Fr. Salvador Gonzalez, OMI on the History and Meaning of “Oblate Day”

National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows

By Fr. Salvador Gonzalez, OMI, Director, National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows

February 17, 2023 is the 197th anniversary of the approbation of the Constitutions & Rules of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Dear sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ, members of the Mazenodian family, friends and coworkers, Happy Feast Day.

Photo: St. Eugene presenting a copy of the Oblate Constitutions and Rules to Pope Leo XII

St. Eugene presents the Constitutions and Rules to Pope Leo XII

This coming Friday, February 17, 2023, is a great day for the worldwide Mazenodian family. We celebrate 197 years since Pope Leo XII, in 1826, gave his approval (approbation) of the Constitutions and Rules of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Our Constitutions and Rules is a book that collects the written norm of who we are as an Oblate family and how we are to live and work. Inspired by God, Eugene de Mazenod wrote the norms for his Oblate family.

On January 25, 1816, Eugene de Mazenod brought together a small family to work for the Salvation of Souls and achieve their holiness.   This was the birth of the Oblate Congregation.

You might be asking yourself, if we were born in 1816, then why are we focused on an anniversary connected to 1826? Good question.

You who are parents will get this analogy: Not long ago, when  a child was born into a family, the parents did not know the gender of the baby, and so there was not much previous preparation for the birth of the child.

With much love and anticipation, the parents waited for the delivery of the child. Then the  child is born, and immediately afterward, the work begins of getting things for the child.

Amongst the most important things the parents give that child is a name, and that name will be with that child for life.

The child belongs to the parents from the moment of conception, still, the day comes when the child must be registered and officially given a birth certificate.

That birth certificate says a lot about the child; when and where it was born, who the parents are, and more importantly, what the child is to be named.

The receive a name is to receive a Mission.

On February 17, 1826, the Mazenodian family officially received its birth certificate.

Today we remember that we were willed by God, brought to life by Eugene de Mazenod, and officially belong to and exist in the Church’s life.

The young religious family that Eugene de Mazenod brought to life has gone through some name changes: our first name was Missionaries of Provence since we were born in that area of France; then Missionaries of St. Charles, because Eugene de Mazenod had a great devotion to the saint and saw him as a personal protector for his family.

On February 17, 1826, when we received our official “birth certificate, ” the name that the Church gave us and delighted Eugene de Mazenod was Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.  Wow, a new name, and this time it stuck!

Eugene de Mazenod said this about our new name “Let us render ourselves worthy to be Oblates of the Immaculate Mary. But this is a passport to heaven! How have we not thought about it sooner?”

So, we make a jump now to another analogy, from that of  birth certificate to that of passport, and I like that!

Having a passport is having permission to go places.

The Mission we have received is found in Sacred Scripture:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Is 61: 1-2)

On February 17, 1826, we were given an official passport sealed by the Holy Spirit.

We were given a name that represents who we are, we are Oblates-gifts or offerings of God, and we are sent into the world.

Today is not just about remembering, but about moving forward as well.   It’s about living and taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ from our workplace to our homes, towns, cities, and the world.

We are sent today to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ through every channel at our disposal.

We have been given a passport to be sharers of the Good News that Jesus Christ is the savior of all and that his love is freely given to all.

Today, as a Mazenodian family, we share that message in so many ways:  in person, through a phone call, a text message, and especially through social media channels.

We are a missionary family, and the mission that God has given us all is to go and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Happy Oblate Day and God bless you.