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Charles Joseph Eugene de Mazenod
Bishop of Marseilles, and founder of the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, b. at Aix, in Provence, 1 August, 1782; d. at Marseilles 21 May, 1861. De Mazenod was the offspring of a noble family of southern France, and even in his tender years he showed unmistakable evidence of a pious disposition and a high and independent spirit. Sharing the fate of most French noblemen at the time of the Revolution, he passed some years as an exile in Italy, after which he studied for the priesthood, though he was the last representative of his family. On 21 December, 1811, he was ordained priest at Amiens, whither he had gone to escape receiving orders at the hands of Cardinal Maury, who was then governing the archdiocese of Paris against the wishes of the pope. After some years of ecclesiastical labours at Aix, the young priest, bewailing the sad fate of religion resulting among the masses from the French Revolution, gathered together a little band of missionaries to preach in the vernacular and to instruct the rural populations of Provence. He commenced, 25 January, 1816, his Institute which was immediately prolific of much good among the people, and on 17 February, 1826, was solemnly approved by Leo XII under the name of Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
After having aided for some time his uncle, the aged Bishop of Marseilles, in the administration of his diocese, Father De Mazenod was called to Rome and, on 14 October, 1832, consecrated titular Bishop of Icosium, which title he had, in the beginning of 1837, to exchange for that of Bioshop of Marseilles. His episcopate was marked by measures tending to the restoration in all its integrity of ecclesiastical discipline. De Mazenod unceasingly strove to uphold the rights of the Holy See, somewhat obscured in France by the pretensions of the Gallican Church. He favoured the moral teachings of Blessed (now Saint) Alphonsus Liguori, whose theological system he was the first to introduce in France, and whose first life in French he caused to be written by one of his disciples among the Oblates. At the same time he watched with a jealous eye over the education of youth, and, in spite of the susceptibilities of the civil power, he never swerved from what he considered the path of justice. In fact, by the apostolic freedom of his public utterances he deserved to be compared to St. Ambrose. He was ever a strong supporter of papal infallibility and a devout advocate of Mary's immaculate conception, in the solemn definition of which (1854) he took an active part. In spite of his well-known outspokenness, he was made a Peer of the French Empire, and in 1851 Pius IX gave him the pallium.
Meanwhile he continued as Superior General of the religious family he had founded and whose fortunes will be found described in the article on the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Such was the esteem in which he was held at Rome that the pope had marked him out as one of the cardinals he was to create when death claimed him at the ripe age of almost seventy-nine.
Cooke, Sketches of the Life of Mgr de Mazenod, Bishop of Marseilles (London and Dublin, 1879); Rambert, Vie de Mgr D. J. E. De Mazenod (Tours, 1883); Ricard, Mgr de Mazenod, évêque de Marseille (Paris, n. d.).
A. G. Morice.