at that time put his whole confidence in Eugene, the seminarian. La Mennais’ judgment of the clergy was more nuanced, but he used expressions which are found almost verbatim in the writings of the Founder: “the sacred deposit of faith”, “in the hearts of the faithful a dying faith, in the hearts of the pastors a zeal grown cold and almost extinguished”, “from the time of the overthrow of paganism, history offers no example of degeneracy so widespread and thorough”, etc.

La Mennais was already suggesting the remedy adopted by the Founder: “If something could reawaken this faith […] in hearts, it would no doubt be parish missions. […] One has had to see with one’s own eyes the fruit of sanctification that a few genuinely apostolic men can produce in order to understand how powerful this means is” [15]. Félicité’s influence on Eugene can come as no surprise since for a number of years this priest was considered a genuine prophet who enjoyed a great influence on the young clergymen of the first decades of the XIX century. Let us now reread the first article of paragraph three on clergy reform:

“A no less important end of our Institute, an end they will as zealously strive to achieve as they do the main end, is that of clergy reform and of repairing to the full extent possible to them the evils caused in the past and still being caused by unworthy priests who lay waste the Church by their heedlessness, their avarice, their impurity, their sacrileges, their felonies and heinous crimes of every deion”.

Even though the judgments made concerning the gravity of the evils involved might be excessive and very much in character with Eugene’s style and temperament, the suggested remedies seem very restrained. In this instance again, Father de Mazenod exhibited his equilibrium and realism; he knew his limits and those of his colleagues. Articles 2 and 3 make this evident:

“Article 2. In the beginning, the missionaries because of their youth, will only be able to undertake indirectly the healing of this deep wound by their gentle suggestions, their prayers and good examples, but in a few years, please God, they will make a frontal attack on all these horrible vices. They will apply the probe, iron and fire to this shameful festering sore which is consuming everything in the Church of Jesus Christ”.

“Article 3. Consequently, they will preach retreats to priests and the Mission House will always be a welcoming refuge for them, like a health-giving pool where those afflicted with foul and festering illnesses will come to cleanse themselves and begin a new life of penance and reparation”.

The 1825-1826 Rule tones down these judgments considerably and modifies the three articles. Cardinal Pallotta, in particular, had found that they were overdrawn, at least as far as the expressions used was concerned. [16] Articles 2 and 3 lose the initial part “in the beginning […]” and the end “in a few years [..]” to retain only the more modest means “especially prayer, counseling and example” as well as welcoming priests into our houses for retreats, etc. These articles remained still unchanged in the 1928 Rule.

The accomplishments in this area certainly did not meet up with the Founder’s expectations. When he was named Vicar General of Marseilles in 1823, he found there a clergy without much discipline since they had been over twenty-five years without a resident bishop. He attempted, undoubtedly too vigorously and too rapidly, to reform the less edifying portion of the clergy and soon became aware of the difficulty of such an endeavor. He got into the bad books of many, was criticized, calumniated and had to endure much suffering from being little loved by the clergy. Understandably, in 1825 and 1826 in Rome, he willingly consented to temper his expressions and weigh more carefully the scope of his projects.

Practically, he was aware that it was easier to train the clergy of the future well than to reform the older clergy. That is why he accepted the direction of the seminary of Marseilles in 1827, those of Ajaccio in 1834, Fréjus in 1851, Romans in 1853 and Quimper in 1856.

The 1850 Chapter recognized the direction of seminaries as an important secondary end of the Congregation and prepared a text which became article 3 of the first part of the Rule of 1853. However, it was with difficulty that the Oblates followed the Founder on this point. Few of the Fathers liked to teach. The seminaries of Romans and Quimper were abandoned in 1857. As for the welcoming of priests into our houses, this was done especially in Notre-Dame du Laus and Notre-Dame de Lumières until 1840-1841. But the Founder had to intervene since he noticed that the young priests in these communities let themselves be drawn along to follow the irregular not very edifying habits of the priests who came for retreats. Moreover, we lost the shrine of Notre-Dame du Laus, while Notre-Dame de Lumières became a minor seminary and Notre-Dame de l’Osier, a novitiate. On the other hand, Bishop de Mazenod instinctively spoke less and less of clergy reform. In fact, the French clergy of the last century became better and better trained and more and more generous and zealous with the examples of several parish priests who have today achieved the title of blessed and saints.

The questions associated with this secondary end, that of clergy reform, have never been fundamentally explored in the Congregation and remain an open field of research on the origin of this apostolic concern of the Founder’s with regard the interpretation it should be given and its concrete application in practice. The fact always remains, however, that Bishop de Mazenod possessed an unusual interest in the holiness of priests and wanted to pass on this concern to his sons.

In his biography of the Founder, Father Achilles Rey wrote a long commentary on the Rule. Concerning the apostolate of Oblates to the clergy he wrote: “But the missions, the first ,and properly speaking, only end of the Oblate Congregation necessarily evoked another end, that of the sanctification of the clergy”.

“In fact, to prepare the people for the missions and even to make the missions possible, to support the work of the missionaries, to assure their success, to gather, maintain and carry on its fruits, it was necessary to have worthy priests, and holy priests at the head of their parishes. The ministry of Gospel workers is not permanent. In the Church, they are established as auxiliary aides offering assistance to the diocesan hierarchically established clergy: they only come when summoned by the ordinary pastors and withdraw after having fulfilled their always limited task, leaving it to the one who called them the concern to draw as much fruit as possible from their labor and their care. What would happen if the priest was lacking the holiness necessary to be capable of responding to the lofty mission of being pastor of he flock? In addition, we would say that the sanctification of the clergy, next to the missions, and with the missions, is the main end of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The holy Founder formally declared this to them: ‘Assuredly, the most excellent end of our Congregation next to the holy missions is the direction of major seminaries. For the missionaries would expend the sweat of their labors in vain in their attempts to snatch sinners from spiritual death if they did not have in the parishes priests imbued with the Spirit of God, faithfully following the example of the Divine Shepherd and pasturing with vigilant and constant care the sheep which had been brought back to the fold. That is why, to the extent that we are able, we will devote ourselves generously heart and soul to such a noble and important ministry'”.

He continued: “The missionaries will strive to help priests to maintain themselves in the purity and fervor of their holy state by assistance of all kinds, but especially by spiritual retreats either within their communities or outside”.

“The Oblate of Mary is not only an apostle to the people, he is also an apostle to the clergy. He is even above all the priest’s priest; he is the Oblate of the priesthood, offered, dedicated to his own sanctification”. [17]

On this point just as in the case of the religious life, Father Leo Deschâtelets has written a most enlightening passage: “We are first and foremost priests: ‘Finis hujus parvae Congregationis… est ut coadunati sacerdotes…” (art. 1). Priests among so many others. Priests with a special inspiration, however, an inspiration which adds a particular dimension to the Oblate priesthood. We have been created to restore to the priesthood all its glory and prestige and to draw along with us by our exemplary life all those who bear, like us, the sacred character of ordination. When he was laying the foundations of his Institute, our Founder had in mind the reform and sanctification of the clergy in the same way as he envisioned the conversion of the masses. That is why from that time on he demanded such a high degree of priestly perfection from his first disciples. It is possible that this motivating factor for our founding has become blurred with time, but it is more useful to evoke it once again in order to avoid losing contact with one of the ideas that formerly enkindled zeal in the heart of our Founder and which could serve as an incentive for our sacerdotal life as priests”. [18]

“Has it not […] been established with obvious clarity that the Founder wanted perfect priests in order to work at renewing the priesthood? Can we doubt that, already at the beginnings of the Institute, a distinguishing feature of the Oblate priesthood was to stand out because of their zeal for the conversion of all souls, but especially priestly souls? In our opinion, this is an incontrovertible element in our origins”.

“Has this spirit changed among us? If there is less emphasis placed upon it because many circumstances have modified the state of the priesthood, it remains no less true that, in order to remain faithful to the grace of his origins, the Oblate should never lose sight of the fact that he should work ceaselessly for the renewal of the priesthood. The spirit of the Rule is that we should all be of a keener, stronger and tougher calibre in order to be in the Church and to be a support and an example for all our colleagues in the priesthood. The Oblate cannot be like other priests; he must be the model for others. The graces of his vocation propel him to the heights and make of him a trainer and formator with regard to the priesthood”. [19]

d) Mary Immaculate

The 1818 Rule does not mention the name of Mary in the chapter on the ends of the Congregation. The 1827 Rule only gives the new title of the Congregation: “The end of this small Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary […]”.

Father de Mazenod had the idea of giving this name to his religious family during a novena to the Immaculate Conception in Rome in 1825 while the Rule was being edited and the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars was about to begin studying it. Consequently, he changed nothing in the text which was presented. Nonetheless, other articles of the second and third part from the 1824-1825 manu mentioned Mary, saying among other things: “They will always look upon her as their mother”.

It was not until the 1926 General Chapter that article 10 of the first chapter was added: “Our Congregation has been instituted under the title and patronage of the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary. Our members, therefore, must ever foster in their own hearts, and promote amongst the faithful, a tender devotion to this Heavenly Patroness and Mother”.

The Apostolic Letter of Leo XII of March 21, 1826, granting approval of the Congregation had already assigned a different task. He wrote: “Finally, it is our hope that the members of this holy family who, under the protection of certain laws so suited to forming hearts to piety, have dedicated themselves to the ministry of preaching and taking as their patroness the Immaculate Virgin, the Mother of God, will make it their objective to the extent of their ability to bring back to Mary’s bosom of mercy the men that Jesus Christ wanted to give her as her children, from his place on the cross”.

It would be legitimate, therefore, to add the following to the three specific ends expressly listed by the Founder at the beginning of the 1818 and 1827 Rules to: “promote amongst the faithful a tender devotion” to Mary and to set as one’s objective “to bring back to Mary’s bosom of mercy the men that Jesus Christ wanted to give her as her children, from his place on the cross”. [20]

According to Father Maurice Gilbert, however, it is a case rather of a mission which encompasses all the ends and lends a Marian character to all the apostolic activities of the Congregation. [21]

The end of the Congregation in the 1982 Constitutions and Rules

Until the time of the Second Vatican Council, there had been four revisions of the 1827 Rule and four editions: 1853, 1894, 1910 and 1928. While making some additions, an effort was made to maintain as much as possible a literal fidelity to the editions written during the Founder’s lifetime.

The Second Vatican Council breathed a spirit of renewal everywhere in the Church. The decree Perfectae caritatis on religious life called for a return to the sources, especially to the spirit and charism of the founders. The 1966 capitulants believed that the moment had come to definitively abandon the letter of previous rules and to make radical modifications to the preceding texts. The 1966 Chapter perhaps drew more of its inspiration from the Council than from the charism of Bishop de Mazenod, even if it did remain faithful to it. [22] But this abandonment of the text of the 1928 Rule and many articles which had remain unchanged since the beginning of the Congregation was found to be too radical by many Oblates.

The final revision adopted by the 1980 General Chapter took these criticisms into consideration and approved a text that did indeed draw its inspiration from the Council, but in equal measure from the charism of the Founder: a charism known today better than ever as a result of many historical works written since the 1939-1945 war for the cause of beatification of Eugene, and since the Council, in view of accurately determining his spirit and charism.

Nonetheless, Oblates who knew the first editions of the Rule well and lived that of 1928 were surprised when they read the present articles that treat of the end of the Institute. Indeed, the first chapter, no longer entitled the end, but the mission of the Congregation, still contains ten articles like the 1928 edition – but only the first and the last take up once again the previous text in modified form. The first article lays out the general end of religious life which consists in a radical following of Christ through the vows of religion and the specific main end, that of evangelizing the poor. Article 10 reminds us that Mary is patroness of the Congregation and that Oblates seek to promote a genuine devotion to the Immaculate Virgin.

Once the element of surprise passes, one still cannot deny that study and meditation reveals in this first chapter the apostolic inspiration of the Founder and several elements specific to his charism.

It is Jesus Christ first and foremost who stands at the very beginning of the Constitutions; He it is who calls, gathers, invites Oblates to follow him and to share in his mission through word and action. Jesus Christ truly lies at the heart of this chapter, especially in articles 1 – 4.

Oblates follow Christ radically (art. 2) and live in community in an atmosphere of charity and obedience, taking as the model for their lifestyle the community of the Apostles with Jesus Christ (art. 3); here again we find ideas and realities dear to the heart of the Founder.

Through love of the Church, the Oblates carry out their mission in communion with the Pope and the Bishops (art. 6). Bishop de Mazenod lived this and reminded people of this requirement throughout his life.

Oblates devote themselves to the evangelization of the most abandoned (art. 5), especially by the proclamation of the Word (art. 7) with boldness, humility and confidence (art. 8) as prophets of the new world (art. 9) with Mary Immaculate (art. 10). For the most part, these aspects are found in the first editions of the Rule.

After having explained in a masterly fashion the mission of the Congregation or its main specific end, a few of the key ideas of the Founder, ideas which served adequately to enlighten superiors and guide them in the choice of the most important works were simply evoked. Oblates make an option for the poor; they carry out their mission in communion with the Pope and the Bishops; they make themselves available to respond to the most urgent needs of the Church through various forms of witnessing and ministry, but especially by the proclamation of the Word, etc.

The attention focused here on Christ, the Church and the needs of the people, are attitudes that are very Mazenodian.

However, there is no longer any talk of making up for the Religious Orders which have disappeared, of reciting Divine Office in common or reform of the clergy. These were cases rather of secondary ends and consequently of the things which were more important than a simple listing of ministries or particular works which it was the desire to leave out in 1980.

Certainly, in the mind of the Founder, by making up for the Religious Orders which had disappeared he intended to emphasize, in a manner one could call challenging, the very lofty ideal of sanctity and the religious life which he set forth for his sons: fearless missionaries, but first and foremost religious in the full sense of the word. The second chapter of the first part of the Constitutions and Rules of 1982 set forth the same radical demands that make the Oblates “radical disciples, like Mary”. However, we may possibly not have talked about the Divine Office sufficiently. In Constitution 33, we read: “Each community will ordinarily celebrate part of the Hours in common”. This wording does not seem to amount to an obligation; more especially, it does not say that we are dealing with an end which is specifically our own. In the same vein, we may not have sufficiently brought forth the demands of the Founder in what concerns our apostolate to priests. Formation of the clergy is hardly alluded to in Rule 5 [R 7e in CCRR 2000] without mentioning the fact that we are dealing with an end and an important traditional work. Rule 26 [R 41a in CCRR 2000], however, reminds us that “priests are always welcome [..]” to “share the bread of friendship, faith reflection and prayer”.

If the new Constitutions and Rules bring some interesting developments in the brief chapter on the mission of the Congregation and maintain in very lively form the fervor of zeal that inspired the Founder, they still have lost something, it seems, of the effervescence with which he set forth the projects in 1818 and 1825-1826. In particular, should a means not have been found to evoke in some way this preoccupation on the part of Bishop de Mazenod to make of his sons extraordinary apostolic men called through a demanding religious life and a daring zeal to evangelize the poor, to renew religious life and sanctify the clergy as well?

Certainly, the apostolate to the clergy through the formation of seminarians, the preaching of priestly retreats, welcoming ecclesiastics into our houses was not held in much regard by the Oblates of the Founder’s day and in the period that followed. We have maintained the direction of a few major seminaries, some priests have preached priests’ retreats, but it was hardly by this way that the Congregation gained its reputation in the Church. Nevertheless, can we allow ourselves to forget this mission that Father de Mazenod had wanted to entrust to his sons? Does it not remain like a challenge thrown at the feet of future generations of Oblates?

The ends of the Congregation and Oblate spirituality

In 1950, those responsible for the review Etudes oblates conducted a survey among Oblates on the spirituality of the Congregation. The majority of those who answered presented a synthesis of the essential elements of this spirituality almost always starting from the first chapter of the Rule on the ends of the Congregation. [23] Suffice it here to refer the reader to this report, especially to answer no. VIII, whose concluding words are as follows: “Our spirituality has a salvationist character, a merciful love at the service of the Savior and Mary Immaculate in the Church, in collaborative obedience to the Pope and the Bishops in the exercise of our apostolate to souls, especially the most abandoned. Nevertheless, if, from the theological point of view, this character has at its centre the mystery of salvation, from the psychological and historical point of view it focuses on the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, whose title we bear “as a name we share with the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary” and which by mandate of the Pope we have the honor and the duty of making known and loved: We are the missionaries and the apostles of the Immaculate”. [24]

Another study of Oblate spirituality was conducted in 1976 in course of a congress on The Charism of the Founder Today. The congress participants were seeking to find the basic spiritual values that characterize the Congregation. They went about it by starting from the lived experience of Oblates and a historical study of the Founder and the Congregation. Once again, the first chapter of the Rule provided them with the nine elements that the congress participants recognized as essential to the charism, and therefore, to Oblate spirituality: Christ, evangelization, the poor, the Church, community, religious life, Mary, priests, urgent needs and daring.

In the “call” of the “final declaration of the congress” a very concrete Oblate spirituality emerged [25]. If one attempted to extract the hard core as well as the dynamic at the heart of Oblate spirituality, it seems that one would find this synthesis in the preface of the Rule or yet again at the beginning of the paragraph entitled Of the Other Principal Observances (1818 Rule, Part Two, Chapter One, par. 4): “It has already been stated that the missionaries should, to the extent that human weakness allows, imitate in every respect the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, main founder of the Institute and of his Apostles, our first fathers. In imitation of such noble models, one part of their lives will be spent in prayer, interior recollection and contemplation in the privacy of the house of God in which they will lead a common life. The other will be entirely devoted to exterior works of the most active zeal such as missions and preaching […]”.

Christ is as the centre of the life of the Oblates. That is why they “will strive to become other Jesus Christs” who had a two-fold love: the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls. That says it all. They will reincarnate his love of the Father in the liturgy of the Mass and of the Divine Office recited in common, through the vows of religion and their life of prayer, study and asceticism which will allow them to achieve a more intimate knowledge of Jesus and to be come ever more closely united to him in the manner of the Apostles who spent three years with their Master – with Mary always discretely present. Then, like Christ, the Oblates devote their lives “to the point of death” for the evangelization of the poor.

The love of God and of Christ flows back to earth and becomes the primary focus for brotherly love and then love of neighbor. Father Robert Becker wrote: “The fraternal sentiments that bond our communities internally find their source in the love of God. Where this love exists in its greatest fullness is also where brotherly love will be unbounded and our houses and the entire Congregation will in truth become one single great family. There you find the Oblate’s source of joy and happiness, a source of strength as well in carrying out his serious duties”.

“The same love of God flows back and pours its waves over the world in the form of zeal for the salvation of souls, an ardent zeal which knows no bounds, neither in extension nor in intensity, an apostolic zeal that embraces the whole world. That is the love of one’s neighbor which rushes to the assistance of souls in distress whenever they call. That is why the poor enjoy preferential attention in Oblate ministry”. [26]

We know that a certain unease has always existed in the Congregation with regard to the equilibrium to be achieved between these two obligations that the Rule seems, if not to oppose, at least to juxtapose or set at different periods of time: one within our communities and the other outside. A certain unity of these two obligations seems to be put forward in the Preface of the Rule embodied in the expression “apostolic men”, but this is accomplished only gradually in the daily life of each one, a life always very taken up with apostolic activity. The unease might have been greater during Father Joseph Fabre’s time. Father Achilles Rey, his faithful secretary, captured his thought very well toward the end of the last century in a passage in Bishop de Mazenod’s biography:

“How could this life of outstanding holiness, interior recollection and monastic observance, in a word, this life of a religious, be reconciled with a missionary life dedicated to the whole array of apostolic works? […]”

“This is where the truly inspired wisdom of the legislator of the Oblates becomes manifest. The missionary Oblate was bound to live two lives: he was bound to be a missionary as the external end of his vocation; he was bound to be a religious as the internal end of his vocation: simultaneously an interior man and a community man, an external man and an internal man. Well, then, he would be one and the other, but successively in turn. His time would be divided into two parts: He would be a Mary at one time and a Martha in another. The Oblate would unite in himself these two evangelical lives, these two vocations of the saints: the contemplative life and vocation, the active life and vocation. One would complement the other. Contemplative life would enable him to purify, sublimate and multiply the other one hundred fold. He would renew his natural and supernatural resources; he would renew his strength like the eagle; he would shake from his feet the dust of the road. Active life would enable him to make his finest dreams and his most holy desires of contemplation a reality. He would dedicate himself body and soul to his God; to his interior fire enkindled by prayer and meditation, he would add the merit of his struggles, the glory of his triumphs, the riches of his spoils. He would work himself to death if necessary in order to win souls for the Savior, souls that taught him the meaning of a love which endured to the very end. It is by means of this alternating rest and labor, of contemplation and action that he effected a high ideal of perfection which the Founder caused to be handed on to his religious”. [27]

This life with its two movements and two time periods, continued to be a source of suffering in the spiritual life of each Oblate. The capitulants of the 1980 chapter put forth a solution to do away with this ambiguity once and for all. They drew together in one single part of the Constitutions and Rules the chapter on mission and that on religious apostolic life. Drawing their inspiration from the Second Vatican Council, they integrated these two dimensions of our life in several articles of the 1982 Constitutions, especially numbers 31 and 32 which express this unity of the religious and the apostolic life: “We achieve unity in our life only in and through Jesus Christ. Our ministry involves us in a variety of tasks, yet each act in life is an occasion for personal encounter with the Lord, who through us gives himself to others and through others gives himself to us. While maintaining within ourselves an atmosphere of silence and inner peace, we seek his presence in the hearts of the people and in the events of daily life as well as in the Word of God, in the sacraments and in prayer. We are pilgrims, walking with Jesus in faith, hope and love” (C 31).

“It is as missionaries that we worship, in the various ways the Spirit suggests to us. We come before him bearing with us the daily pressures of our anxiety for those to whom he sends us (cf. 2 Cor 11:28). Our life in all its dimensions is a prayer that, in us and through us, God’s Kingdom come” (C 32).  [28]

Father Leo Deschâtelets, with his profound understanding of Bishop de Mazenod, is the one who has spoken and written the most at length, and undoubtedly with the most fire and conviction about Oblate spirituality based on the mind of the Founder and the Rules. He often spoke on this theme, but more especially in his circular letter of August 15, 1951: Our Vocation and our Life of Intimate Union with Mary.

In the course of the 1948 congress on Oblate formation in Washington, Father Deschâtelets had delivered a message on Oblate spirituality to the congress participants, a message he was able to sum up in a few brief paragraphs. He began with these words: “Dear Fathers, what, then, is Oblate spirituality? Charity! Charity! Love! Love! The pages of the Founder’s life and the Rule he left us to guide our lives and apostolate are filled with charity and love. We could make a host of distinctions, but our Oblate spirituality means love!”

He ended his address with the following reflections: “Dear Fathers […] our spirituality makes optimists of us. Can we harbor any pessimism with such a love of God in us? Are not joy and happiness the fruit of charity? Let us take a look at our history. We find nothing sad there. Read the life of the Founder; read his letters […] Everywhere you will find an important note of optimism. Bishop de Mazenod was always sure beforehand of the success of his undertakings […] This optimism has made us bold. Joyfully, we tread paths others were afraid to tread. We immediately accepted what other people considered too humble. We have always been attentive and faithful to these words of our holy Rule: nihil linquendum inausum ut proferatur imperium Christi, we have to use every available means to extend the empire of the Savior”. [29]

The calling to mind of some of these avenues of research are enough to demonstrate the entire riches of the first chapter of the Constitutions and Rules on the ends or the mission of the Oblate Congregation, making evident the characteristic traits of Oblate identity and the major trends of our spirituality.