I have a friend who, when she’s having a rough day, says, “I need to get down from the ladder!” All of us probably know this ladder well – it is that interior capacity to stand above everyone else – in all of our ego-glory – or to go low and live a grounded life. There is no in-between. From the time we are children, indeed, the world sweeps us up to the top of the ladder (cf. Mt 4:8), and insists that it is the natural place to be. The paparazzi blind us with their flashbulbs and the roaring crowds deafen us. We begin to think that this is what life actually is! Nevertheless, a still, small voice continues to whisper to us in what’s left of our hearts (1 Kings 19:12), and we, as my friend indicates, have a decision to make: Will we take that first step of descent? Yes, there is both spiritual paralysis and complacency to deal with, but a single decision in that moment will in fact become the seed that will bring forth a lifetime of authentic human living. Let us, therefore, look to Jesus whose last act on earth was to go down from the ladder of the Cross into the very dirt of the earth (Jn 19:38-42), and let us, here and now, commit to only ever ascending the ladder to invite our sisters and brothers into that same low place (cf. Jn 1:51). Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
Wall of Love, you allow me to be happy, joyous and free! You are that blessed and good darkness that constantly upholds my inner light (cf. Gen 1:3-5). You are that thick and fruitful brush that guards the way to my inner room (cf. Gen 2:9, Mt 6:6). You are that awful trial – the call to sacrifice my only child – that separates out all that is not the risk of faith (Gen 22:9-19). You are that monument of trust which rises up from the waters and allows safe passage from worldliness into open spaces and new life (cf. Ex 15:19, Ps 119:45). You are the stone tablets which discipline my heart and guide me ever into experiences of grace and truth (cf. Ex 20:20-21, Jn 1:14). You are the bricks around my holy city, as you engineer space in me for a “land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 3:8). You allow my beloved to “peer through the lattices” and see me as I am (Song 2:9). You are the wings, the shelter, the fortress, the pinions, the buckler, the shield and the refuge (Ps 91) that provide a private place for me to be with “the one whom my heart loves” (Song 3:3). Wall of Love, you are the Cross, my only hope, and through you I shall find life. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
Have you ever been overwhelmed by the waves of life? Calm to choppy to nerve-wracking to terrifying to absolutely unbearable, we get swept up by the waters in an instant! Nevertheless, as our human lives unfold, we come to see that we do in fact have choices. Maybe we begin with the macho mindset that instead of being a victim of the big wave we will take it head on. We, of course, get crushed and must go back to the drawing board. Perhaps we then think that we can avoid the waves altogether by diving underneath them and coming out unscathed on the other side, but we realize that the massive energy under a wave will beat us up and pull us dangerously deep underwater. What if, instead of attacking or escaping, we tried to befriend these giant walls of water? What if we learned to dance on their edges and move with them? What if by riding them we could harness their power and do something beautiful with it? May we who beg God, “Save me, for the waters have come up to my neck, and the flood sweeps over me” (Ps 69:1-2), have courage to “put out into the deep” (Lk 5:4) and discover, within those very waves, “streams of living water” (Jn 7:38) that save. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Fertile soil makes for a fruitful soul. When we invest time in prayer, talk with spiritual companions, find creative ways to worship God, and pay attention to that still small voice within, something beautiful happens to our inner earth. Indeed, our soil becomes capable of nourishing life, and when we least expect it, we blossom forth from the inside out (cf. Mk 4:26-27). The fruits we bear allow us to feed others eucharistically, while our roots testify to our deep trust in the living God and the way God chooses to sustain us from within. In this way, we discover that our vocation truly is nothing more than the Greatest Commandment (Mk 12:28-31), where we, with Jesus, spend ourselves cultivating the relationships of this life and the next. Let’s therefore get excited about our spiritual fertility. Let’s make a plan to clear away the brambles, do some weeding, and listen attentively to the needs of our soil. Let’s look forward to that moment when the miracle does in fact happen. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
“Look East!” If the Body of Christ were a bus, this is the bumper sticker you’d see plastered to the back of the bus in bright psychedelic letters. We are, indeed, built for that shift from worldliness to resurrected life, but how easy it is to collapse again and again into old and unhelpful patterns of living. In the early days, candidates for reception into the Church literally stood facing the darkness, shouting their rejection of evil, but then, in an instant and with the help of the community, they made the turn eastward, to the light of a new day. This, of course, is why the resurrection of Jesus is called “East-er.” It is not a new idea in human history – as attested to by a certain allegory about a cave – but our celebration of these mysteries of faith should reveal to us just how urgently and passionately that eastward direction is rushing towards us in this great drama of conversion: a loving Father constantly trying to hold us together, directing us toward a horizon that gives life, assuaging our anxieties, dealing creatively with our wounds, and offering us an enduring and meaningful alternative to the shadowlands. Praise God for the daily work that is our resurrection and for the awesome liturgical reminders along the way. May our hearts, indeed, have some taste of the explosion that emptied the tomb on this hallowed day. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Alcoholics Anonymous is supported by a sound spiritual logic: the culprit is not the alcohol, but the person’s relationship with the alcohol. Indeed, if the problem were alcohol then the solution would simply be to cut ourselves off from it, but that is dualism, a kind of competitive “me vs. them” thinking which is not a recipe for human thriving nor a durable vision for life. When we put the focus on our relationships with people, places and things, however, exciting possibilities open up. We begin to see life in its uniqueness and complexity, where everything is good and fundamentally relatable (cf. Gen 1). Even the alcoholic can appreciate the fact of alcohol, that it has been a gift to people for millennia and invites communion when used responsibly (The Church, in fact, insists on alcoholic wine at every eucharisitic liturgy!). It should not surprise us therefore that Alcoholics Anonymous isn’t just a philosophy but a way of life that is practiced. Members of the fellowship form communities to examine their ways of relating and take concrete steps to ensure healthy and life-giving relationships. The next time we decide to cut another person out of our lives, avoid a place of some past trauma, or distract ourselves from painful memories, let’s join our alcoholic friends by going low, finding that God-place within, and, from that security, demanding creative ways to keep the relationship going. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
Is being “a good little boy” really a long-term vision for life? We are trained from a very early age to follow the rules and get the reward, to follow the rules and get the reward, to follow the rules and get the reward….all the way to our coffins! But what’s the point of that?! Jesus invites us at the very least to be risk-takers. He tells the story of a father who has two sons (Lk 15:11-32): The first son is a good little boy who follows all the rules but nevertheless ends up angry and unhappy at the conclusion of the story. The second son recognizes a desire in his heart for something more than the rules and acts on it. And while that desire initially comes out in an unexpected and destructive way, he continues to trust in the “something more” and eventually his desire gets worked out as he becomes a new person. Let’s identify the places in our lives where the rules have just become a socially acceptable way to mask our fears. Let’s be honest about our desire for more and act on it. It is there, in the clumsiness and awkwardness of it all, that we shall find ourselves worthy companions of the sinners, tax-collectors, prostitutes and thieves (Mt 21:31, Lk 23:42) who have also taken a risk on God. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
Do we actually need God? This is a provocative question that gets to the heart of our salvation, yet false ideas abound: Do it yourself, Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, You can do anything you put your mind to, etc. What a sad vision for life! Where’s the mystery? The risk of encountering the other? The hope of some new reality? The trust in a power beyond ourselves? The connection that satisfies our longing to be whole? I am reminded of the story of a monk who goes to his abbot to learn about the spiritual life. The abbot leads him out to the monastery lake, and, as they are talking, gradually pushes the monk’s head down into the water until he is totally submerged. The monk, who had been thinking it was some ritual, begins to panic and just when he thinks he is going to drown, the abbot relents. The monk bursts out of the water, gasping for breath and screaming obscenities. The abbot calmly responds, “I’m sorry, but I want you to understand that you will never know God, until you need God like that next breath.” Let’s stop playing God with our clever calculations and power moves, but instead learn the meaning of these words, “Your heavenly Father already knows the things you need, so do not worry about tomorrow” (Mt 6:32,34). Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
TRUST GOD. What if this whole project of being human was really about trusting God? What if the feelings, emotions, desires and inevitable confusion in this drama were simply the circumstances for that singular act of trust that makes us whole again? What if we do in fact have a loving parent who art in heaven who is quietly, patiently and constantly creating opportunities for us to trust? What if our births were nothing other than a crash-course in that proverbial leap of faith into reality? What if our deaths were the final movement of this masterpiece where we are afforded the dignity of handing ourselves over in trust? What if everything in-between – infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, adulthood and our elder years – were the process of working out the knots that prevent us from trusting fully? What if our neuroses, obsessions, complexes and addictions were just misguided efforts to trust? What if God were not some kind of task-master or spiritual police officer but an intimate and humble friend who has been trying to build trust with us all along? What if we got in the habit of closing our eyes, pausing for a moment, taking a deep breath, and paying attention to what was happening within us…and feeling what God was actually like? Would this help us to TRUST GOD? Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
The beautiful complementarity of East and West is a stunning reminder that the cosmos has an essentially paschal character. While the West values order, structure, logic and accuracy, the East is characterized by intuition, feeling, openness and adaptability. Together, they image the glorious dying and rising pattern that has given existence meaning since the beginning of time: the urgent Western need to understand the exact nature of things in the face of diminishing sunlight paired with the deep Eastern hopefulness that the darkness will in fact give way to a new reality. It is no wonder, then, that when Christians were initiated into the early Church they faced West as they denounced a life limited to this world then literally turned East to signify the inner “East-er” they desired in their hearts. Let’s therefore not play the game of pitting East and West against each other, but instead realize the whole symbolism. Let’s awaken to the dimensions of East and West unfolding in our very souls. Let’s look to Christ who lived precisely in the middle of East and West in an eternal “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19). May we indeed become integrated persons grounded in the concreteness of a love that lasts. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
A border is an invisible line that is meant to distinguish one country from another. We all know that these lines are quite arbitrary and usually drawn based on ethnicity, natural terrain or political dominance. While grown men and women bicker, and in fact kill one another, over these borders, Jesus reminds us that there is no abiding kingdom in this world (cf. Jn 18:36) and that all conflicts are a projection of something unresolved within us (cf. Lk 17:21). What if our true ethnic identity were as children of God? What if the only terrain that mattered was the spiritual landscape of souls? What if that unquenchable thirst for power was just a misdirected desire for everlasting life? Indeed, the Cross is the ultimate boundary-marker: God has reached out to the absolute limits of existence, has established the definitive distinction between this life and the next, and to this day invites people to cross over into a place of trust and love. Let’s therefore be relentless in finding that deep interior borderline in ourselves. Let’s challenge one another to make the turn from defending the false self to a life of vulnerability and openness to others. Let’s link arms with each of our sisters and brothers on the way to our radically inclusive homeland. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
I was once riding in the back of a city bus that stopped at a grocery store. An elderly woman exited the bus, but did not go inside. She just stood there, on the curb, weeping. The bus driver, who was just about to pull away from the bus stop, shifted into park, opened the door, exited the bus, then hugged and consoled the woman for about a minute. He eventually returned to the driver’s seat and we pulled away. I overheard someone say that the woman’s husband had just recently died. How often do we turn a blind eye to suffering because it makes us feel uncomfortable? How often do we hesitate to take a risk on authentic ministry because a situation does not fit into our neat understanding of life? How often do we rationalize away an opportunity to genuinely reach out in service to our sisters and brothers? It is precisely that false feeling of safety that will make us spiritual zombies whose rituals and religious words are hollow. Let us therefore have the guts, this coming week, and in the months and years ahead, to actually pull our buses off to the side of the road (Lk 10:34) and meet the Christ whom we have been claiming to seek after all along (cf. Mt. 25:44-45). Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
Lord Jesus, you are the eternal Son of God who lives a life, even to this day, of radical trust. Indeed, you spend your days, nights and weekends trusting and trusting and trusting the living God whom you have known and depended upon since the beginning of time. Lead me to that low place. Teach me how to be simple. Help me to walk the path that leads to authenticity, freedom and life. May you be the Word who touches my heart and causes me to keep my own word and say what I mean when interacting with other people. May you be the High Priest who models perfect priesthood for me that I may make my life a continual sacrifice to God on behalf of all of my sisters and brothers. May you be the Eucharist that heals my wounds and makes me capable of nourishing others with my thoughts, words, actions and presence. I love you, and I invite you ever more deeply into my heart that we, together, may take a risk on and experience the intimacy of being Beloved. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
Do you remember your first kiss? What power! What fire! The brain seems to store the memory of such a primal connection at a place too deep for words. An equally common human experience, however, is the dissatisfaction we feel when that graced moment comes to an end, the passion fades, and two people return to the hard fact of their separateness (cf. Song 5:5-6). In the Christian life, it seems that we are constantly in search of a kiss that lasts, but do we look to the God who made all things by his cosmic kiss in the beginning (cf. Gen 1:1)? Do we really and truly seek the “kisses of his mouth” (Song 1:2) in our life of prayer? Do we admit that we too have betrayed the Lord (cf. Mt 26:49) by the things we have done with our lips? Indeed, we must learn to make every syllable that rolls off of our tongue, every bite of food, every smile, and every breath we take the kiss that puts us in touch with the infinite. In doing so, we shall become attached to our Beloved in some durable way that takes away our separation anxiety and expands our hearts for love (cf. Ps 119:32). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
SOME KISS by Rumi (Translated by Coleman Barks)
Holy Cross Brother and Priest Civil War Veterans
In 1910, there were eight Brothers living in the Community House (now Columba Hall) who were veterans of the War Between the States. Each had seen his share, and more, of combat: one had fought on both sides of the war and had been held as a prisoner of war; one heard at the onset of a battle, a voice that declared, “You will die today;” another was to become well known as a contributor to the science of apiary studies; another would become the lab assistant to Father John Zahm, CSC in the new (1906) Science Hall. Three others were so self-effacing that little is known about their forty-plus years as Holy Cross Brothers.
Included in the photo of these very proud and stately men are those seated in the first row: Brother Leander (James) McLain, Father William Olmstead (a diocesan priest), Father William Corby, Father Peter Cooney and Brother John Chrysostom (Mark) Will. Standing in the second row are Brother Benedict (Conrad) Mantele, Brother Ignatius (Ignatz) Mayer, General William Hayes, Brother Raphael (James) Maloy, Brother Cosmos (Nicholas) Bath and Brother Eustachius (John) McInerny. An eighth veteran is Brother Agatho (William) Parle, who was living at the time but is not pictured.
Each Brother-warrior brought to Holy Cross gifts, not because of his Civil War service, but in spite of it. For a few, the gifts given by these men to Father Sorin were quite grand; for others quite pedestrian. Regardless, for each of these grand old gentlemen, his photo radiates with a determination in the eyes that provided him with the ability to be a loyal, victorious citizen of this world, and eventually a very worthy citizen of Heaven. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
“I thirst” (Jn 19:30). With these words, Jesus reminds us that our fundamental human vocation in life is to need. Indeed, while we may flirt with neediness and other forms of emotional immaturity, to really and truly need puts us in right relationship with God who created us for connection, ourselves because dependence is our natural existential state, and others who meet us with love in our vulnerability. Even the natural world – like the wine-soaked sponge raised to Jesus’ lips – cooperates! Thus, the next time we ourselves get thirsty, let’s pause and reflect before we reach for that bottle: Where does my thirst come from? What does it mean for me to be thirsty? What will my thirst be like in the next life? Am I aware that others thirst too? We can then offer a simple prayer of gratitude: Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to participate in this vast and glorious system of interdependence. By being created with and for others, you have offered me a taste of your own life. I thirst with you from that eternal cross that stands at the end of time, and I need you. Amen. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
THE NOTRE DAME FIRE DEPARTMENT
STAFFED BY THE BROTHERS AND PRIESTS OF HOLY CROSS
1846 – C1990
This photo was taken in 1902 and it features the Brothers of Holy Cross who staffed the Notre Dame Fire Company from 1846 through c.1990. The last brother to hold the title of fire chief is Brother Borromeo (Thomas) Malley (1913-1994) who directed the department for nearly fifty years.
The brothers’ names are listed to the right: each of them had many more careers than putting out campus fires. Some became legendary among the members of the community.
The first brother on the left, holding the ax, is Brother Peter Claver Hosinski who in 1910 became the founding principal of Holy Trinity High School in Chicago, IL. He would also serve as a Bengal missionary for many years. Several members of his family joined Holy Cross: his sister, Sister Severina, and two of his brothers and an uncle became Holy Cross Priests. Father Ted Hesburgh’s personal secretary for over thirty years was Mrs. Helen Hosinski.
To Hosinski’s left is Brother Bernard Gervais, an incredibly gifted man who held many positions of authority in the congregation. Over a space of many years he created le Matricule, the membership register, listing the names of all of the men who joined the Congregation of Holy Cross – priests and brothers – beginning in 1820 with Abbé Dujarié as number 1. The detailed list ends with number 5,700, Frère Gabriel (Jean-August Rondel). Gervais worked on this list from 1936 through 1941.
The third member is Brother Raymond Ott peeking over Brother Bernard’s shoulder. He worked at the Ave Maria Press and was a canvasser – a salesman – of the Ave Maria for nearly thirty-five years. The Fourth is Brother Walter Remlinger, who also became a Bengal missionary. He contracted a fatal form of malaria and was sent back to Notre Dame where he was celebrated as a very holy brother because of enduring such a “torturous death”.
Brother Maximum Czyzewski is the fifth man who went on to serve as a teacher at Holy Trinity High School for fifty-four years, and he was the fourth principal from 1917-1920. Father James S. Ready, number six, would go on to be appointed in 1918, the vice president of Columbia University in Portland, OR, now the University of Portland.
Brother James, number seven, is the one of the “lost brothers” as there are no documents to be found about his years in Holy Cross. So also, with Brother number nine. Under a magnifying glass his name appears to be Brother Assisi; however, there is no such name in le Matricule. There is a possibility that this is Brother Arsenius Luther, and he would be about the right age of the man pictured.
Number eight, Brother Stanislaus Kurowski, was an elementary teacher, accomplished organist and dramatist who worked at St. Hedwig’s Parish and School in South Bend. And the last, Brother Ernest Heller, number ten, was a teacher and the third Bengal missionary.
Yes, the early brothers and priests were jacks-of-all-trades, and, truly, the masters of most of them. Ave Crux Spes Unica.
If I were giving a commencement address to this year’s graduating class, I would say, “Make your life a solar flare!” It’s so easy to live a lukewarm life, in front of the television, going through the motions, but we human beings are spiritual machines with energy constantly coursing through our veins. When we do not recognize and honor that energy, it comes out in funny ways: for some addiction to pornography, for others alcoholic drinking, for others obsessive thinking, or any other number of neurotic behaviors! A solar flare might initially scare us because of our inability to control where it goes and how long it lasts. Indeed, we might have tried to unleash our inner power in the past only to get burned in the process. Nevertheless, we must go beyond repression and find creative ways to let our little light shine. Maybe we take the risk of looking for a fun part time job, getting that tattoo we’ve always wanted, signing over our long-coveted stocks to a charity, picking up the phone and making amends to someone, or seeing what it’s like to take the bus to work. Our inner solar flare is guaranteed to be beautiful – however it is manifested – so long as it springs forth from “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12) in whom “there is no darkness” (1 Jn 1:5). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
THE VERY REVEREND EDWARD SORIN, C.S.C.
THE CELEBRATION OF HIS GOLDEN JUBILEE OF ORDINATION
September 9, 1888
This memorial photo of invited guests to the Golden Jubilee festivities was taken by A. McDonald of McDonald Studio, South Bend, Indiana. In the September 8, 1888 issue of the Scholastic (48), this “most pleasing memento” was being sold for $1.00.
It is obvious from the prelates pictured with Fr. Sorin, that he was, if not revered by them, at the very least seen as a peer – a priest-founder – who during the previous four decades, successfully founded a university in honor of the Blessed Mother. Sorin relentlessly worked with other Holy Cross priests, brothers and sisters to build upon the space situated on two lakes in northern Indiana, the finest Catholic University in the Country.
Pictured with Sorin in the first row seated from the left are Bishop Gilmour of Cleveland, OH, Archbishop Elder of Cincinnati, OH, Fr. Sorin, Superior General, Cardinal Gibbons, Baltimore, MD, Archbishop Ireland of St. Paul, MN, Bishop Dwenger of Fort Wayne, IN, Bishop Watterson of Columbus, OH and Bishop Phalen of Pittsburgh, PA. Standing from the left are Bishop Ryan of Alton, IL, Bishop Janssens of Belleview, IL, Bishop Keane of Washington, D.C., Bishop Burke of Cheyenne, WY, Bishop Spaulding of Peoria, IL, Bishop Ryan of Buffalo, NY and Bishop Richter of Grand Rapids, MI.
Have you ever gotten in trouble because you “took the part for the whole”? This is the essence of cancer – one cell trying to become the whole organ – and the first sin – our first parents wanting to become God. We can spend years in the delusion that we have just not grasped onto the right college, the right career, the right spouse, the right neighborhood (or the right religion!), but we discover that our human thriving does not really begin until we have made the turn from grasping to integration. Indeed, mature adulthood means that we are spiritually secure and spend our time not in a desperate search for the solution, but rather weaving our commitments, responsibilities, ideas, relationships and desires into that one deep truth that grounds every human heart. This in fact is the pattern of our eternal life! Lord, teach me to discern the difference between your boundless goodness and the many created goods that surround me. Give me the courage to surrender the many things that point to you, but are not you. Lead me to that humble place where I might become “all things to all people” (1 Cor 9:22), and, with your Son, enjoy real connections that withstand the ages. Help me to become conformed to the whole precisely by playing my part well. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
Happy Feast of Blessed Basil Moreau!
Ave Crux Spes Unica!
THOMAS CARDINAL TIEN KEN-SIN (1890-1967)
Visits Notre Dame and Brothers’ Provincial Council, c. September, 1954
China’s first Roman Catholic cardinal (installed 1946) made a visit to the University of Notre Dame in 1954. During this visit, he was photographed with the Provincial Council of the United States Province of Brothers and other brothers. Picture with Cardinal Tien from left to right, first row are: Brothers Bonaventure Foley, Ephrem O’Dwyer (Provincial), Gerard Fitz (Superior of Columba Hall), Cardinal Tien, Ernest Ryan and Sabinas Herbert; in the second row are: Brothers Flavius Ellison, Reginald Juszczak, John Chrysostom Ryan and Kenan Judge.
In a letter to Brother Ernest Ryan from Miss Lida (sometimes Lyda) O’Neill, the niece of Brother Columba O’Neill, his younger brother Dennis’ daughter, dated October 3, 1954, she thanks Brother Sabinas Herbert for the two “special badges [Sacred Heart] blessed by Cardinal Tien”. Brother Sabinas was then the director of the Brother Columba Apostolate.
The Midwest Province Archives houses fifteen letters written by Brother Columba’s niece to him, beginning in 1913 and continuing through November 16, 1923 – Brother Columba died on November 20, 1923.
She wrote another fifteen letters between 1923 and 1955 to Father O’Donnell (two letters in 1923 and 1924); Brother Alban Flaherty (one letter in 1926); Brother Ernest Ryan (five letters in 1933 and one in 1948); and Brother Sabinas Herbert (four letters in 1954 and one in 1955).
Brother Ernest was seeking information about Brother Columba’s early life that he might include in his biography These Two Hearts. Brother Sabinas was seeking information about “cures and favors received” through the intercession of Brother Columba to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Profile of a spiritual person: Little, simple, listening, attentive, responsive, open, trusting, graceful, honest, contemplative, transparent, humble, patient, consistent, authentic, uncomplicated, vulnerable, flexible, sensitive, sincere, gentle, supportive, slow, connected, peaceful, intentional, playful, engaged, integrated, genuine, courageous, risk-taking, mystery-oriented, boundary-conscious, decision-making, process-minded, often-smiling, freely-sharing, discretion-practicing, interior-gazing, solitude-cherishing, forgiveness-seeking, self-aware, self-reflective, self-disciplined, willing to waste time with others, takes things as they come, does not judge, lets go of things that get in the way, holds onto what is important, trustworthy in small matters, cares about the welfare of everyone, respects the dignity of all people, doesn’t take shortcuts, walks with purpose, doesn’t look back, stops to smell the flowers, serves the community, has a job, has a family, has friends, celebrates holidays, gets dressed in the morning, eats well, sleeps well, prays well, laughs, cries, hopes and dreams just like you and me. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
“The University of Notre Dame began late on the bitterly cold afternoon of November 26, 1842, when a 28-year-old French priest, Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., and six Holy Cross brothers, all of them members of the recently established Congregation of Holy Cross, took possession of 524 snow-covered acres that the Bishop of Vincennes had given them in the Indiana mission fields.
A man of lively imagination, Father Sorin named his fledgling school in honor of Our Lady in his native tongue, L’Université de Notre Dame du Lac (The University of Our Lady of the Lake). On January 15, 1844, the University was thus officially chartered by the Indiana legislature” (www.nd.edu).
The six brothers who accompanied Sorin to South Bend were men who brought much-needed skills for the laying down of both literal and metaphoric roots á du Lac. Brother Vincent Pieau (1797-1890) was the elder and would prove to be Sorin’s most loyal colleague for over fifty years. He educated most of the young members of the fledgling congregation to embrace the “voice of Moreau.” Sorin was so in debt to Brother Vincent that he once mused about being buried in the same grave.
Next in age and a man of many talents was Brother Lawrence Manage (1816-1873), an astute business manager and a most able farmer. The third oldest was Brother Francis Xavier Patois (1820-1896), the carpenter, the undertaker and the sacristan.
The final three brothers were very young: Brother Joachim André (1809-1844), Brother Gaitan Monsimer (1826-1860), and Brother Anselm Caillot (1825-1845). Each would contribute through brawn and become the first teachers in a few of the early elementary schools. Brother Anselm who left France when he was just sixteen would drown in front of some of his students at age twenty.
Today, one will look in vain around Our Lady’s University for any recollection of these six brothers’ names. They are the men behind the king–“the six companions.” Yet Rev. Edward Sorin, if alive, would be the first to celebrate them as mes cher frères et mes collaborateurs.
The word sex literally means “having been cut off.” Thus, from the onset of puberty, with the awareness of our biological differences, we search for that perfect person who will make us whole again and satisfy our deepest longing for completeness. We know from life experience, however, that those feelings are short-lived and that our physical and emotional complementarity with another person symbolizes some deeper integrity to which we are called. Indeed, God has created each of us “male and female” (Gen 1:27), and our relationships are therefore healthiest only when they go beyond the neediness of sex and, instead, provide supportive circumstances for each partner to do the work of self-understanding. What we discover is our essential dignity, that we are whole and complete and perfect as we are! Our singular and universal human vocation emerges: to glory in our identity as children of God and to spend ourselves creating circumstances for others to come to this same awareness. What, then, is sex for the integrated person? It is synonymous with the Greatest Commandment: to love and be loved by God, while at the same time partnering with every one of our neighbors so that they too might have life (Mk 12:29-31). Let’s never again succumb to those feelings of being cut off by learning how to have the kind of sex that lasts. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Let’s end transactional relationships in our lives once and for all! What are we robots!? Is there not some deeper meaning to our souls than an intellectual rubric that constantly keeps score and secretly tries to leverage relationships so that we might get what we want? Indeed, let’s make the word “risk” the mantra for this new year: the risk of putting ourselves out there, the risk of loving without counting the cost, the risk of making sacrifices, the risk of serving others without getting anything in return. Risk is the language and logic of God and until we have the courage to step outside of our fear-based tendency to manipulate outcomes and use other people to our advantage, we will never discover our true dignity nor realize our authentic human vocations. May this year be a time when we pause before we give that compliment, apply for that job, assist our neighbor with some task, or buy that new house: Why am I doing this? What is my intention? What does God think about it? In this way, our twisted and ugly interiors shall slowly be realigned as we begin to experience the purity of heart that allows us to remember what God is like (cf. Mt 5:8-9). Let’s make 2022 the year when that age-old transaction game gets interrupted by the bold risk of love. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
The blood, the water, the flesh, the cries, the agony. You might think it is the crucifixion, but it is instead an anonymous woman, giving birth, in a stable, with her husband, in an obscure village. Mary’s passion stretches nine months from the moment she receives the Word in her womb through the high drama of bringing forth the living God into the world. Let us ask ourselves whether we have received that same seed deeply in our our own hearts; whether we have protected that seed and cultivated its growth within us; and whether we shall be courageous enough to suffer through those same glorious labor pains in order to be, like Mary, an instrument of God’s revealing action in the world. In the same way that biology ensures that no two children are the same, the fruits of each of our acts of faith will be unique: some shall be prophets, others teachers, others healers, others helpers, others leaders (cf. 1 Cor 12:28-31). Together, we shall become the Tota Mater, that is, the cosmic woman who spends eternity joyfully fondling the vulnerable God in our laps, sharing our offspring with each other, sanctifying the universe all the while. On this Christmas Day, let’s choose to be like Mary, trusting that she will indeed make us like her Son. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
Risk, O glorious risk! You make it possible for me to transcend the narrow confines of my self-containment. Risk, O glorious risk! You provide a path out of my stifling logic and formulas. Risk, O glorious risk! You rescue me from the so-called safety that atrophies my spirit. Risk, O glorious risk! You challenge me. You see through my defenses. You expose my fear. Oh how I desire to encounter the mystery of it all! Oh how I long to be in union with the all! Deliver me, therefore, from the instinct to grab, to take hold of, to clasp onto. Interrupt that moment when the weight of clinging takes over. Spread my arms wide. Open my hands. Make me generous in receptivity. Indeed, you are not something to be mastered, but the master who teaches me something about life. Silence is the language that you speak. Courage is your favorite virtue. Your way is wide open. May we, thus, be partnered together on this journey. May we walk together side by side into the great unknown. May we have life together. Risk, O glorious risk, you enlarge my heart forever. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
“Hurt people hurt people” is a popular phrase in the world of psychology and in recovery circles. It is nature’s law of spiritual inertia: the momentum of our own pain in life naturally carries over into our relationships and behaviors – and we don’t even realize it! It is thus no wonder that oftentimes perpetrators of sexual abuse are themselves the victims of sexual abuse. In many ways such a phenomenon seems counterintuitive, as one would think that a person who has been damaged in a certain way would not want to impose such suffering on others, but the sad logic is that the pain which consumes us simply becomes normative for how we see the world and operate. What breaks this cycle? What frees us from being slaves to our past experiences? What becomes the boundary-marker where our pain reaches an ending point that some new vision of life might arise? It is of course Christ crucified and only Christ crucified. Indeed, we must learn to beg for the intervention of the Word who comes to us in our poverty, enters into our mess, cleans us up, takes our place and invites us to experience the Father’s love first-hand. A new glorious logic emerges, as by his wounds we are healed (Is 53:5), and we, like him, become hurt people who help people find their own way to the Father. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
Look down at your feet. There God has led you. Look at your hands. With them serve. This is a trustworthy recipe for the Christian life. In a Church that has all sorts of Kingdom-building architects and worker bees, it can be easy to lose sight of the point. The point is to enter into a trusting relationship with our heavenly Father – allowing our feet to constantly be led to new places (cf. Jn 21:18) – and to draw others into that same love all the while – with our very hands (cf. Lk 10:37). Let’s, therefore, do a real examination of our hearts this evening: What prevents me from following where God is actually leading me? What holds me back from reaching out to others in service? Is it a lack of trust? Is it fear? Am I confused? What must I do to move forward?! We shall come to discover a deep logic in our lives, a pattern that ultimately looks like dancing where we, freed from the bondage of our own stuff, simply enter into an exciting and unceasing partnership with the One Whom Our Hearts Have Loved All Along (cf. Song 3:3). The dancing goes on until everyone is dancing and then, together, we dance for all eternity! What are we waiting for? Let’s get those hands and feet moving. Let’s boogie! Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
What is the significance of both the Jewish religious leadership and Roman soldiers being complicit in the death of Jesus? Perhaps the message is that no “camp” can rescue us from our fallen natures and distorted thinking. Indeed, the Jews spent their days meditating on the revealed word and offering worship in the temple, while the Romans were bastions of order, the rule of law and justice, yet neither were able to see who Jesus was or hear what he was saying. This tragic comedy of errors, however, should not just be relegated to the past. Don’t we identify with our own camps? I’m Catholic, I’m Christian, I’m American, I’m Democrat, I’m Republican. What prevents us from just going with the flow? What prevents us from conforming to the same collective and fuzzy logic of the masses? In the great drama of life, there is only one trustworthy position: to step out beyond political ideas and religious feelings to the Christ-place. Here, in this act of trust, we will discover our true selves, naked and vulnerable before God, but we shall spend our lives rejoicing in the truth. Let us therefore move past the false safety of being someone in the eyes of the world by making that definitive decision, with Jesus, to enter into the deep security of the Father’s love. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
I’m on a boat. In the middle of choppy waters. No land in sight. I look to my feet. Slowly rising waters. How will I survive? Worry, fear, anxiety, helplessness, paralysis, inactivity, silence. I’m on a boat. Perhaps, this describes the experience of being human with our many vulnerabilities and fragilities. Perhaps this is how Jesus felt in the desert, in the garden and on the cross, attacked as he was from every side. Perhaps this is why the Church, in her wisdom, invites us to pray these words as our salvation takes root on Good Friday: “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me” (Ps 69:1-3). We should not be naïve about this journey, however, as, indeed, our boats will sink and we will be submerged. But this is precisely where the Good News begins. Jesus allows his boat, punctured and wounded as it was, to go under (cf. Jn 2:19-22), yet God’s love was more pervasive than the waters, more enduring than the holes and more powerful than the seemingly definitive death he experienced. Ours is simply to permit Jesus to enter into our boats (cf. Lk 5:3) and trust in his resurrection. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
What is being in a relationship with God like? It’s like waking up in the morning, feeling our feet hit the floor, going through our morning routine, remembering what is on the schedule for the day, walking into the kitchen, sitting down to breakfast, putting the dishes in the sink, grabbing our bag, kissing our loved ones goodbye, getting into the car, backing out of the driveway…you get the idea! To be in a relationship with God, as the “ing” ending suggests, is progressive, that is, it keeps on happening. And what is more, to be in a relationship with God means that we allow our lives to move in a direction that we know at that deep level of intuition to be right, but which we are nevertheless unable to conceptualize or fully articulate. Our role in this great drama of human life and faith is simply to cooperate. We take ownership and enter fully into the system of God’s revealing action when we participate in the process, name the gifts, do the footwork, and become radically disposed to the divine direction. This is our salvation, and there are no shortcuts, only a lifetime of fidelity and commitment to our one true Beloved, in the ordinariness of daily life, with the hope of finally being in a healthy relationship that lasts. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Why do we lose the forest for the trees so often? It’s probably because we rely on our own powers to navigate our way through life! Indeed, the human mind, which a certain doctor of the church calls “an idol-making machine,” has us believing that every single thing that we encounter is the whole. In an instant, our hearts become attached to a person or place or thing, and, without realizing it, we organize ourselves around some phenomenon that is not God. It is like the story of the one monk who sees another monk staring up into the heavens in great awe one evening. He inquires what he is looking at, only to get a finger pointing to the moon. The first monk gets so enthralled by the finger that he never lifts his eyes to the moon and completely misses out on the spectacular sight. If we cultivate a deep trust in the living God who has the power to save us from this dead-end behavior, we will slowly, but surely, be liberated from the many things that enslave us and be drawn back to the truth (cf. Rom 1:25). We shall learn to walk blindly through the “dark wood of life,” to adopt the radical posture of the crucified Christ, and to receive all things as gift from the finger of the one who has ordained them from the beginning of time. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Who lives in your house? Is it another person? An ideology? A resentment? A hope? A feeling? Whatever it happens to be, our hearts will be restless and our lives will be dissatisfied until God alone dwells in our house. Indeed, what freedom and peace when the living God meets our deepest yearning for life! Perhaps this is the reason the church values Mary so much, as the one who models how to be single-hearted with and faithful to the Word. Unlike Eve, who let that sneaky serpent’s words into her garden (cf. Gen 3:6), Mary maintains a pure house that, with a closed door (cf. Lk 1:34), is a safe and secure dwelling place for the One Whom Her Heart Loves (Song 3:4). We who are afraid of such deep intimacy have let all sorts of strange guests into our houses! We tell ourselves that it is all in the name of love, but we cling and grasp in fear and desperation. Let’s therefore take the risk of putting an end to all that does not belong in our inner sanctuary (cf. Jn 19:30). Let’s trust that God can and will communicate with us through a closed and locked door (cf. Jn 20:19, Mt 6:6). Let’s spend our eternity, with Mary, in the one house that lasts, giving birth to the Word forever (cf. Rev 21:22). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Have you ever found yourself caught in the crossfires of a debate about abortion? The rhetoric escalates extremely quickly and there is practically no room for real speaking and listening, as we are instead left with two opposing camps that think they share nothing in common. Nevertheless, our Catholic faith, an unmistakably both-and tradition, invites us to consider how the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice positions actually do go together: Is forcing a woman to give birth not a lapse in human dignity and thus a non-durable vision for any authentic society? Isn’t a society that is built on freedom without recourse to an enduring point of reference, that is, the goodness of life, destined to cave into itself again and again? Indeed, it should not surprise us that the same tradition that insists upon justice and mercy, law and prophets, spirit and flesh, human and divine rejects the notion that the truth could ever be contained in a single “camp” and instead directs us to the dazzling Word-made-flesh (cf. Jn 1:14, Mk 9:2-8) who sums up all things in his very person (cf. Jn 19:30), demanding that his disciples also be people of radical integrity (cf. 1 Cor 9:22). Let’s therefore have the courage to stand with Jesus in that tight and narrow space that leads to life (cf. Mt 7:14), all the while rejecting easy versions of the truth. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
BROTHER ALOYSIUS (ERIC) SALGADA, CSC (1902-1989)
Totally Devoted to Bengal and Missionaries
Eric Fabian Salgada was born in Chittagong, Bengal, to an Anglo-Burmese family. He was educated by a group of Irish missionary sisters until the age of thirteen when he entered the Congregation of Holy Cross at St. Gilbert’s Novitiate in Tumilia. The year before he professed vows, in 1920, he was put in charge of a boarding school in Akyab, where he also made the second year of his novitiate. In 1927, at age 25, he was sent to Toomiliah to be the supervisor of all of the village primary schools of the Toomiliah-Rangamati parishes. He did not take well to teaching, but did what he was told to do because in the early days, there were few Brothers in the schools, and the demand for them was great and unrelenting among the parish priests.
In 1933, he left the classroom for good because he was appointed as the procurator providing everything needed by the missionaries to fulfill their ministries. Almost every morning for the next 50 years, he would hop into a rickshaw with a brown leather satchel in his lap and his day’s agenda laid out. He went from shops to offices, to the hospital and then onto the Archbishop’s house, checking off each of his daily tasks on a neatly scripted list. In the afternoons, he read all of the mail, answered the phone, attended to passports and visas, had photos printed, and filled the needs of anyone coming into the office. Sisters often came to see him and a leper or two might drop by seeking pills. He kept a supply of medicines for the neighboring poor to provide some comfort for them from their aches and pains. For the last ten years of his life he suffered from heart problems and was completely blind.
A few days before he died, he was moved from Moreau House, where the Brothers felt they could no longer care for him and his heavy bronchial congestion, to the Gulshan Clinic. His death came silently as two Brothers prayed the rosary. All manner of people flocked to his wake: Priests, Brothers, Sisters, the poor, the lame and the leper. He was a brother to all, and like St. André Bessette, he personified pauper, servus et humilis. He gave all that God had given him to his beloved of Bengal and the Holy Cross missionaries.
Learning a new language is hard. Yes, there is the vocabulary, conjugations, declensions, constructions, tenses, moods, idioms and pronunciation, but what is more, is the risk of sharing our mental space with foreign ideas and concepts. Indeed, to allow ourselves to think differently necessarily challenges our well-established neural pathways, which is where our opinions and attitudes dwell. Slowly we learn to befriend these intellectual visitors and develop a whole new mental landscape that makes us more capable of communicating with others and sharing ourselves. The language of an authentic human life is the Word, who similarly knocks on the doors of our souls and invites learning at the deepest of levels. As we navigate the interior conversion of our spiritual pathways, where there can be all sorts of blocks and obstacles, we slowly learn to speak God’s language: seeing the poor among us, listening compassionately to others, forming our consciences before acting, practicing gratitude spontaneously, humbly asking for help, smiling generously, breathing deeply, and being present to each and every one of our sisters and brothers throughout a given day. May we thus find the courage to confront the babel of our lives (cf. Gen 11:1-9), to share our personal spiritual space with the Word (cf. Jn 14:2-3), and begin speaking the Good News in all that we say, think and do (cf. Acts 17:28). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Brother Bede (Sylvester) Stadler, CSC (1911-1992)
Brother Bede was born in Manawa, WI and attended schools there. He worked in various jobs and joined the Brothers of Holy Cross in 1931 making first vows in 1933.
Having taken the foreign mission vow, his first assignment was to Bengal for ten very devoted years. He was among the Holy Cross missionaries who were caught in India during World War II. As the headmaster of Holy Cross High School in Bandura, India, he went through the severe famine of 1943, the riots and demonstrations for freedom from British rule, and the threat of Japanese invasion. During the famine Brother Bede helped government officials in distributing food. Once he returned to the States, he seldom talked about these experiences, yet it was evident that he paid a heavy price.
When he returned in 1948, he taught Latin at Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville, IN, and then spent the next eleven years in Monroe, MI at Catholic Central High School serving as librarian and assistant principal. In 1962, he joined the faculty at Holy Cross High School in River Grove, IL teaching his Latin classes and developing one of the finest high school libraries in the Midwest Province. Upon retirement at Holy Cross, he continued to serve the community as a housekeeper and spent a great amount of his free time researching his family history and publishing an extensive genealogy of the Stadler family.
After nineteen years of devotion to the students and the Brothers at Holy Cross, Brother Bede moved to Dujarié House continuing to live a life of generosity. He might best be memorialized by this scriptural approbation: “Show yourself as a model of good deeds in every respect.” Titus 2:7
I used to go on very long hikes – thirty or forty miles at a time. After a series of failures where I either did not make it to the destination or did so only hobbling and exhausted, I decided to get more serious about my preparation and my strategy: frequent stretching, plenty of rest, full hydration, carbo-loading, packing wisely, well-timed breaks, weather updates, etc. The hikes became deeply gratifying experiences that allowed me to take ownership of the process as well as enjoy my full physical flourishing. I have to think that this is what the journey of discipleship is like. We have this exciting spiritual destination that our hearts absolutely long for, but the preparation and planning is complex and demands a multifaceted approach: daily prayer, participation in the liturgy, spiritual friendships, sacramental reconciliation, faith-sharing, ministry commitments, acts of charity and so much more! Each time we feel that we have failed or come away discouraged from our efforts to walk in faith, we can turn to Jesus who spent thirty years in preparation for his singular journey to Jerusalem which came to such a definitive ending (cf. Jn 19:30) that he exists at the end point of each of our individual journeys, rooting for us in love and grace along the way. May we learn to hike on his glorious path of perfection (cf. Ps 119:1). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Today is the feast of Guardian Angels, a celebration which may conjure up caricatures of spiritual beings in our mind’s eye. Perhaps this was a day that was important to us as kids, when we could be assured that there was an invisible friend who was protecting us at all times. Perhaps we prayed and talked to our guardian angel before going to bed. Whatever the case, it is not unreasonable to believe, even as adults, that the living God who is pure spirit, has created spiritual beings to mediate our daily experiences so that we may be drawn ever closer to our salvation (cf. Jn 1:51). While we may be tempted to speculate about the nature of angels or articulate their exact theological meaning – topics which were the basis of many medieval debates – we need only to trust that the God who is Love (1 Jn 4:8) enjoys finding creative ways to lead us homeward, and that God’s angels can indeed fill the gaps that sin has caused in our lives. So the next time we make it to the gas station just in time, or we catch an important mistake before submitting a report, or have an unexpected change of attitude, or, like Jesus, experience deep consolation in the midst of a major trial (cf. Lk 22:34), let’s offer a prayer of gratitude for the angels who “guard us in all our ways” (Ps 91:11). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
The sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church has had devastating consequences on Christ’s mission. Whereas the archetype of the priest is a symbol for how our earthly experiences must be mediated in order to be aligned to their ultimate and transcendent goal, the abuse and cover-ups have not only served as an obstacle to mediation for untold numbers of people, but, in fact, have actually damaged the ability of many people to even hold God as a credible point of reference for any aspect of their lives. The victims of sex abuse, instead, are often plagued with doubt, deep-seated existential angst, a lack of self worth and a feeling of interior collapse. You and I must therefore exercise our common priesthood in this religious milieu: to create stable circumstances for others to feel the presence of the living God, to help others to reinterpret their experiences in light of the saving work of God, to teach others how to trust again, and to lead others to rediscover within themselves the untiring action of the Great High Priest who is constantly making a sacrificial offering on our behalf to God. While it is unclear how the ministerial priesthood will develop over time, we can rest assured that the priesthood of Jesus is eternal and will make us safe forever. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
BROTHER LAWRENCE (FREMONT) MILLER, C.S.C. (1913-2005)
A MARVELOUS MENTOR FOR YOUNG RELIGIOUS
Fremont Miller was born in St. Wendel, Indiana. He attended only one year of high school and then worked in a plywood company to help the family.
In 1934, he entered the Sacred Heart Juniorate and finished high school. He went to the novitiate and pronounced his vows in 1940. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Notre Dame in 1942 and a master’s degree in social work at the University of Chicago.
In 1943 he was appointed field director at St. Charles Boys’ Home where he worked a total of sixteen years. After that, he became superior at Columba Hall on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. He was appointed Assistant Provincial from 1962 to 1968.
In 1968, he returned to social work at Father Gibault School in Terra Haute, Indiana. In 1973, he moved to his home area of Evansville, Indiana and was involved in psychiatric care at a state hospital and retirement homes for eleven years. He moved back to Columba Hall in 1984 to assist in the archives for seven years, until his lung condition worsened. He was an exceptionally intelligent, observant, and compassionate human being. His talents were in counseling troubled youth and helping senior citizens face the transition to the next life. Lawrence’s mentoring of younger religious served as a marvelous example — a true elder in all aspects.
What is your vocation? To be a priest, a married person, a firefighter, a nun, a small business owner, a teacher, a single person? The problem with answers like this is that they keep us at a safe distance from the living God who cannot be neatly packaged into an idea. “To be called,” rather, suggests something deeper, more spiritual and much more personal. We are called by a voice, which we all instinctively know at the level of the gut and which invites us out of the stifling patterns of our daily lives into the fresh air of a new day. Yes, our vocation ends up looking like something – maybe it involves a uniform or a lifestyle or a profession or a relationship – but those things change. The point is God, and God calls us through all sorts of experiences so that the barnacles might be scraped from our souls and we might draw ever closer to God. Therefore, the next time someone asks us, “What is your vocation?” let’s respond honestly, “My vocation is to constantly take a risk on the Father, and the rest is details.” Though we may be misunderstood or made to feel inadequate, like Jesus, our souls will nevertheless be at peace because we have spoken the truth, as indeed, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (Jn 18:37). Ave Crux, Spes Unica.