Our College Patron
Charles Eugene de Mazenod was born into the tumultuous world of Revolutionary France, the son of an aristocrat. Forced to flee France at the tender age of eight he grew to young adulthood amidst the dissipating pleasures of the aristocratic idleness of the various courts of Italy. However, his life was changed dramatically by a deep spiritual experience at a Good Friday ceremony in 1807. He would go on to become priest, missionary, bishop, and founder of a world wide religious community called the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
One of his contemporary bishops once said:
“Go to Marseilles. There is a Bishop there whose Congregation is still small, but the man himself has a heart as big as St Paul’s, as big as the world.”
These are words that truly convey the enthusiasm felt by those who knew him in life and by those who have come to know him through the works he established and the writings he left behind.
A heart as big the world! Even when he still had only ten companions in his society, the Rule Eugene wrote for the group in 1818 already stated emphatically, “Their ambition will be to encompass in their holy desires the immense breadth of the entire world.” That ambitious dream began to take form in 1841 when Bishop de Mazenod sent his first disciples to Canada. It was the beginning of an heroic epic that would see the Oblates of Mary Immaculate spread from pole to tropics: in Canada, Sri Lanka, Southern Africa and today in over sixty countries – wherever the apostolate demands a radical renouncing of self on the part of those whom Pius IX once called “specialists in the most difficult missions.” Thousands of Oblates have lived and spent themselves in the radiance of the Founder’s “big heart.”
A big heart such as his is a gift from God, privileged with abounding sensitivity: indeed, Eugene de Mazenod felt deep distress in the face of any inequality or injustice. That big heart was also and especially the result of an extraordinary grace. On Good Friday, 1807, Jesus caused him forcibly to feel the strength of his love. Eugene wept, he lamented his sins and he felt immense joy at discovering the meaning of his life – that he was destined to give himself totally to Jesus Christ, the Saviour. That was to be the reality inspiring his entire life. Because of his passionate love for Jesus Christ he became unconditionally committed to the Church: “To love the Church,” he said, “is to love Jesus Christ, and vice versa.” And in loving Christ, he discovered the value of every single soul, ransomed by the blood of the Son of God. That love of Christ was the cement that bound him to his apostolic companions and that continues to give Oblates today the strength to live together as brothers. Christ’s love made itself manifest to Eugene in Mary Immaculate. In her he could admire the marvel of Redemption which Christ accomplished:
“We glorify God in the masterpiece of his power and love… it is the Son whom we honour in the person of his Mother.”
He has sent me to bring the Good News to the poor.” “Leave nothing undared for the Kingdom of God.”
A heart as big as the world! A gift from Jesus Christ, confided to the maternal protection of Mary Immaculate.
Eugene de Mazenod died on the 21st May 1861, only 34 years later the Oblates arrived in Australia. He was canonized a Saint by Pope John Paul II on 3rd December 1995.