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St Charles Joseph Eugene de Mazenod
, Bishop of Marseille, founder of the Congregation of the Missionaries, Oblates of Mary Immaculate (entered heaven on this day, 1861; in 1936 his body was exhumed, incorrupt)
So you’ve finally chosen a major, or should I say two majors? Political science and International Relations cover just about everything, so I am sure you have a tantalizing smorgasbord of classes to choose from. But even so, I’d be willing to bet they don’t teach you much about the role of God’s providence in the history of states. You’ll have to learn that from other sources, Church sources. But if you do, it will give you a definite step up in the career climb, so you’ll be able to do more for the Kingdom, and do it faster. Today’s saint is a good place to start.
Charles was born to French nobility, but he was born before the French Revolution. When he was only eight-years-old, the Revolution exploded, and his family was forced to flee to Italy to survive. They traveled from city to city, vainly looking for a place to put out their anchor, and flirting with destitution all the while.
After an 11-year exile, they returned to their beloved homeland, only to find their properties and their noble titles equally dissipated. His parents separated. His mother set about trying to reclaim their properties and to be matchmaker for her son (she was hunting the richest heiress she could find). But the future saint, as attracted as he was to the comforts and pleasures of courtly life, began switching gears. He saw all around him a devastated Church, and a populous without hope or guidance or assistance. Gradually, God stirred in his heart the desire to DO something to rectify the sprawling damage of the horrible revolution. He perfunctorily informed his mother that he was going to join the seminary. After she hit the roof, he took his leave.
But once he was a priest, he didn’t take up a normal parish position. He traveled form town to town in the region of Provence, ministering to those who had fallen outside the sundered ecclesiastical structures – the poor, peasants, orphans, prisoners, servants, children… His zeal was contagious, and soon, in spite of vehement opposition from members of the more traditional clergy, he gathered a group of followers (priests and seminarians, and future priests and seminarians) to help him.
Eventually, he received papal approval for this group of post-revolutionary missionaries under the name of the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Later, a bishop uncle appointed him vicar of his diocese (Marsailles), and eventually the holy founder was made bishop himself. In his tireless zeal he continued to train and send Oblates to missions in the farthest corners of the world, and at the same time to renew the church in Marsailles and spread hope and vigor among laity and clergy throughout the country. He died a towering figure in the French Church, a true social and spiritual revolutionary.
That’s what God does. When history turns a tragic corner, he raises up saints to get it back on track. (I often think that you will be one to help get our current wrong momentum switched around…) So don’t forget about Providence as you pore over the history and science of Politics.
Your devoted uncle,