Feast of St. Eugene de Mazenod (May 21)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Eugène de Mazenod

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT CHARLES-JOSEPH-EUGÈNE DE MAZENOD (AUGUST 1, 1782-MAY 21, 1861)

Bishop of Marseille and Founder of the Congregation of the Missionaries, Oblates of Mary Immaculate

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I am a priest, a priest of Jesus Christ.  That says it all.

–St. Eugène de Mazenod

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St. Eugène de Mazenod, who hailed from minor nobility, experienced the political turmoil of the French Revolution and founded an order of missionary priests.  Our saint, born in Aix-en-Provence, on August 1, 1782, went into exile with his family when he was eight years old.  His father, Charles-Antoine de Mazenod, had been the President of the Court of Accounts, Aids and Finances in Aix-en-Provence.  Charles-Antoine, in exile in a series of Italian cities, proved to be an unsuccessful businessman, so the family’s financial condition declined precipitously.  As the family traveled from city to city, St. Eugène’s formal education ended prematurely.  In Venice a priest, Bartolo Zinelli, continued our saint’s education informally.  The family moved on to Naples then to Palermo.  There, thanks to the patronage of the Duke and Duchess of Cannizzaro, the de Mazenods’ fortunes improved greatly.  There St. Eugène assumed the title “Count.”

In 1802 “Count” Eugène de Mazenod returned to his homeland after an absence of 11 years.  In France he was merely Citizen de Mazenod.  His parents had separated.  St. Eugène’s mother, Marie-Rose Joannis de Mazenod, was struggling to recover the family’s property, seized in 1790.  She was also attempting to arrange the marriage of her son to the wealthiest heiress possible.  St. Eugène, suffering from depression, saw no good future for himself until he discerned a vocation to the Roman Catholic priesthood.  He matriculated at the seminary of St. Sulpice, Paris, in 1808, and joined the ranks of priests on December 21, 1811.

Learn who you are in the eyes of God.

–St. Eugène de Mazenod

St. Eugène returned to his hometown as a priest.  He, not seeking social status, served as a priest to villagers, youth, servants, prisoners, and the ill.  Like-minded priests joined our saint in this noble work.  These self-proclaimed Missionaries of Provence, the origin of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (as of 1826), heard many confessions.  They also preached not in French, but in Provencal, the language of the common people.  St. Eugène served as the first Superior General of the order, from 1826 until he died, in 1861.

Leave nothing undared for the Kingdom of God.

–St. Eugène de Mazenod

St. Eugène rose to the episcopate.  In 1802 the regime of Napoleon Bonaparte suppressed the Diocese of Marseille.  When the French government reversed that decision Canon Fortuné de Mazenod, our saint’s uncle, became the bishop.  Immediately, in 1823, Fortuné appointed his nephew the Vicar-General of the diocese.  Nine years later our saint became the Auxiliary Bishop of Marseille.  This consecration created a major diplomatic incident, for it happened in Rome and the French government (that of King Louis-Philippe at the time) had become accustomed to holding a prominent role in ecclesiastical affairs since the Concordat of 1802.  Diplomatic tensions died down eventually.  In 1837 Fortuné retired.  St. Eugène succeeded him.  As the Bishop of Marseille our saint oversaw the construction of the cathedral at Marseille and the founding of parishes.  He, appointed a senator in 1856, died of cancer on May 21, 1861.  St. Eugène was 78 years old.

He had, meanwhile, expanded the work of the Oblates into Ireland, Switzerland, England, Canada, the United States, Ceylon, South Africa, and Lesotho.

Pope Paul VI declared St. Eugène a Venerable in 1970 then a Blessed five years later.  Pope John Paul II canonized him in 1995.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PRISCILLA LYDIA SELLON, A RESTORER OF RELIGIOUS LIFE IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF THEODORE CLAUDIUS PEASE, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints,

and who raised up your servant Saint Eugène de Mazenod to be a light in the world:

Shine, we pray, in your hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise,

who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 49:1-6

Psalm 98 or 98:1-4

Acts 17:22-31

Matthew 28:16-20

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 717

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