In the Voice of Moreau: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” With these words, our Lord reveals the profound truth at the heart of the cross. To encounter the living God is not a positive emotion. It is not another sensory experience among a myriad of sensory experiences. It is a cold, hard spiritual fact. It is quite necessarily an experience of abandonment. For, it is the turning away from the consolations of this life that puts us in touch with the life to come. Sacred, “set apart,” our father by definition must be absolutely other-than-this-world. Study the cross. See that it is not a rejection of material forms, emotions, the human body or sensory experiences. Rather, the cross demands that these things simply be put into right relationship with their creator – they must be “ended” as it were. Hence Jesus himself declares that “it is finished” at the very moment that he hands over his spirit. But what will happen to us when we no longer have these things to hold onto? What will keep us connected? We are human and have bodies after all! The cross is the placeholder. The cross keeps our senses and bodies grounded. The cross empowers us to open our hearts to the one true God. The cross makes the risk of faith possible. Let us therefore “die” all of the obstacles in our spiritual lives so that we too might enjoy the glory of this abandonment. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: To deny oneself anything material or corporeal takes courage and stamina because it is an attempt to restrain the beast within. That beast has been called names such as the ego or the shadow. For the Christian it is original sin—that constant battle of the dark trying to overwhelm the light. Climbing upon the cross with the Savior, at one and the same instant, is to fall recklessly into the bottomless pit of abandonment and into the loving embrace of complete fulfillment. Mounting the Cross takes faith. In 1891, Brother Paul the Hermit (John) McIntyre, C.S.C. wrote to Father Sorin. “Once more I beg leave to trouble you with a request to be permitted to accompany the Missionaries who are about to start for Bengal…. I may not be of much service in India, but I do wish for a trial. At the time of my profession my vows were accepted by my superiors with the full knowledge that I had the desire for this work which I have ever since been craving you to assign me. Do not refuse me, Very Rev. Father, the chance to complete the sacrifice of myself for the greater honor of God and the Good of my own soul. Remember the many times I have besieged you, even at the risk of earning your displeasure.” (Letter to Sorin. 1891.) His request for such trial and sacrifice was denied yet again. Staying at Notre Dame, he went on to become the business manager for the Ave Maria Press, a Master of Novices, and in 1906 an Assistant Superior General of the Congregation. His death in 1920 was marked with many accolades, yet he was most remembered for his humility. Humility is the breastplate that keeps the prideful beast at bay and provides the courage to mount the Cross. CSC educators who are true sons and daughters of Blessed Moreau model temperance. Through their reflective lesson planning, they manufacture lectures and assignments that assist students to embrace the same sacrificial oblation unto the Lord. Educating the hearts of those entrusted to us has never been as needful as it is today because the beast finds so many forms of hedonism to engorge upon. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: Like a rule or a law, the cross presents a certain standard of behavior to us. It demands that we measure our lives against its right form. And when that rule or law is received obediently and integrated fully into the soul of a person, it actually comes to life, walking and talking and breathing and shining forth in the life of that person. Christ allowed the law of the cross to be so totally incorporated into his being that when we see Christ we necessarily see the cross – just ask the disciples who encountered the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus! Indeed, the true cross was never to be found by crusaders gallivanting across medieval landscapes but in the mystical body of Christ. This very day he invites us to humbly surrender ourselves, like he has, to that crucified pattern of life. Perhaps we have adopted other modes of life that suit us. Perhaps we want a rule or a law that is less radical and less risky. Perhaps we are secretly holding out hope for a softer solution to our unhappiness in life. Whatever our excuses may be, the fact remains that there is one and only one way forward – it is the cross and it must change us. Let us therefore worship the glorious body of our Lord and by so doing discover the law of suffering, death and new life that redeems the world. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: One of the first Brothers of Holy Cross to become a fine and legendary teacher is Brother Marcellinus (Thomas) Kinsella (1847-1914). When he entered the Congregation in 1869, he had an education “not much beyond grammar school…[yet] he was gifted with an unusual talent”. He left an impression on all of his students over his nearly 50-year career as a teacher. Whether working at the University of Notre Dame teaching bookkeeping in the 1870s and early 1890s; or as principal/teacher at St. Columbkille School in Chicago between 1893-97 where he had Archbishop Edward Hoban as a student; or as the founding principal of the first brothers’ high school in Fort Wayne, Indiana from 1909-1913, all of his students might have forgotten much of the book content, yet “the impression [they] shall never forget”. Upon his death in 1914, he was found to have few possessions. Among them was his rosary, a manual of Holy Cross prayers, a statue of St. Joseph and The Imitation of Christ. Imagine that this brother read daily from The Imitation, and perhaps he fell into the waiting embrace of Jesus after reading this: “Jesus has always many who love His kingdom, but few who bear his cross. He has many who desire consolation, but few who care for trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His fasting. All desire to be happy with Him; few wish to suffer anything for him” (79). Once a beginning teacher asked Brother Marcellinus for advise on teaching. When pressed for a response, he commented, “Don’t look for the pound of flesh; and if you are in a fight, stay in till [sic] you finish.” Impressions last forever and words are feeble. “It is by doing…that we discover ourselves” and the true cross. CSC educators must profoundly assist both students and themselves to participate in the Mystical Body of Christ. We must live the Cross not just talk about it. We must bear the Cross for our students, not seek the pound of flesh. We must fight that good fight until we stand at Heaven’s gate. It is through the Cross and its imitation that “all will be happy with Him.” Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: How interesting it is that Jesus says “take up your cross and follow me” before the explicit revelation of his own cross on Mt. Calvary. How did he know about the cross in advance? Could it be that the cross is not just simply some historical mode of execution that has happened to find a spot in our tradition, but rather a fundamental fact of human existence? The master invites us to take ownership of the cross in our lives instead of letting it be something that victimizes us. We are to reach out, take and consume the cross. We become incorporated into its darkness and heaviness which mysteriously frees us from the burden of ourselves and enables us to actually walk with our Lord on the road of sure faith. This act of trust is the essence of our salvation and can only be experienced once we have permitted the cross to descend into the keyhole of our souls and lock the door that leads to reliance on one’s own self. And while most of us spend most of our days and nights going around in circles, thinking and worrying within the psychological space that is designed for the cross, we are faced with the choice this very day to receive the cross with a courageous mind and an open heart. Let us be women and men who finally listen to these pangs of hunger! Let us take the risk of obedience to this divine directive! Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: In a capitalist society such as lived in the United States, becoming self-reliant is seen as more than a good—it is the goal programmed into all children from the time they are encouraged to say, “Mama”. Indeed, if potty-training does not go as planned, from that time forward a person has the potential for becoming both a physical and societal cripple. This person must rely upon others for the most basic needs. All you need do is drive anywhere in any city across the country to see men and women reduced to standing on street corners begging for money, a job, sometimes food. In the 17th century, it is Descartes who bellowed, “I think, therefore, I am”; in the 18th century, Rousseau proclaims that all truth lies within the self; in the 19th century it is Emerson who famously concluded that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Avoid conformity at all costs! Today, so many believe that truth is truly found through whichever technological device one has attached to one’s fingers. The 19th century romantic poet Keats waxes that “truth is beauty and beauty truth” and that is all one needs to know. Is the truly, verifiable, true truth found within or without? And how does a teacher assist students to arrive at the truth? The CSC educator’s reason to be is to assist students to love truth so much that it becomes a lifelong quest. No easy task these days. We must teach children to be wakeful and ever mindful not to forget that they are like deer that pant for living water (Psalm 42). Blessed Moreau concludes that CSC educators must be zealots to make God known, loved and served. The knowledge of, love of and service of the Crux, spes unica. There can be no other lesson plan but the one that clearly teaches that reliance upon anything other than the paradox of the cross is the false quest. Truly, the Cross counter-culturally collides with the secular expectations of becoming self-reliant. Blessed Moreau is legendary for instructing his educators that they must not keep their students ignorant of anything needed for plowing through this valley of tears–the quest toward the Beatific Vision. A true CSC education of the mind and the heart is embedded in the undeniable imitation of Christ. Embrace the cross because it is spes unica.
In the Voice of Moreau: The psychology of the cross is one of utter blindness. Imagine being the crucified Christ, looking out on the faces of strangers as they stand beneath in derision and delight while others pass by this tragic scene without even noticing the bitterness and agony of an unjust execution. Father, how could this happen? This cannot be your will. This does not make any sense. I did everything I was supposed to do. Why have you forsaken me? And so, as the intellect pours itself out trying to find a solution to this paradox, darkness begins to descend, clouding all memory, good judgment and emotion. What is left but the human will in all of its rawness and glory? And this is precisely where a true act of faith is possible, as our Lord demonstrates for us what it actually means to be a child of God. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. This singular blind act of trust becomes the basis of the whole Christian life. But oh how we resist this blindness! How we cling to our logic, our categories, our timelines, our visions and our dreams. We mistake the natural light of our minds for the infinite illumination of our salvation which can never be thought of or conceptualized, but only entered into by a simple and courageous act of trust. Teach us, O Lord, the way of the cross; teach us to be friends with the night. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: “Because you [Thomas] have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” ( John 20:29). Taking the leap of faith requires decision-making with boldness and optimism ignoring tangible data that appears to indicate that the odds of success are minimal. “To boldly go where no [person] has gone before” necessitates that one abandon comfort zones and venture into the darkness when the intellect predicts failure, yet faith propels us into the loving arms of the crucified Christ. To the end of time God is with us, and His promises to us will never fail! I am reminded of a song that says, “Take courage, the harvest is ripe. Lift up your voice, because Jesus is alive!” If we have hope in Jesus, and whatever He calls us to do, He will equip us for the task. Trust Jesus with it all. As CSC educators, we have but one purpose: to prepare our students to be citizens of two realms. It is with a firm yet gentle demeanor that we build relationships which invite our students often to travel with us in “utter blindness”. To step off the cliff and embrace that which they perceive as either incomprehensible or non-achievable. Movement into and through these educational relationships are not simple for so many of our students. If the teacher’s methodology is grounded in a trustworthiness that fosters the hope that no one will be lost in the darkness, then I say, Ave Crux Spes Unica!