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From the French Revolution to the New Evangelization - Eugene de Mazenod and his charism between XVIII and XXI century

The review publishes one monograph a year, which is sent as a supplement.

From the French Revolution to the New Evangelization - Eugene de Mazenod and his charism between XVIII and XXI century
Rome - 2013
Paweł Zając, OMI, Ed.

The editor, Paweł Zając, omi, was born in Poland in 1975. He completed his Oblate formation in Obra and Rome and was ordained to the priesthood in 2001 in Gjoa Haven (Canada). From 2002 to 2006 he continued his studies at the Catholic University of Lublin and since 2006 he has been a formator at the Oblate Scholasticate in Obra (Poland) and teaches Church history in the Faculty of Theology, at the University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznań. His fields of research include Oblate studies and the history of Catholic missions in North America, as well as the religious history of XVIII century Europe. Among other works he has published a concise biography of Eugene de Mazenod and a History of the Missionary Oblates in the Churchill-Hudson Bay area, 1912-2012.

The book brings together 12 articles written by 11 authors, arranged in three sections. First, there is the historical background of Eugene de Mazenod’s life, starting with the French Revolution and the period of Napoleon’s rule, and a broader reflection on clerical and anticlerical attitudes of French society in the 19th century. Secondly, the authors describe some aspects of Eugene’s life. This section begins with a historiographical analysis of the directions most needed for a further study of this unique biography. There are three study-samples in particular of the areas which demand more involvement from scholars: Eugene’s family connections, his zeal for foreign missions and his care for the local church of the diocese of Marseille. The third section is a logical follow-up to the historic and biographical presentations and is dedicated to some contemporary studies of the Oblate charism in the context of the new evangelization.


The year 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of the death of Eugene de Mazenod (1782-1861), Founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and bishop of Marseille. He belonged to a generation which had witnessed a revolution – not just the French Revolution, but an almost complete remaking of the western Europe, with its political and social institutions and value systems. The past was originally ridiculed by Voltaire and his companions, enlightened writers and intellectuals, then opposed by revolutionary armies and insurgents through the late 18th and the whole of the 19th century. The future was to be shaped by new ideas and ideologies which seemed to be more in touch with reality than the seemingly outdated theological insights of Catholic preachers. Against this background however there were still people who decided to live their life with profound conviction that Christian values are not completely obsolete, on the contrary, that Church community could be a valuable place for an experience of living faith and conversion which fulfills the deepest longings of human heart. Eugene was among them; and this is just one of many reasons why his life and religious experience deserve continuous study and reflection. This book brings together 12 articles written by 11 authors, arranged in three sections. First there is the historical background of Eugene’s life, starting with the French Revolution and the period of Napoleon’s rule, and a broader reflection on clerical and anticlerical inclinations of French society in the 19th century. Secondly the authors describe some aspects of Eugene’s life. This section begins with a historiographic analysis of the most needed directions for a further study of this unique biography. Three particular study-samples of the areas which demand more involvement from scholars were dedicated to Eugene’s family connections, his zeal for foreign missions and his care for the local church of the diocese of Marseille. The third section is a logical follow-up of the historic and biographical presentations and is dedicated to some contemporary realizations of the Oblate charism in the context of the new evangelization.

The original idea of this book can be traced back to an international conference held at the Oblate scholasticate in Obra in October 2011, which was a part of the rich program of celebrations of Eugene de Mazenod’s anniversary across the Oblate Congregation. Subsequently a book was published by the Faculty of Theology at the University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznań (Poland), bringing together the articles which followed in a more elaborated way some themes discussed at the conference. Already at that stage it was found appropriate to share some of these contributions with a broader international community of those fascinated with the person of Eugene and the religious history of late 18th and 19th century Europe. For the present edition some articles were selected from the original book published in Polish, and a few new authors were asked to expand further on themes which were only generally referred to during informal debates following the Obra conference in 2011. Thus the reader will find in the present volume a much broader treatment of French 19th-century anticlericalism, a reflection on Oblate historiography and a study on Eugene’s Marian devotion. The Oblate scholars in their articles prove that academic work not only does not impede the realization of the biblical and Oblate motto Evangelizare pauperibus misit me, but offers a rich ground for deep interpersonal relations with those who struggle for a more mature and personal faith. As a whole the book has one aim – to foster an over greater interest in the personal and religious history of the Oblate Founder and to understand it in the broader context of past and contemporary social and cultural challenges. The history of revolutions continues to the present day, as well as the religious history of the world. Sometimes they are contrasting, sometimes they have much in common. Was not the religious experience of Eugene de Mazenod in some ways revolutionary? The answer belongs to the area of historical evaluation but has also its consequences for the modern vision of the role of religion and the Church in human society.

Paweł Zając, omi
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