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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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In the Legacy of St Eugene de Mazenod - Joshua Nash

Last Wednesday, on the 21st May, we celebrated the Feast Day of our founder, St Eugene de Mazenod. On this day we celebrate the immense contributions St Eugene made to our Church and to our Oblate communities. We also commemorate the anniversary of his death. St Eugene de Mazenod died on 21st May 1861 in Marseille, France. He was surrounded by his fellow brother Oblates and they sung the Salve Regina as he drifted off into eternal rest with God. Alas, before he departed St Eugene could not bear to leave his community empty-handed. He had to impart one more fiery piece of wisdom within their hearts in order to continue his mission. He said to them, “Practice well among yourselves charity, charity, charity; and outside, zeal for the salvation of souls.”

Over the past few months I have been trying to spend a little more time in prayer and getting to know St Eugene. When his feast day came around I was disappointed to not be able to be with my Oblate communities. But his final words would constantly appear in my mind throughout that day and have so ever since. After much reflection, I wish to share two main points I have gathered from St Eugene’s wisdom.

The first is about charity, surprisingly. St Eugene urged his community of brothers to practice among themselves charity. It made me think; am I charitable to everyone I meet? Do I walk the walk and not just talk the talk?

Last weekend my roommates came home very late on Saturday night after partying around the city and when they returned home they were angry. I asked them what had happened and they recounted their evening for me. They were at a friend’s birthday drinks and they began to talk about the asylum seeker debate with some other friends. One guy who was there decided to speak out against my friends in saying that we don’t need to accept asylum seekers into our country. He disclosed that we was Christian, but that he didn’t feel compassion for these people locked up in detention centres. My roommates were upset by this but decided to ignore it. Later on, they stopped past a fast-food establishment for some food and again this “Christian man” was with them. An aboriginal man wandered into the establishment and began asking people for help; he appeared quite badly bruised and was bleeding from above his left eye. This man decided to turn his back and tell the man to “piss off”. This was the end of the straw for my roommates who decided to tell their acquaintance for the evening that he should rethink his beliefs and that he should endeavour to extend his Christian charity. They decided to talk to the man asking for help; they bought him some food and sat down to talk. When they left, they gave him all their change and prayed he would be ok for the night.

When they told me this story I was startled by the actions of the so-called “Christian man”. What he did was turn his back on Jesus; because Jesus is in each and every one of us. When you turn your back on a homeless man, you turn your back on Jesus. When you deny freedom to some fleeing violence, you are denying Jesus. How much do we extend our Christian charity? How far out of our way do we go to help those around us?

The second point is about evangelisation and heavily connected to the first point. Evangelisation doesn’t need to be a bad word; it doesn’t need to be associated with bible-bashing, corner-preaching, hell-and-fire Christian fundamentalists. Evangelisation is the mission Jesus left for each and every one of us. Evangelisation is our mission as Christians to bring the Good News to every corner of the world. When St Eugene said that we need to practice zeal for the salvation of souls, he was saying that we need to go out into the world and be living witnesses to everyone of God’s love for every human being. So, again, when we share our homes, our wealth, our lives with those less fortunate, we become living witnesses to others of God’s unconditional love.

So I leave you with this: how much charity do you practice? Do you do enough to help others? Do you lower yourself in order to lift others up? How do you act in a loving manner to be a living witness of Christ’s message? Do you live love?

Happy Feast of St Eugene everyone!

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