1. Eugene de Mazenod
  2. The Oblates
  3. Conclusion

To mention the glory of God spontaneously brings to mind the classic trilogy: “for the glory of God, the good of the Church and the salvation of souls”, which in renewed terminology the Code of Canon Law addresses to all religious: “the honor of God, the building up of the Church and the salvation of the world” (Canon 573, par. 1). Even if seeking the glory of God is something which concerns all religious, it still takes on a different coloring according to the spirit proper to each institute. We will, therefore, study what seeking the glory of God meant for Eugene de Mazenod and see how the Oblates lived and understand living with the same outlook.


The search the glory of God is one of the basic motivating factors that determined Eugene de Mazenod’s conduct – and this from his adolescence on. Under the direction of Don Bartolo Zinelli in Venice, he had drawn up a rule of life for himself. After having made mention of his morning prayer, he noted: “Having thus organized everything for the greater glory of God, I will leave my room to go about my business”. [1]

In Eugene de Mazenod, the seminarian at Saint Sulpice, we find the same concern. He exhorts his mother to do everything, even the most insignificant things, in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In doing this, he was making allusion to Colossians 3:17 and he concludes with the quotation from 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God”. [2] If he gives his sister advice, it is, of course, to help her to live the Christian life, but always with the same concern in mind: “I hope that God will be glorified by our correspondence”. [3]

The notes he made during his retreat in preparation for the priesthood reveal the same preoccupation: “You gave me intelligence, will, memory, a heart, eyes, hands, in a word all my bodily senses, all my soul’s faculties, you gave me all these things for yourself, to use them for your glory, for your exclusive and greater glory. […] My God, henceforth, it is all settled and for my whole life. You, you alone will be the sole object to which will tend all my affections and my every action. To please you, act for your glory, will be my daily task, the task of every moment of my life. I wish to live only for you, I wish to love you alone and all else in you and through you”. [4]

When he remains on at the seminary after the departure of the Sulpicians, it is always for the same reason: “I will stay, then, because everything obliges me to stay: the glory of God, the good of the Church, the building up of my neighbor, my own advantage”. [5]

When it was a matter of gathering a group of priests to preach the Gospel to the insignificant poor, it was for the glory of God and the salvation of souls that he undertook this endeavor. From that time on, he would almost always say: “the glory of God and the salvation of souls”, and sometimes he would quote the entire trilogy, as for example in the Preface: “The sight of these evils has touched the hearts of certain priests, who are full of zeal for the glory of God, and of devotion to the interests of the Church, and who would willingly sacrifice themselves for the salvation of souls”. [6]

We will return to this theme later, but we can already quote a few important passages. In his letter of invitation to Abbé Henry Tempier, the Founder wrote: “Read this letter at the foot of your crucifix with a mind to heed only God and what is demanded in the interests of his glory and of the salvation of souls for a priest like yourself. […] It is not easy to come across men who are dedicated and wish to devote themselves to the glory of God and the salvation of souls”. [7]

The same thought surfaces again on the occasion of the approbation of the Rules by Rome: “Do all the good that is incumbent upon you, but do it only for God”. [8] In another letter to the same father, we find an echo of his retreat notes quoted above: “[…] I have done all I ought, God will do the rest. We live only for him; we seek only the glory of his holy name and the salvation of souls he has redeemed”. [9] The conclusion he draws from the fact of the approval by Rome is much in the same vein, “The conclusion to be drawn from this […] is: we must work, with renewed ardor and still more total devotedness, to bring to God all the glory that stems from our efforts and to the needy souls of our neighbors, salvation in all possible ways”. [10] He would be able to tell Cardinal Fransoni that this was the goal of the life of every Oblate: “Our Oblates of the Most Holy Mary Immaculate are, by the grace of God, all good and all ready to sacrifice their lives for the glory of God and to work for the conversion and sanctification of souls”. [11]


To understand the significance for Eugene de Mazenod of seeking the glory of God, there is no better means than to contemplate Jesus Christ working for the glory of his Father. The Founder’s spirituality is, indeed, Christocentric. Paul VI called him a person “passionately attached to Jesus Christ”. Eugene himself said: “Since I have not imitated my model in his innocence, will I be denied the opportunity to imitate him in his devotion to the glory of his Father and the salvation of men?” [12] To commit himself to follow Jesus Christ is the central element of Eugene de Mazenod’s spirituality. And it is from this point of departure that one can understand the richness of the other elements, like the one we are presently studying.

a) It was by seeking the glory of his Father that Jesus conducted himself as a genuine Son of God.

“The one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true” (John 7:18). This is the same experiential truth that Eugene de Mazenod lived out; the texts quoted in this article are sufficient proof of that.

b) To seek the glory of God is a source of freedom.

Jesus is free to speak to every class of society, rebuking them for their sins and summoning them to an authentic fidelity to God. He does not fear to proclaim the Beatitudes in the face of the world’s rejection of them.

Eugene de Mazenod felt free enough to speak out frankly. For example, to preach in Provençal in spite of the ridicule of Aix’s high society, to defend the rights of the Church like the freedom to teach, [13] to display his independence with regard to all governments, to reprimand certain Oblates such as Bishop Jean-François Allard [14] or Father Callixte Kotterer, [15] or when he told Father Hippolyte Courtès: “See to it firmly that each performs his duty punctually. […] The essential is to please God”. [16]

c) Seeking the glory of God is a source of peace

Jesus experienced in his own human heart the terror of death: “Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this very reason that I have come to his hour. Father, glorify your name” (John 12:27-28). It is after having said “glorify your name” that with a peaceful heart Jesus proclaimed his certainty of victory: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself” (John 12:32).

Among the many trials Eugene de Mazenod had undergone, we can recall the long Calvary he suffered from 1832 to 1837. After his consecration as Bishop of Icosia, he was proscribed by the French government and ordered by Rome to remain silent. In spite of the deep suffering that this caused him, he wrote to Bishop Frezza: “It is a rich reward for my suffering to see God glorified in this way, so many souls converted; […] as long as God is exalted what does it matter that I remain humiliated, neglected, abandoned by almost everyone? […] From the day of my birth, God has led me by the hand; he has led me to do so many things for his glory that I would have feared being proud if men were aware of it and had granted me recognition. It is better for me that they should be unjust and ungrateful; thus God would be my only reward as he is my only strength, my only hope.” [17] Once the matter was settled by his appointment as Bishop of Marseilles, even if he did not want to accept the responsibility of a diocese, he wrote in his diary: “So be it! Just so long as God is glorified by it. I could not have lost my independence and liberty more completely; humanly speaking, it is an affliction for me, but things must be considered in another light”. [18]

d) Seeking the glory of God means self-denial

“I tell you most solemnly, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father doing: and whatever the Father does the Son does too” (John 5:19). Jesus personally lived the beatitude of poverty that he proclaimed.

It is the same attitude of self-denial that the Founder recommended to the Oblates. “Please God at Aix they will know how to profit from the gifts of God. For that the missionaries must be forgetful of themselves, and have nothing in view save the greater glory of God and the salvation of these poor souls who have not had any help since the mission.” [19] He recommended the same attitude to the first missionaries sent to Canada: “[…] never seeking their own interest but only what pertains to the glory of God and the service of the Church”. [20]

e) Seeking the glory of God is a source of apostolic zeal

“Because I have come from heaven, not to do my own will, but to do the will of the one who sent me. Now the will of him who sent me is that I should lose nothing of all that he has given to me, and that I should raise it up on the last day”. (John 6:38 – 39) The one who acts only for the glory of God discovers ever more the infinite love of God for people and shares his desire that “everyone […] be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

Committed to the following of Jesus Christ, from the first years of his ministry, Eugene de Mazenod linked together the glory of God and the salvation of men. We have already quoted enough texts which give proof of this. Moreover, in a letter to Father Christopher Bonjean, he explains the link between the glory of God and the salvation of men: “May you all be preserved also in order to continue to bring about the glory of God by working for the conversion of these poor souls which without you would not be saved”. [21] God is glorified when men are saved. So it is as a missionary that Eugene de Mazenod seeks the glory of God following in the footsteps of Jesus. As Father Joseph Pielorz pointed out in his thesis: “His apostolic mentality enables us to discover the true meaning of the phrase which appears so often in the writings of Bishop de Mazenod: ‘to work for the greater glory of God’. This work is not to be accomplished mainly through the various acts of religion, i.e., adoration, sacrifice, prayer, etc., as the French School in general understood it, but rather through the apostolate. That is, less by increasing acts of adoration than by increasing the number of adorers.” [22]

f) Love is the inspiration for seeking the glory of God

“He who sent me is with me, and has not left me to myself, for I always do what pleases him”. (John 8:29)

It is noteworthy that, from time to time, the Founder transformed the classical trilogy into another formula: “The love of Christ, love for the Church and the salvation of souls”. For example, in the well-known text: “The one who would like to join our ranks should burn with the desire of his own perfection, be enflamed with love for Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Church, with an ardent zeal for the salvation of souls”. [23] Consequently, for the Founder as for the Oblates, seeking the glory of God meant to respond to the love of Christ, to love the Church with him and to share his love for all. Seeking the glory of God was understood and lived as a commitment to follow in the footsteps of Christ, the Savior.

In what way were the Oblates faithful to the call of their Founder: seeking above all the glory of God?


Since they heard the Founder speak of the “glory of God and the salvation of souls”, the Oblates gladly drew their inspiration from this. So it was that Bishop Vital Grandin wrote to Bishop de Mazenod: “All our fathers are well; they are obtaining the glory of God and everything leads us to believe that the Lord will crown our efforts with more and more success”. [24] In a letter to the Founder, Father John Séguin communicates the testimony of Father Julian Moulin in which he describes the difficulties of a missionary journey: “Now all of this is a thing of the past! May these few labors benefit the glory of God and the salvation of souls and I will have been richly rewarded for them”. [25] It is always the same wording that reappears so there is no need to multiply quotations from writings.

In their circular letters, the Superiors General issued the same call, making explicit reference to the Founder. Here is one example from Father Joseph Fabre: “Yes, for the glory of God, to save souls, let us leave no stone unturned and by doing so show ourselves to be worthy sons of our Father so filled with love for God and for souls”. [26] In the conclusion to his circular letter on studies, Father Louis Soullier stated: “What is at stake is the glory of God in us and in souls”. [27] In circular letter 133, Bishop Augustine Dontenwill presented the letter of congratulations from Pope Pius XI for the centenary of the approbation of our Rules: “In the wake of a century of suffering, struggles and labors for the glory of God, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate […] are happy to hear the common Father of all the faithful […] tell them that he is happy with the zeal, dedication and piety which reigned and continues to reign in your Congregation”. [28] Faithful to the mind of the Founder, his fifth successor spontaneously linked the glory of God and missionary zeal.


Indeed, when one consults the General Analytical Table of Contents of the review Missions or in the Analytical Index of the Constitutions and Rules of 1982, we do not often find the expression “glory of God”. Except for a few quotations of the Founder’s wording, we hardly find anything more by going through all the Administrative Circulars of the Superiors General. This should not surprise us since, in contrast to other founders of orders, Father de Mazenod did not make it a primary command for the Oblates to seek the glory of God for its own sake. On the other hand, what we usually find is the primacy of consecration to God and the primacy of the commitment to follow in the footsteps of Christ to be cooperators of the Savior in a missionary work.

To avoid piling up quotations, let us simply point out a few typical expressions in the circular letters of Father Leo Deschâtelets. “Our ideal is an absolute and enthusiastic commitment, a total availability to God and to souls for God, drawn from contemplation and in interior union with God”. [29] In the same circular letter, our vocation is described as “a frantic gift of oneself to the service of God, his glory, his love and his infinite mercy; it is a drive, a special intensity of priestly charity, of zeal for the most difficult works”. [30]

Insisting on the primacy of the love of God, Father Deschâtelets presented the General Chapter as an undertaking of charity towards God and men: “If we are gathered here, it is to practice charity. In some way, it is the solemn act through which the Congregation displays, in an official and collective manner, its charity toward God and souls. It is to love God more in the soul of our brothers and of poor sinners.” [31] The same thought was expressed at the General Chapter of 1959 in different words: “We are bound in duty to Jesus, to the Church, to souls”. [32] And a few lines further on: “To lend strength to this three-fold love, or better still, to this single love of God from which the others flow, we need a special ascesis which, among us, consists in imitating the virtues and examples of Our Lord in our personal life as well as in our apostolic life”. [33]

We could go through all the reports to other Chapters and circular letters of the Superiors General; the same ideas will be found, namely, the fundamental reality for the Oblate is his consecration to God, with and through Jesus Christ, to cooperate with him for the salvation of men.

Consecrated to God, the Oblate bears “witness to God’s holiness and justice” (C 9). In speaking of our sharing in the prophetic grace of the Church, the Constitutions and Rules of 1982 used an expression that was not well known to the Founder. [34] Are these expressions a faithful expression of his thinking? The answer is found by quoting the Magnificat which makes the link between the glorification of God and the ministry for justice. Mary gives glory to God: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”. In the course of her contemplation, she discovers the plan of God, a plan to restore justice among people and recognize the dignity of the poor: “He has […] exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things.” It is the same undertaking as the Oblate following the Lord to be of service to the poor. The concluding lines of Rule 9 bring to mind Psalm 8 which begins by giving glory to God: “O Lord our God, how great is your name”, and leads us to discover the outstanding dignity of man: “What is man that you should spare a thought for him?” It is, therefore, by giving glory to the just and holy God that the missionary will be an authentic Gospel worker, avoiding the pitfall of developing a narrow partisan view in defense of the poor.

Even if more recent texts use a different wording, they still refer to the same reality: the absolute primacy of God. For Eugene de Mazenod, God holds first place. Eugene wanted to do everything “for the greater glory of God”. For the Oblates who want to be witnesses for a just and holy God, God holds first place. God must hold first place for all the religious who, according to Paul VI, are called to “show forth to men the primacy of the love of God”. [35]

“To seek the glory of God” was lived in different ways by holy founders and by the religious who committed themselves to follow them. In the case of the Oblates, Eugene de Mazenod gave this search a distinctly apostolic orientation, following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, Savior, with whom they wish to cooperate for the salvation of men.