Eugene de Mazenod used the word “oblate” in his first letter to Abbé Tempier on October 9, 1815. Among other things, he told him: “We will live together […] under a rule which we will adopt by common agreement, and whose constitutive elements we will take from the rules of Saint Ignatius, of Saint Charles for the Oblates, etc.” Before his uncle Fortuné brought him from Palermo a copy of the Constitutions and Rules of the Redemptorists, in order to convince him to accept to become the bishop of Marseilles, in a letter dated September 6, 1817, Eugene wrote: “you will find in my community genuine oblates ready for any good work.”
After the General Chapter of 1818, in accordance with the Rules, the professed members who were candidates for the priesthood were referred to as oblates, but, in his correspondence, the Founder designated the scholastic brothers in this manner for the first time, it seems, in a letter to Father Sumien on March 18, 1823, a letter which begins with these words: “The tender sentiments of our dear Oblates…” (Oblate Writings I, vol. 6, no. 96, p. 104) The word “Oblate” was then commonly used to designate the members of the Congregation from 1825 on, after the foundation of the house of Nîmes in the Languedoc, in March 1825, and the Founder’s 1825-1826 trip to Rome. Indeed, in the spring of 1825, the decision was taken to change the name from Missionaries of Provence to Oblates of Saint Charles. Then, in December of 1825, in Rome, Father de Mazenod preferred to give the Congregation the name Oblates of the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary.
The Rules composed by the Founder in 1818 used the word “oblation” to designate the religious profession which, at the end of the novitiate consisted in perpetual vows, except in the case of coadjutor brothers. It is a direct translation of the word oblazione taken from Alphonse de Liguori. In addition to this, in his December 18, 1825 letter to Father Tempier from Rome, Father de Mazenod wrote that Pope Leo XII granted “a plenary indulgence for the day of oblation and for the anniversary of oblation.”
After pontifical approbation of the Rule in 1826, the Founder gave each professed member an incremental number of oblation. He, himself, took number 1 and it was Father Jean-Marie Le Jacq who, on May 19, 1861, received the last number, number 546, before the death of the Founder. In reality, there had been 572 perpetual oblations during the Founder’s lifetime because, in the list, the names of those who left before 1826 and several others were omitted, especially missionaries in the Canadian north, whose names the superiors had not sent to the General Administration.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.