In the Voice of Moreau: What is a year? It is the time that it takes for the earth to make a circuit around the sun. It is a natural and organic way that we mark time, but does it really mean anything? The earth has been orbiting the sun for eons – so what! We could say the same about the day, the time it takes for the earth to complete one full rotation on its axis, or the month, the time it takes for the moon to orbit the earth. The earth has been spinning and the moon has been orbiting for eons as well – so what! The week, however, is that glorious and revealed unit of time that comes directly from the narrative of Creation and not some natural phenomenon. Our Lord was crucified specifically at the end of the week as a way to remind us that we are Creation and that we must be completed, or “finished” as he says, at the end of time before we can enter into eternal Sabbath rest. Let us therefore join the great cloud of witnesses who, in the tradition of the Church, chose to take life “one week at a time,” living not for today but for eternal Sabbath rest. Let us not make trivial and meaningless New Year’s resolutions but instead fix our gaze on our ultimate goal, the Resurrection, which stands at the end of all Creation and bids us to take up the Cross with our Lord and at last be “finished.” Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: In the Imitation one reads that “a [person] who is wise and whose spirit is well instructed…pays no attention to what he feels in himself or from what quarter the wind of fickleness blows, so long as the whole intention of his mind is conducive to his proper and desired end.” As Christians that end, that completion, is resurrection in the crucified Lord: the intent is union with God. Blessed Moreau writes on January 1, 1857 that “during this new year, we must practice charity…,forgive our mutual offenses, and if need be, make noble amends for our own faults” (“Circular Letter 79”). In 1849, Moreau also penned these famous words. “We do not want our students to be ignorant of anything they should know. To this end, we shall shrink from no sacrifice. But we shall never forget that virtue, as Bacon puts it, is the spice which preserves the science. We shall always place education side by side with instruction; the mind shall not be cultivated at the expense of the heart. While we prepare useful citizens for society, we shall likewise do our utmost to prepare citizens for Heaven” (“Circular Letter 36”). A worthy New Year’s resolution for a CSC educator is to renew the effort to put Moreau’s words into daily practice. All instruction will be tempered by the “spice” of virtue. Each lesson plan will be designed so that students are reminded that they are Creation which aches to be unified with Christ the paradoxical Savior. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: The Crucified Form was born into the world in a single instant. As an infant, our Lord was completely dependent on his mother in a way that will become the mature faith of the Cross upon which he commended his spirit to his heavenly father. His placement in the manger, literally “to be fed upon,” will become the life-giving Eucharist bursting forth from his sacred side. His swaddled body will one day be wrapped in a burial cloth and laid in a tomb. The baby Jesus is the same person as the King of the Jews, but do we take the time to appreciate this mystery? How did he get there? How was the Cross finally realized? The fact is that Jesus made the journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. After thirty-some quiet years, he set out from the safety of his home and passed through trials of all kinds – temptations from the evil one, persecutions by the leaders of his own religious tradition, being misunderstood by family and friends, sleepless nights, fear and anxiety, darkness all the way up until the end. The lesson of Christmas, therefore, is that we have to become who we are. We have to muster up the courage to put out our hands and allow the Master to take us to the place where we do not want to go. Only then, when we have arrived on Mt. Calvary, can we at last be said to have been born. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: The 14th century British Pearl Poet wove a tale about a medieval knight Gawain. He sets off on a quest. His call to leave Camelot came from the otherworldly Green Knight who challenged the untested knight to a game which Gawain lost. He goes on a quest and travels a road of trials. This trek becomes a process of discovery for him as he gradually and clearly begins to recognize his limitations and becomes who he is meant to be. His reward is death to his former self and birth of a new self. The final phase of Gawain’s adventure is not simply a return to Camelot but to return like Lazarus—resurrected from the tomb. For Christians the death of the Cross is the road to the kingdom of Christ resurrected. Thomas á Kempis writes: “Who is forced to struggle more than he who [has] tried to master himself”. Living life as one who is questing for the Crucified Lord, according to Kempis, is to obtain a “humble knowledge of [the] self.” This is the path to our God who begins humanity in a straw-filled manger that beckons Him onto a Cross of redemptive glory. How does the CSC educator assist students to assess, to enlarge upon and continually to focus upon a “humble knowledge of [the] self”? It is by intentionally Christianizing every component of the education of the mind. Superior General Gilbert Français writes in 1895 that a basic education includes “…reading and writing in their diverse forms; sacred history, the history of Our Lord, the abridged history of the Church, the history of the country in which one is a resident, together with accurate notions of universal history; a thorough knowledge of the geography of one’s own country, as well as a considerable acquaintance with the physical and political geography of other lands; practical arithmetic in its entirety; practical geometry; the elements of natural history and cosmography; commercial arithmetic and bookkeeping; elementary physics and chemistry; a summary of rhetorical principles with the practical applications; elementary drawing; stenography; type-writing; the general principles of music; and some knowledge of hygiene and gymnastics”. Although a few of the listings are now antique, in essence this is the curriculum of every high school and college in the Congregation. The Holy Cross way is to imbue each facet of the general curriculum with those essential questions about how all this mind-matter must inform our quest for self knowledge, so that all may be for the building up of the Body of Christ. This education relies upon the intentionality of every CSC educator. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: Human beings are natural sign-readers. Desperate to communicate, we are constantly reading situations, facial expressions, tones of voice, gestures, the placement of things, the organization of a room, the way a person dresses, and the like. What did she mean when she texted me that particular emoji? What did he mean when he ended the conversation with a hug? We drive ourselves crazy trying to figure out the meaning of it all! What makes the Cross unique among the entire array of signs is that its meaning is absolutely certain. What is happening upon the Cross is an explicit and emphatic NO TO SELF. The Cross does not invite speculation nor confusion of any kind. The death of our Lord is final, definite and certain. The NO TO SELF is a stable category, a point of reference that can be trusted and built off of. Whereas other signs and their meanings are constantly in flux, by both giver and receiver, the Cross offers a firm footing on which we are able to stand confidently and finally receive ultimate meaning from the one true God. This is why the Cross is Good News! Let us therefore stop searching for meaning and truth in all of the wrong places. Let us refuse to dabble in false signs that cunningly and variously lead us back into the trap of self. Let us instead adopt the great NO TO SELF as our one and only guide on the journey. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: The cross is an emphatic NO TO SELF. In 1935, T. S. Eliot wrote the play Murder in the Cathedral that portrays the assassination of Archbishop Thomas á Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. Like Jesus in the desert, Becket is confronted by tempters who want to reroute him from Heaven’s gate. The three tempters offer him physical safety, fame and unparalleled power. Becket resists. Thinking his way to Heaven now clear, he is confronted by a last unanticipated tempter who encourages Becket to seek the glory of martyrdom. “Seek the way of martyrdom, make yourself the lowest / On earth, to be high in heaven.” Becket addresses this immorality: “Others offered real goods, worthless / But real. You only offer / Dreams to damnation.” The Archbishop famously concludes: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: / To do the right deed for the wrong reason.” Throughout the world there is desperation for any signs that we are acceptable—worthy of notice—worthy of love. With the many means of technological communication in our hands so many want instantaneous and continuous validation. Most of us have unspoken insecurities concerning our worthiness and goodness, so we wantonly clad our bodies and souls in masks: makeup, sexual enhancers, money to throw around when we have little. Perhaps with these signs we will be loved. The good news of the Cross is, rather, that we are loved when these mundane trappings have been stripped away, and we stand broken in front of our broken yet triumphant Redeemer. CSC educators must offer students every opportunity to flee the treason of looking for love in all the wrong places. In order to be high in Heaven all of us need to reach out to others from a position of NO TO SELF. What a great gift we can give to each other for all ages. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: They say that nothing clears the mind like the thought of the gallows in the morning. If you have ever had a near death experience – an accident, a sickness, a natural disaster or some emergency – you truly know what this expression means. You feel like you have spent your entire life on an expedition in the jungle and then, in an instant, the way opens up and you see the light. In a flash, everything makes sense and you experience a deep peace that cannot be explained. The Cross is both a sober reminder of the reality and suddenness of death as well as a glimpse of the palm at the end of the mind. That moment of awareness, sought after by so many spiritual seekers from the entire array of religious traditions around the world, is the Cross. The Cross is the eternal outpouring of Love that stands at the end of time as the principle of life and ultimate salvation. It is no wonder that our Lord bids us to be vigilant, for there is an evil one who wants to occupy our senses and put our hearts to sleep. The devil, whose name literally means “throw an obstacle in front of,” places phony visions of grandeur in our imaginations, hoping that we will settle for a lukewarm life in the jungle. We must not give the devil this opportunity! Let us instead find the Cross this very day and enter into the light that gives Life. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: “Let your watchfulness and attention be calm, without over-concern, without agitation or trouble, without great constraint or affectation.” Blessed Moreau’s advice to his teachers is timely for all of us as we enter into the season of Advent. It is a time of patient yet vigilant waiting. Of being on the ready—on the alert not only for the coming of the Savior, but also against the enticements of the Evil One who presents many allurements for obtaining illusory grandeur. Advent hymns ring out with admonishments to ready the way of the Lord, to rend our hearts and not our garments, to keep our lamps trimmed and ever-burning and that the Lord comes when morning dawns. People look to the East for the time is near. Children don’t get weary. Blessed Moreau speaking again to his CSC educators writes that “vigilant teachers forget nothing of what they ought to do”. During the advent of waiting and watching and being on alert, teachers should explain to their students through pertinent and graphic examples what happens when our lamps fade to embers and perhaps to dust. We create darkness where our hearts become comatose. We become the easy prey of Satan who is also on alert. Because Christmas celebrations and commercialism these days begin weeks prior to Thanksgiving, the term Chrisgiving has been coined. It has nothing to do with the essence of our salvation, and everything to do with our hearts moving deeper and deeper into a sleep of no return, flat-lining into oblivion. It is the Cross and only the Cross that is our hope especially during this season of preparation. Teachers assist students to keep their lamps trimmed and burning bright. Encourage students to be beacons of vigilant love for each other as we travel the Royal Road to true Christmas blessedness. Let us be gifts of salvation to each other. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: The world runs on opposites: left/right, black/white, yes/no, in/out, up/down, etc. A healthy tension between these opposites becomes the energy that makes growth and thrival in life possible. Yet, because of our fallen nature, all of us are constantly falling into a dualistic “either-or” mindset. Formed by millennia of survival instincts, our default mode, even in the modern world, is competitive. We seem to approach every experience with “versus” thinking and expect for there to be a winner and a loser in every situation. The revelation of the Cross, however, descends into this contest like a referee whose outstretched arms mediate these opposites. In current spirituality this is called “mindfulness,” that is, creating space to think intelligently and to make choices that are life-giving. In the Christian tradition, this is simply called “salvation,” which literally means safety. Indeed, the kingdom of God is a place of peace where the lion will lay down with the lamb and spears will be turned into pruning hooks. Do we mistakenly think that we have to choose God or the world? Do we think that we have to choose between self or others? Body or soul? Intellect or will? Life or death? The Christ, who himself is a glorious marriage between humanity and divinity, blazons forth from the Cross inviting us to rethink our thinking. He instructs us to not be afraid. He exhorts us to have the courage to accept the mystery of life, the mystery of opposites. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: Whenever one makes a choice, one deals in opposites. I will choose Christ implies that all things not Christocentric I have rejected. Life-giving choices that secure salvation—that choose the Light over the darkness of sin are never easy. Beating back the relentless and voracious need to pleasure the self in a myriad of ways is daunting. The battle becomes insurmountable for persons who do not own their flawed human nature. One must desire to see the truth, name it, embrace it and then construct the defense against falling into sin. This “mindfulness” must be taught by CSC educators, and this takes consistent zeal. In Christian Education, Blessed Moreau states that “ [t]eachers who have this virtue [zeal] will be happy only when their students progress in the knowledge of virtue. All day and each day they will work at this great and difficult task of Christian education. When they pray, when they study, when they receive the sacraments, it will be especially for their young people. This will be done without distinction or regard for any student as special, because such teachers know that all students are equally important to God and that their duty is to work with each with the same devotion, watchfulness, and perseverance.” For such teachers curriculum design and individual daily classroom plans are infused with probing questions about the “salvation” of it all. This teaching cannot be left to the religion department alone. Each of the other academic disciplines must add fuel to the fire that religion teachers ignite in the heart. Why did Dr. Faustus fall? Is concern for climate change a salvific act? Does an advanced degree in bioengineering build up the Body of Christ? Why are Ponzi schemes detrimental to the ”glorious marriage” between humanity and God Almighty? And so it goes. There is no choice between God and the world for those who travel the Royal Road of the Cross. There is the gloriously salvific intermingling of the heart’s desire with its destination—ultimate safety in the Cross. Ave Crux Spes Unica!