(This text is a translation from the French authorized by the author, Fr. Normand Provencher, OMI)
The spirituality of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate springs from the experience of the interior and apostolic life of their founder, Saint Eugene de Mazenod, from their Constitutions and Rules and the General Chapters, as well as from the existence of their members for 200 years. This spirituality having been expressed in a language from another time, it is sometimes necessary to go beyond words.
Following Christ the Savior
The Oblates are called to follow Christ to become His disciples and collaborators. By vocation they wish to live in close communion with him and to listen to him to know him better and to be evangelized by him. With the eyes of Christ, they look at the poor “with their many faces.” (Constitutions, No. 5). They follow their founder who during Lent of 1813 addressed the poor of Aix-en-Provence in their language, Provencal: “…my brothers, dear brothers, respected brothers, listen to me. You are God’s children, the brothers of Jesus Christ, heirs to his eternal kingdom, chosen portion of his inheritance…” The ministry of the Oblates is therefore marked by the attitude of Jesus who was close to simple people, the poor, the neglected, for whom He recognized the right to hear the Gospel of salvation. This proximity with Christ inspires the Oblates to live a simple and hospitable life.
The spirituality of mission
The Oblates are primarily missionaries, “sent” or commissioned whose mission is to evangelize, to found or to revitalize Christian communities, to lead people “to act like human beings, first of all, and then like Christians, and finally we must help them become saints” (Preface to the Constitutions). Their spirituality leads them to serve the Church through the evangelization of the poor and the neglected. It is built on the gift of self which is required in order to mission among people and communities. Faced with these challenges, the words of their Founder resonate with great relevance today: “We must spare no effort to extend the Savior’s empire.” (Ibid.) Their motto says much about the spirituality of the Oblates: “The poor are evangelized.”
A fraternal and community life
For the Oblates, mission and prayer are first lived through the community in which Christ the Savior is present. Community is the locus of mutual support that intensifies their missionary enthusiasm, their prayer and their intellectual development. Moreover, group life makes its members responsible for each other and encourages the sharing of their talents, always with a view to the mission. Although the latter sometimes call them to live and work alone, in the Canadian north or in the bush, for example, the Oblates are aware that they can always count on the encouragement, support and prayer of their community. They will find a beneficial understanding and the support that will allow them to rebuild their strengths. Community and fraternal sharing are essential spiritual values for the Oblates, their associates and all those they welcome in their homes.
Shortly before his death, St. Eugene left to his sons, as a testament, this phrase which is always present in their mind: “Practice charity, charity, charity among you, and outside, zeal for the salvation of souls.”