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May 21: Feast Day of St. Eugene De Mazenod, O.M.I. Founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate

Father Frank Santucci,O.M.I. is a theology professor at Oblate School of Theology.  His research interests include the life of St. Eugene De Mazenod, the Oblates’ founder.  The following is one of his reflections on the saint.  


When the name Eugene De Mazenod is mentioned, people immediately think of the dynamic and faith-filled priest who founded the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and then became Bishop of Marseilles.  At the basis of this saintly man and his very successful ministry was the secret of his life, which is not always recalled: he knew Christ the Savior intimately.  It was not a knowledge of ideas, but a familiarity and love which developed because he had experienced difficulties and sufferings in his life and was able to recognize that it was a sharing in the sufferings of his Savior.

What is a saint?  A good image is of the sun shining through a magnificent stained glass window in a cathedral.  It is the light of God’s love shining through a person and filling us with a particular color and aspect of God’s light.  Saint Eugene can be seen as this stained glass window who shows us the beauty of the love of God as Savior.  This is the invitation to which our devotion invites each of us: to see in Eugene the beauty of God’s love.  In this way Eugene becomes for us a model of how to live in the Light, an intercessor who leads us to the Light and a loving friend who accompanies us on the journey.


Eugene’s life shows him to be anything but a plaster saint who floated through life in a cloud of holiness.  The events of his life and the many sufferings from his childhood until his death show this to us.  He was exiled from his country from the age of nine until 20.  He suffered many hardships during this time, but certainly the most painful blow was that his mother and sister left him and returned to France to try to recover some of the family possessions that the Revolution had taken away from them.  In order to recover their property, his mother had to undergo a civil divorce.  Eugene considered this as a temporary legal necessity and for many years he longed for the day when his parents would be reunited.  It was never to happen.  What had begun as a separation for material reasons developed into a divorce which never led to reconciliation.  Eugene, who intensely loved both his parents, tried by all means to bring them together again, but to no avail.         

He had a strong personality and he struggled with himself and his imperfections.  He was a man who knew how much he needed to love people and to be loved by them, and yet he was also a figure who knew rejection and loneliness.  He was a man who suffered because of the situations in which he found himself - but throughout his life we find a deep sense of peace and single-mindedness that never left him.  Why?  Because since he had met and accepted the Crucified Jesus as his Savior, Eugene was able to see every event through the eyes of his Savior.  In each event he was able to discern and recognize the presence of his loving Savior.

Here is the first reason why people are attracted to St. Eugene as a saint: he is very human and therefore becomes a MODEL for us.  He teaches us how to recognize God’s love in every situation.  Thousands of persons throughout the world have learnt of God’s love through the ministry of His sons.