At first look, the intense focus and insistence on circumcision in the story of salvation may seem odd or even troubling given how good and loving our heavenly Father really is. St. Paul, however, invites us to see the spiritual meaning of this practice when he writes, “For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart” (Rom 2:28-29). Indeed, the act of cutting off the excesses in our life, which make our hearts “fat and gross” (Ps 119:70), frees us to be more in touch with the One whom our hearts have loved all along (Song 3:1), and it is the Cross that emerges as the proper instrument of this spiritual circumcision. Like the angel with the fiery sword posted at the entrance to the garden (Gen 3:30), the Cross stands at the door of our hearts confronting the world and bringing to an end (Jn 3:30) all those emotions, memories, attachments and desires that prevent the spiritual bird within us from taking off in flight (Ps 11:1). Let us therefore not be afraid to be marked with this ancient sign, for we will only share in Christ’s resurrection insofar as we are willing to accept, like him, these scars of the journey. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Sister Mariam Joseph Rauh, CSC (December 17, 1898-November 11, 1982)
She was born in Glandorf, Ohio, the daughter of Henry Francis Rauh and Mary Ann Priesdendorfer. She entered the Congregation on September 21, 1919, received the Habit, August 15, 1920, and made Final Profession August 15, 1925. She died at Saint Mary’s Convent, and is interred in Our Lady of Peace Cemetery, Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana. Sister Miriam Joseph served as Chair of the English Department at Saint Mary’s College from 1947-1969 and was the author of Trivium, a textbook developed for her interdisciplinary course on literature, logic, and rhetoric. President William Hickey of St. Mary’s (1986-1997) described her “as perhaps the most distinguished scholar to be identified with the College in this century.” She wrote a text combining into one contemporary course the three arts of the trivium, by means of their interrelationship. Faculty opinion was divided on the questions of integrating the three subjects and of the way in which the term rhetoric was interpreted. Despite some turmoil (and supposed protests), the course was taught with both its values and limitations from 1935-1959. Alumnae still say that whatever else they have forgotten of their education, they will never forget the trivium.
There is no one among us who enjoys being labeled. Maybe while we were growing up we were called “the class clown” or “the middle child” or “the rebel” or “the loaner.” The folks who laid these judgments on us, our souls, our human dignity, likely did not mean to hurt us. They simply succumbed to the temptation of taking the small part for the whole. We should nevertheless not be too worried about how another person chooses to see us. Each and every one of us has the profound dignity of being this child of God. This kind of deep security is our bulwark and protection against the enemy who is always searching out instruments to disrupt the kingdom, the reality of peace and love within each of us. Let us therefore turn to the Cross and look upon the crucified one with that bold, unapologetic label hanging over his poor, naked body – “King of the Jews.” How his trust in his loving father destroys the power of that mockery! How his unwavering awareness and acceptance of his Abba, in the face of such psychological and physical brutality, prevails! Each of us should be very sensitive to the way that labels hurt our sisters and brothers, and each of us should not be afraid to enter more deeply into the depths of his love when we encounter such adversity along the way. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Brother John Chrysostom (Mark) Will, C.S.C. (April 25, 1839-May 16, 1919)
In a June 5, 1887 letter to Father Sorin, Brother John Chrysostom Will writes: “…on this day 24 years ago I was in the line of battle awaiting the charge. We were being shelled at the time, and I heard in a clear, distinct voice, ‘You will die today’. I knew it was no human voice, and I was perfectly conscious of the certainty of death. I prayed fervently as I had never prayed before to our sweet mother that if she would intercede for me and get me safely out that I would surely delay no longer in responding to the call that was continually urging me to apply to some religious community for admission. I had hardly concluded my prayer, when the same voice said, ‘You will only be hurt today’. And so it happened. I delayed three years after the war in fulfilling my promise when I enlisted under the banner of Holy Cross.”
Mark Will was born in 1839 in Chess Springs, PA and entered Holy Cross in 1867 taking final vows in 1869. He served throughout the Civil War in the 54th Pennsylvania Regiment, taking part in many of the fiercest battles. Soon after fire destroyed the Main Building at the University of Notre Dame, Brother John Chrysostom wrote to Father Sorin from Galveston, TX where he was superior: “I could hardly realize at first that my dear Alma Mater was a heap of unsightly ruins. My regret for the loss and my sympathy for you were so great that I felt it would be mockery on my part to attempt to give expression to my feelings unless I would send you something to repair the loss. …You must not think for a moment that the enclosed draft for $500 is to be the measure of that sympathy and my regret for the loss of those fine buildings.”
Upon his death in 1919, this short obituary was posted in Scholastic (52:494): “There passed away at Notre Dame on Friday, May 6th, at the age of 80, Brother John Chrysostom, former assistant Master of Novices at St. Joseph Novitiate and for many years commander of the Notre Dame Post of the G.A.R. As a young man the deceased did valiant services throughout the Civil War, at Gettysburg and many other fields, in behalf of the Union. At the end of the War he joined the Congregation of Holy Cross at Notre Dame, and since that time has been intimately associated with the furtherance of the works of the Community.” He had two hobbies—bee keeping and researching the life and ministry of Russian prince Father Gallitzin who renounced his heritage and became a missionary in Pennsylvania. As bee-keeper, the novitiate was never without honey, and he contributed frequently to magazines about bee-culture. “By the many priests and Brothers who as novices under his direction knew him intimately he will long be remembered as an example of genuine spirituality and fervent loyalty to the interests of the Congregation.” (Scholastic, 1919)
If you have ever met someone who is autistic, you know how frustrating it is for him or her to be stuck-in-self (which is the literal meaning of “autism”) – the person is inside observing life but struggling to actually reach out, make contact and interact with others. There is a distinctly paschal character to this hidden drama: the feeling of being separated, the deep desire to connect, the spending of one’s self to transcend those inner limits, moments of real relationships, a kind of dying and rising that takes the breath away of those who accompany their autistic loved ones along the way. What if the Cross was the icon for this journey? What if the Cross’s definitive and bold ‘no-to-self’ is the antidote for these poor ones who are stuck-in-self? The Cross stands indeed as a sign of hope that it is possible to find the secret door (Jn 10:9), to pass over into open pastures (John 10:9) and to finally have life (Jn 14:6). May we be inspired by our autistic sisters and brothers who truly live the Cross day in and day out, modeling for us, who are all stuck-in-self in one way or another, how to undertake the slow process of transformation that leads to resurrected life. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Brother Stanislaus (John) Clark, C.S.C. (1838-1916)
Brother Stanislaus (John) Clarke, C.S.C. was born in Ireland and entered Holy Cross when he was 26 years old. He was a capable student and became a proponent of promoting the use of shorthand. He taught the system of “sound writing” at Notre Dame for many years and made many personal improvements to the system. Sir Isaac Pitman, who invented shorthand in 1837, considered Brother Stanislaus both a scholarly colleague and a good friend. Father Daniel Eldred Hudson, C.S.C., who was appointed the editor of the Ave Maria in 1875, considered Brother Stanislaus to be one of the early founders of the Press and the periodical. In 1865, Father Sorin proposed to the sisters that they publish a magazine “in honor of Our Blessed Mother.” The vote was unanimous and Mother Angela Gillespie and her sisters “pledged themselves to assist [Father Sorin] in this great work.” Father Sorin, the first publisher, was followed by Father Neal Gillespie, Mother Angela’s brother. In February of 1973, “the actual printing was turned over to the Sisters who received their first lessons from Brother Stanislaus.” In his 1916 obituary published in the Scholastic, it was said of Brother Stanislaus that “he was a model of every Christian and religious virtue [and] a man of varied talents, all of which he faithfully employed in the service of God for nearly a half century.”
A popular new phrase that people have been using to communicate genuineness is “the real deal” – this person is the real deal because he is true to his word, or, that person is the real deal because she never lets you down, etc. And while it is excellent that there is an expression out there that helps to identify integrity when we see it, we all know that there is one and only one “real deal” whose words and actions are always in harmony. This Jesus, who is the Word, is real in the sense that to encounter him is to encounter the truth. His deep meaning as a person is not mediated by an ideology, a persona, a bank account, or a title. Rather, being stripped down to his core, broken open on the Cross, and presented for all to see – as he is! – makes him the definitive “real deal.” There is no escape from his fundamental identity, no confusion about what his life means, no possibility of missing the point of his journey. The best way for us to conform ourselves to “the real deal” par excellence is to spend time with his “real presence” – in scripture, in the liturgy, with the community of believers, and most especially in the eucharist. By doing so, we too are guaranteed to become trusting children of the Father – the read deal in our own right. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
The Work of Resurrection has been posted for October. This monthly newsletter is written for Holy Cross Educators around the country and world.
Ave Crux, Spes Unica!