“MY SOUL PROCLAIMS THE GREATNESS OF THE LORD.”
Fr. Louis Lougen,
OMI, Superior General
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:14)
We rejoice together in praise and gratitude for the Beatification of the Oblate Martyrs of Spain. This is a great grace for us, an opportunity for the entire Congregation to renew our lives in holiness and missionary commitment. The Beatification of the Oblate Martyrs of Spain comes in this year in which we remember the 150th anniversary of the death of Saint Eugene de Mazenod and also live inspired by the Call to Conversion of 35th General Chapter. This call is “our work” until the next Chapter. No, it is the work of a lifetime! The Beatification of the Oblate Martyrs of Spain echoes the Call to Conversion. We discover in their martyrdom the richness and depth of the Gospel and of the Oblate charism.
Whenever I read about the joy that Saint Eugene experienced at the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, I am moved. I imagine now his immense delight at the beatification of the Oblate Martyrs of Spain. He must be strolling down the heavenly lanes with his chest puffed up in pride, sharing the good news with everyone and chatting with the Blessed Martyrs. I see Henri Tempier at Eugene’s side. The Founder always gets a little upset at these celebrations since he is still a bit miffed that Henri burned most of the evidence about his own sanctity to make Eugene shine more brightly. Joseph Gerard and Joseph Cebula join Eugene and Henri and many other Oblates we’ve read about and known. What a gaudeamus Eugene is preparing for the Beatification!
We share Eugene’s joy and we are filled with gratitude for the beatification our brother Oblates who were martyred in Spain. We are also called to renew our commitment. Religious life, the desire to live the baptismal call in a radical way, is a kind of successor to the period of martyrdom in the early Church. Our consecrated life, inspired in the witness of the first martyrs, is a decision to follow in radical way the Lord Jesus through the vows and in community. The beatification of the Oblate Martyrs of Spain demands that we choose again to live the root of our consecration by handing over our lives to follow Jesus. Very recently an Oblate remarked to me, with a mixture of simultaneous disappointment and longing hope: “Look at our lives! Do we give up anything? Do our lives say anything to anybody? Our consecration is so watered down!”
It is precisely for this reason that the last General Chapter called us to conversion. This is the great
challenge and the demand that the beatification of the Spanish Oblate Martyrs brings us. As we read
about the generous sacrifice of their lives, we return to the roots of our vocation and we can’t tolerate living a life that is “watered down”. I pray that by the witness of the martyrial oblation of the Blessed Oblate Martyrs of Spain we will be impassioned to live radically the following of Jesus. I ask them to intercede so that the Spirit will set us on fire as missionaries to the poor in the context of our reality with the complex challenges we face today.
I invite us all to deepen the meaning of the Beatification of the Oblate Martyrs of Spain in light of Constitution # 2 of the OMI Constitutions and Rules: “We are men ‘set apart for the Gospel’ (Rom 1:1), men ready to leave everything to be disciples of Jesus. The desire to co-operate with him draws us to know him more deeply, to identify with him, to let him live in us. We strive to reproduce in ourselves the pattern of his life. Thus, we give ourselves to the Father in obedience even unto death and dedicate ourselves to God’s people in unselfish love...”(C#2) This is at the heart of our charism. Saint Eugene and the Blessed Oblate Martyrs of Spain convoke us to embrace our vocation as described in C.#2.
A strong and deep faith fueled the missionary dreams of the Oblate Martyrs of Spain and attracted them to offer their lives to preach the Gospel to the poor in Spain, Argentina, Uruguay and the Southwest U.S. We stand in awe of their capacity to give themselves to the Father in obedience even unto death, an ultimately selfless act for the love of the people they did not yet know in the missions they hoped to serve. In the midst of these Oblate Martyrs there is also is a lay man who was a husband and father. I believe it is a sign of the Oblate charism, “always close to the people we serve” that in this beatification of Oblate Martyrs there is a lay person among the Oblates. This is another motive for which we rejoice.
Saint Eugene is all smiles for this celebration. We too feel pride and joy for the faithfulness and radical love of the Oblate Martyrs of Spain. We sing with Mary Immaculate, Mother of Apostles and Martyrs, her Song of Praise for this great day: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.”
Congratulations and thanks go to our Postulator, Fr. Joaquin Martinez, for his dedication to the causes of Oblate saints and for all that he has done to make this day a reality.
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