Generosity in action: The Legacy of St. Eugene de Mazenod

Originally Published on OMIWORLD.ORG

Click here to see the Article en Español

As we approach the 163rd anniversary of our beloved Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod, on May 21st, we find ourselves at a crossroads of reflection and action. This occasion is not simply a feast day in the Church’s liturgical calendar, but for our Charismatic family, it serves as a yearly “call to action.”  St. Eugene’s ardent love for serving the poor, his profound sense of community, and his dedication to living out the evangelical counsels are as challenging today as they were during his lifetime. From the many virtues he exemplified throughout his earthly life, his spirit of generosity resonates in my heart, particularly in today’s world, marred by conflict, individualism, and a threat to our Common Home. The world craves models of authentic generosity, love, and, above all, courage. 

A Call to Generous Service

St. Eugene deserves to be remembered as a “priest of the poor” and a paragon of generosity.  His earthly life was the epitome of selfless generosity and courage, an earthly pilgrimage dedicated to God, the Church, and the most abandoned.  He is the model of a pilgrim of hope in communion.  His mission was clear: to evangelize the poor and to be evangelized by the poor. This two-way relationship with the poor and their many faces remains a source of inspiration for our mission today. In a world scarred by division, inequality, and spiritual famine, our mandate is clear: We must build bridges, see Christ in every face, and be Christ for others.  We must be courageous enough to encounter the other in his suffering, pain, and struggle to find hope.  This mission is not confined to the walls of our churches or our communities. No, it is an urgent call to action!  This call drags us out of bed each dawn by our very feet, propelling us forward with love for a world in pain and in need of the love of Christ.   Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that “sharing in the needs and sufferings of others becomes a sharing of my very self with them: if my gift is not to prove a source of humiliation, I must give to others not only something that is my own but my very self; I must be personally present in my gift.” (Deus Caritas Est, 34). 

A Sermon Lived Out Loud

Eugene responded generously to the voice of God in the poor and the most abandoned.  He was a man whose life was a sermon lived out loud. His call to “preach, preach, and if necessary, use words” encapsulates the essence of his sainthood—a relentless pursuit of charity, compassion, and zeal for souls. Like the Pelican mother, St. Eugene selflessly devoted his life passionately to the love of the poor, the marginalized, the young, and the old, as well as those thought to have been forgotten. He courageously responded to the urgent call to action of his time and inspired those first missionaries to join him in this mission.

A Happy Death

St. Eugene’s earthly pilgrimage concluded on May 21, 1861,  and in the presence of his confrères, he breathed his last, but not before reminding them, “If I fall asleep, wake me, as I want to die aware.” Even at his death, Eugene desired to share his hope of a ‘happy death.’  His holistic approach to evangelization, rooted in compassion, generosity, and communal sharing, is a blueprint for our mission today. Let us hold on tight to his final words, “Among yourselves, charity, charity, charity at all times, and outside zeal for the souls.”  Charity, generosity, and a culture of sharing begin in our communities.  

Generosity Humanizes

St. Eugene has left behind a legacy of selflessness and generosity that continues to inspire generations.   His life reminds us of the fundamental truth that sharing and generosity humanize us.  It bridges the gap between divinity and our earthly existence. As the famous Zulu proverb says, “Umuntu, ngumuntu, ngabantu!” (a person is a person through other people). Today, St. Eugene continues to challenge us to embody a spirit of generosity and to embrace a culture of sharing, to extend our hands and hearts beyond the confines of our immediate circles, and to weave a web of love that attracts and encompasses all of God’s creation. Generosity is born in the human heart.  As members of the Charismatic family, we must model this “bishop with a heart as big as the world.”

Commitment to Our Apostolic Mission

The practice of sharing takes us back to the Gospels, the community of Jesus and his apostles, who shared life among themselves and with the poor. St. Eugene adopted the model of a shared life for his first missionaries of Aix. He also invited others, such as the youth, to be part of a shared life. I want to encourage our Oblate Youth to cultivate a culture of sharing and generosity. We must recognize that hoarding and selfishness do not build a new world like the one St. Eugene envisioned. This celebration of his life renews our commitment to living out the virtues of charity, generosity, and zeal.

Let us be courageous in embracing change, innovative in our approach to sharing the Good News, and relentless in our pursuit of building a world marked by divine love and unity.

I invite each of you to reflect on St. Eugene’s life and find inspiration in his sense of faith, dedication, and charity. May his life motivate us to share more profoundly, love more openly, and serve generously.

Let us pray for St. Eugene’s intercession so that we can continue to grow in holiness and dedication to our mission. May his spirit guide us as we strive to live out the values he championed, forging a path toward a more compassionate and united world.

In closing, I extend my most profound appreciation for your continued dedication to our shared mission. Together, as the Charismatic Family, let us walk in the footsteps of our founder, inspired by his life and sustained by his prayers.

Fr. Kapena M. Erastus SHIMBOME, OMI
General Councillor for Africa-Madagascar