Born during a time in history when divorce was rare, Eugene de Mazenod had far from an ideal family life. Prayers to St. Eugene can be supportive for the victims of nuptial tragedies who feel overwhelmed, by interceding for them as they endure the pains of divorce and troubled family life.
The breakup of a marriage can destroy all sense of security and open the way to a world of uncertainty.
Adults often feel humiliation and a sense of failure, while children may feel inappropriate guilt and a deep fear of parental abandonment. St. Eugene can provide hope and encouragement for those trying to recover from the myriad disappointments of a divorce, together with support for the survivors of broken families, as he himself was the son of parents whose marriage ended acrimoniously.
Born on 1st August 1782 in Aix-en-Provence in southern France, Eugene de Mazenod was a member of the French nobility. His mother, Marie-Rose Joannis was of the bourgeois, convent educated and wealthy. Charles-Antoine, his father, was an aristocrat, educated in the classics but poor. A serious factor in the marriage was the constant interference from Marie-Rose's jealous mother and neurotic sister. When she wed Charles-Antoine, Marie-Rose's family stipulated that the dowry given by them remain in her name.
In 1791, during the French Revolution, the de Mazenod family was forced into exile in Italy to avoid the guillotine. In 1795, leaving her husband and son behind in Venice, Marie-Rose returned to France with Eugene's sister. Once back home, she divorced Eugene's father, took back her maiden name and aided by her mother's shrewdness, successfully recovered her dowry. She later wrote to her ex-husband saying "You now have nothing."
After eleven years in exile, Eugene returned to Aix at his mother's request, where he struggled to reunite his family. He also endeavoured to regain the family's holdings which had been lost during the revolution.
While in Venice, the young Eugene had been befriended by Don Bartolo Zinelli, "It was there that I discovered my vocation to the priesthood."
On 12th October 1808 Eugene entered the seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris. After his ordination on 21st December 1811, Fr. de Mazenod declined the first assignment offered to him, the prestigious position of Vicar General to the Bishop of Amiens. Instead, he asked to work with the poor and disenfrancised people of Aix. Rather than the French used by members of the upper class, the young priest spoke patois, the language of the commoners.
In 1815, he felt the need to have companions who would live in community with him and share his apostolate. He purchased a disused Carmelite convent, with its adjoining church, and his small band of priests began preaching missions throughout the French countryside, calling themselves the "Missionaries of Provence".
Pope Leo XII gave Fr. de Mazenod full approval for this new congregation on 17th February 1826, and gave them the new name "Oblates of Mary Immaculate". Eugene said "this name is a passport to Heaven".
Eugene de Mazenod became Bishop of Marseilles, France, in 1837 and his influence extended not only locally but throughout the world. In 1841, at the request of Bishop Bourget of Montreal, four Oblate priests and two brothers went to Canada and began the congregation's missionary outreach.
Before his death, his congregation of over 400 men had spread to ten countries throughout the world. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia in 1894, spreading to Victoria in 1926, Sefton in New South Wales by 1948 and Queensland in 1953.
De Mazenod died as Archbishop of Marseilles on 21st May 1861 and his tomb is located in the chapel of that city's cathedral. When he died his heart was removed and preserved - a custom not uncommon in the 19th Century. A portion of the preserved heart was placed in a reliquary and taken to the United States in 1964. The re-gilded reliquary was then enshrined in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at the Oblate-owned "Lourdes Grotto of the Southwest" in San Antonio, Texas.
Efforts to have Bishop de Mazenod canonized began in 1926 and were rewarded with his beatification by Pope Paul IV, on Mission Sunday 19th October 1975. On 3rd December 1995, he was proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul II.
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate Australia.
International Communications Network of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.