Acta Sanctorum: St. Eugene de Mazenod (May 21)
May 21, 2024
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

May 21
St. Eugene de Mazenod

Life (1782-1861)

Charles Joseph Eugene de Mazenod lived in times as stormy as the present, and set an example of survival that we can find helpful today.

Born at Aix-en-Provence, in southern France, he was the son of a nobleman father and an uncultured but wealthy mother. During the French Revolution his family, being aristocrats, fled into Italian exile. The marriage of his parents then shattered, ending in divorce. Eugene thus became the child of a broken family, which caused him great pain.

When he was able to return to France, now in his late teens, his primary impulse was to marry a rich wife, so as to restore his family fortunes. But the first girl he chose died of consumption before they could wed, and the next candidate that appealed to him proved to be impoverished.

This turn of events prompted the young man to rethink his direction in life. Always basically devout, in 1808 he decided to enter the priesthood. Three years spent at the Seminary of St. Sulpice converted him into a zealous churchman, devoted to the pope and to the care of the poor and youth.

After his ordination in 1811, Abbe Mazenod gradually worked into a fruitful career of preaching parish missions. To assist him, he established a community of priests that later became the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

In 1823, his priest-uncle Fortune de Mazenod was installed as bishop of Marseilles. The new bishop appointed Eugene as his vicar general. Having been promoted to auxiliary bishop in 1837, the nephew was named to succeed the uncle on the decease of the latter in 1837. Bishop Eugene de Mazenod’s career as bishop of Marseilles, which continued until his death on May 21, 1861, was that of a wonderfully active apostolic leader.

He continued to direct the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, even after the 1840s, when they expanded into the Americas, Africa and Asia. He also accepted the headship of the Holy Family Sisters of Bordeaux. These responsibilities brought him into contact with the British Isles, with the Oxford Movement, and early ecumenical trends.

But it was in his own diocese that Bishop Eugene became a most influential figure. Marseilles was stricken with many spiritual and material ailments as the result of the French Revolution and later political turmoil. Mazenod reorganized the diocese well, giving it permanent stability. Sensitive to the needs of the poor, he established various religious and social organizations planned to help them help themselves. He remained to the end an excellent and influential preacher, and he preached standards of behavior that were common sense rather than rigoristic. Although a nobleman in status (named in 1856 a senator in France’s Second Empire), this lively (and sometimes stormy) prelate felt most at home when joshing with the admiring fishwives in their own Provencal dialect. Even in imperial France he remained a democratic figure.

Pope John Paul II canonized this shrewd apostolic man on December 3, 1995. He was the first French bishop to be declared a saint since 1588. The Holy Father must have seen in him the sort of bishop needed by the Church as it enters the third millennium.

--Father Robert F. McNamara

Scripture. Phil 3: 7-9a

Whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ.


(Year B). Nothing can better convey a greater idea of the excellence of my soul than God’s way of dealing with it. Man can only blame his own ignorance if he does not know its full value. That it was formed by God himself is already a lot, but that after having merited its disgrace, this same God who should have punished it, did not think it too humiliating for His sovereign Majesty to empty himself in some way to save it, this precisely is what is utterly incomprehensible in my eyes, precisely what gives me an infinitely greater idea of my soul than I can express. And that is still not all, for not content with having by his incarnation discharged men’s debt, he reduces
himself, a prodigy indeed, he reduces himself to beseeching men to profit from his benefactions, to apply to themselves the merits. There would be matter here for meditation for a thousand years, eternity will not suffice to plumb the depths of this mystery of goodness ... and to give thanks for it worthily to the Lord.
And it is this soul, for which the Son of God has done and still does every day things so far beyond our power to conceive, that we expose to loss notwithstanding all these helps, it is this soul that worldlings would sacrifice for a moment’s pleasure, for a smart saying, out of a vain, absurd human respect, it is this soul which I myself held so little in regard in my past life, that I sold, handed over, prostituted for nothing, this soul which today again, illuminated now by the lights of faith, etc., I should esteem the more, I am so far, but so far from appreciating at its just value, that I spoil, impoverish, wound, exhaust by my numerous infidelities. What madness!
My soul, o my soul, are you a stranger to me? Are you not mine? If you had stayed beneath the anathema, would it not have been I who was condemned? Ah! Why is it that what the divine Saviour has done for you does not excite my zeal, my esteem, my attention? I take up that thought again, my Saviour gives me the measure of what it is worth, by what he has done for it. It is he who ransomed it, he who first sought it, and although the loss of every single person would diminish nothing of his glory or grandeur or ineffable happiness, he still searches for my soul with that same urgency as if he could not be happy without it, and that urgency does not lead him to act as. Master as he could, no it is by no means by force, it is by sweetness, justice, condescension that he wishes to lead it back, and although he be repulsed incessantly, incessantly he returns to the charge, until he has achieved the conquest of his love.
Is it not thus that the adorable, wholly lovable Saviour deals with me? (Spiritual Writings)
Musical Selection
Mary immaculate, star of the morning,
chosen before the creation began,
chosen to bring, for your bridal adorning,
woe to the serpent and rescue to man.
Here, in an orbit of shadow and sadness
veiling your splendour, your course you have run;
now you are throned in all glory and gladness,
crowned by the hand of your saviour and Son.
Hear in your Mercy, the voice of our crying;
bend to this earth where your footsteps have trod;
stretch out your arms to the living and dying,
Mary immaculate, mother of God.
O God, in your mercy, you blessed your Bishop Saint Eugene
de Mazenod with the zeal of an apostle to preach the Good
News to the nations. Grant that by his intercession we may be
filled with the same spirit and dedicate ourselves
wholeheartedly to the service of the Church and the salvation of
all. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son who
lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one
God for ever and ever. Amen.