“The cross of Jesus Christ is central to our mission. Like the apostle Paul, we “preach Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). If we bear in our body the death of Jesus, it is with the hope that the life of Jesus, too, may be seen in our body (cf. 2 Cor 4:10). Through the eyes of our crucified Saviour we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know also the power of his resurrection (cf. Phil 3:10).”
Although the Good Friday is the most Cross focused day in the life of the Church it is still a grace for us to have a day in the midst of our ordinary activates to contemplate the mystery which touched so deeply St Eugene de Mazenod one Good Friday that it put him on the path which led him to search for the best way to share with others the depth of God’s love. As I reflect on his reminiscences of that blessed day I recognise that our Oblate Congregation is his finding of the means to share God’s love with others:
"I looked for happiness outside of God and for too long with resulting unhappiness. How often in my past life had my wounded, tormented heart taken wings for God from whom it had turned away! Can I forget the bitter tears that the sight of the cross brought streaming from my eyes one Good Friday? Indeed they welled up from the heart, there was no checking them, they were too abundant for me to be able to hide them from those who like myself were assisting at that moving ceremony. I was in a state of mortal sin and it was precisely this that made me grieve. I could then, and also on some other instance, perceive the difference. Never was my soul more satisfied, never did it feel such happiness; for in the midst of this flood of tears, despite my grief, or rather through my grief, my soul took wings for its last end, towards God its only good whose loss it felt so keenly. Why say more? Could I ever express what I experienced then? Just the memory of it fills my heart with a sweet satisfaction"
That’s why when St Eugene eventually recognised that Jesus was calling him to establish a community of missionaries he wrote to Fr Tempier who was to be his first companion and lifelong friend:
“My dear friend, read this letter at the foot of your crucifix with a mind to heed only God and what is demanded in the interests of his glory and of the salvation of souls from a priest like yourself. Stifle the voice of cupidity, love of comfort and convenience; dwell deeply on the plight of our country people, their religious situation, the apostasy that daily spreads wider with dreadfully ravaging effects. Look at the feebleness of the means employed to date to oppose this flood of evil; ask your heart what it fain would do to counter these disasters and then reply to my letter. Well, dear man, what I say to you, without going fully into details, is that you are necessary for the work which the Lord inspires us to undertake.”
As St Eugene was looking for companions he wanted those who had a similar sensitivity to the Crucified Saviour. There is no doubt that those two priests shared such sensitivity which has been cherished among Oblates as an example how to build fraternal friendships among us.
After the death of the Founder his first companion and friend, Fr Tempier, wrote to all Oblates to tell them of the final days of Eugene de Mazenod:
"it is not possible to tell you the example he gave, the sentiments he manifested during these three days [of preparing himself for the Sacrament of the sick]. We consider it a special grace to have seen and heard what we did. 'I am on the cross', Eugene cried out. 'I gladly stay on the cross and offer my sufferings to God for my dear Oblates'.”