Eugene wrote a letter to his mother concerning one of his nephews who wished to become a Jesuit priest.
“I am far from opposing what God asks of him… […]. We have done what we thought was due for his happiness,3 it remains only for us to conform ourselves to God’s will, once we know what it is. The world is not so much of a thing to lose; God is doing us a favour when he takes us out of it. […] The succession of priests must go on in our family. I believe there was already a relative with my great-uncle, then his nephew the bishop of Marseilles, then me: there you have at least three generations, not to mention the doctrinaire, who was an isolated case. There really had to be one in the fourth generation. I hope that if Eugene [de Boisgelin] gets married one day one of his children will follow in our footsteps, and so on till the end of time. There’s nothing to get upset about. Goodbye, dear mother. Looking at the bright side, priests are of infinitely more use to their families, both when their parents are still alive and after their death, than are lay people. Let us bless God for everything. Goodbye.” (187:XV in Oblate Writings)
We know that for Eugene de Mazenod priesthood was the pinnacle because that is what God had chosen for him. I imagine for another who is called to be a teacher that teachers would be the pinnacle or for doctors, medicine would be the pinnacle. For me it is to be a lay person. I am an Oblate Associate who has consecrated herself to God to live in a very specific way. This is the pinnacle for me, and I believe that I have gone all the way that I have been called to go.
In Eugene’s time, it was considered to be a great blessing if there was a priest in the family, or even a Sister who was a member of the convent. And I remember as a young child when my aunt left to go and join the Sisters of Charity that our family was said to have been specially blessed because of this. But I believe that God blesses all of us, those who become religious and those who are ‘lay’ persons and each family, each community is enriched because of this. God blesses all of us as he invites us to live in very specific ways whether we get married and bring children into this world or if we remain single and get to realise the experiences of ‘family’ in less traditional ways.
I guess what is important is to be able to respond to God’s invitation which is unique and every bit as good as another’s. This way we are all gathered into an endless embrace of tenderness. Isn’t it awesome that we are all so richly blessed as to be a vital part of the tapestry that is life.