The smoke rises in a gentle spiral. The fragrance of the incense becomes stronger and stronger until we are breathing only it. The silence deepens and becomes sacred in its intensity. The only sounds are the names reverberating off the walls. The room is not overly large and we are crowded in, lining the walls three deep. In the centre of the room is small table with an incense bowl on it.
We are gathered in Eugene’s Common Room. It’s Day 3 and the United States delegates have prepared our Morning Prayer. We have had song, Scripture, prayer and a reflection. Each of us is here, we are told, because of our connection to Saint Eugene’s charism. It is true for the Oblates and laity alike. But the charism does not come to anonymously, out of the air. It is embodied in others and we come to know it through their witness.
And so our invitation to action. Each of us is to recall an Oblate, alive or passed on, who has influenced our life. We are to come forward, in silence, one by one, and taking a pinch of incense, drop it onto the burning charcoal disc. As we do so, we are to call out the name of the Oblate.
It is such a sacred moment. I reflect on the many Oblates who have graced and continue to grace my life. I am filled with gratitude as I choose one mentor from among the many. I make my way forward, and as I take and drop granules of incense onto the coal, I speak his name into the holy silence. He becomes part of the invisible communion that surrounds us.
I watch prayerfully as the other participants do the same, speaking the Oblate names into the room. I recognize a few and smile in acknowledgement. The enclosed space grows dense with the perfumed smoke, but it is also filled with the presence of the summoned Oblates, bidden here by those who love them. I feel as well as the presence Saint Eugene, Tempier and the other early companions. This, I realize, is the communion of saints; this is how we bless one another.
We end the liturgy singing Vene Sanctus Spiritus and processing to the chapel, our meeting room. It is not only the Holy Spirit who is with us, I think. There is a whole community of Oblates, alive and dead, who walk with us, who have shared and continue to share the charism. As we begin our day’s work, I breathe a silent prayer of gratitude to them all.
Sandra Prather, HOMI