Today is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the one year anniversary of the Voice of Moreau blog! Thank you to the many Holy Cross educators, sisters, priests, brothers and associates who have participated in this spiritual conversation. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: The Cross is the key to our salvation. The Cross is the true altar of sacrifice. The Cross is a pulpit. The Cross is the Bridegroom’s wedding chamber and bed. The Cross is the way to eternal life. The Cross is the palm at the end of the mind. The Cross is the darkness that makes illumination possible. The Cross is medicine for wounded souls. The Cross is the source of life-giving waters that wash us. The Cross is the Tree of Life that feeds and nourishes us. The Cross is the beginning of the Resurrection. The Cross is the seed of mature faith. The Cross is “the image of the invisible God.” The Cross is a stumbling block and scandal to the world. The Cross is the icon of authentic humanity. The Cross is a spiritual blindfold that makes our steps certain. The Cross is the pattern at the heart of the universe. The Cross is the false self broken open. The Cross is our truest and deepest identity. The Cross is a most faithful friend. The Cross is the Beloved for whom our hearts have always longed. The Cross is vulnerability, trust and love. The Cross is our only hope. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: While the Cross may seem like an extrinsic reality that is laid upon our shoulders, it is actually intrinsic to the human person. Indeed, because we are made in the image of God (Gen 1:28), we cannot help but to contain the eternal cruci-form in our souls. When we enter into one of life’s many trials or encounter some hardship, yet choose to walk through, the experience assists in clearing away that “stuff” that has come to cover up the Cross within. New age spiritual philosophies might call this awareness or awakening, but this is a bedrock truth of the Christian life, which is why there is so much emphasis on finding in the Gospels: the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son, the Finding of the Christ Child, the Treasure in the Field, the Pearl of Great Value, and so on. By walking through the gauntlet, all of the clothes that society has hung on the interior Cross and all of the baggage we have accumulated along the way slowly decrease so that the Lord within may increase (Jn 3:30). Let us therefore look forward to the day when, having discovered that precious treasure within, we will exclaim “Voilà!” and “Eureka!” with all of the saints who have walked this path before us. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: St. Paul famously exclaims in Galatians, “It is no longer I who live, but Jesus Christ who lives in me” (2:20). This very powerful way of thinking about the Christian life has undoubtedly inspired countless souls to strive ever more ardently for transformation and self-realization. Nevertheless, it is the preceding line which contains the key to reaching this new life: “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal 2:19). We should not be surprised that the Greek word that Paul uses for “I” is literally ego. That object, idea, vision, dream or image that we hold deeply in our psyches must be brought to an end (Jn 19:29), or crucified with Christ. Though Jesus possessed the eternal “form of God,” he nevertheless “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness” and subjected himself to “death on the cross” (Phil 2:6-8). We who are sinners, who blindly roam this earth, suffering from ego-delusion, must pay attention to this profound and humbling lesson. Only when the false self dies, does the risen Christ, in all of his resurrected glory, appear. Let us therefore roll up our sleeves and clean out our spiritual houses. The Beloved eagerly awaits a home in which to dwell! Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: The psychology of C.J. Jung was very focused on archetypes, universal patterns that reveal deep truths about the human psyche. The primary four archetypes, found in each and every human soul, include: The Self, The Shadow, The Persona and The Anima/Animus. Because these dimensions of the subconscious together constitute the experience of being human, we should trust that the Cross embodies the entire drama therein. The naked body of our Lord, stretched out and laid open upon the wood of the Cross, is the image of the Self in all of its vulnerability. The wounds of Christ, in his hands, feet, head and side, are the mark of the Shadow who dwells within us and inexplicably seems to work against our own good. “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” that is, the Messiah, can be likened to the Persona, or role that we each play in life. And while the Animus is the boldness with which Christ crucified proclaims the Good News, especially in the defiant way he confronts both Jewish and Roman authority, the passivity of the Son who hands over his spirit to his heavenly Father should remind us of the Anima. Let us, therefore, not be afraid to engage in the science of psychology to affirm the truth of the Cross. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: Have you ever seen Michelangelo’s Last Judgment painting? While none of us is surprised when we see the Cross carrying souls upward to heaven on Christ’s right side, we should all marvel at the “crosses” which appear on Christ’s left. There is a heavy pillar that weighs souls down; there are literal crosses that seem to cause confusion among the damned; there are other objects, such as a knife, keys, arrows and a saw, which these souls cling to as they sink more and more deeply into the underworld. The artist undoubtedly wants to teach us a lesson about the Cross: It is a singular reality, shared by all disciples, raising souls up to their perfection, held only with an open hand, giving true life. If today, at this very moment, judgment were upon us, could we claim to stand with the saints who, “caught up in the clouds,” are prepared “to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thes 4:17)? Have we taken up the true yoke that is easy and accepted the one burden that is light (Mt 11:30)? In a world of false hopes and empty promises, may each of us learn to prefer the Cross and thus float into the freedom of salvation. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Response: “Learning to love the cross as a sign of real hope was the spiritual core of [Blessed] Moreau’s theology. Learning entailed practice, and walking the way of the cross meant recognizing three things for Moreau: that Christ represents the only possible reconciliation between interior dispositions and exterior actions, that union with Christ means union not only with his life but also his death, and that those who learn the mystery of Christ are also learning his resurrection” (Grove and Garwrych, Basil Moreau: Essential Writings, 2014, 45). As students are preparing to return for another year of school, teachers, too, are preparing to accept them into their classrooms. How will teachers educate their students to love the cross as the source of their hope for this world and the next? Certainly, this task begins before the students arrive as teachers are gathered in meetings prior to the first day of classes. As individuals and a corporate entity, teachers must conscientiously plan each class, each week, each semester around that education which forms and nourishes the heart as well as filling the mind with facts. Begin each class a prayer that focuses the mind and instructs the heart to regulate the application of the knowledge for the day. Let the last thing you say to your class be a reminder to walk in the shoes of those around them. A prayer that assists students and teachers to be aware of the many possibilities for taking up the cross throughout the day allows for the practice of the corporal works of mercy that are needed today. In the words of St. James we need to “declare [our] sins to one another, and pray for one another, that [we] may find healing” (James 5:16) and thus to become the compassionate heart of the crucified Lord. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: The word “anxiety” comes from the Latin word angustia which means “narrow straits.” To suffer from anxiety is like walking down a long, dark tunnel that seems to have no end. As a society, we think of anxiety as an enemy. There are drugs out there to remove that feeling of narrowness and relax our minds, as well as talk therapy to help people alleviate the emotional heaviness that plagues us. Nevertheless, the experience of anxiety is a unique spiritual opportunity to trust God. Jesus’ mind must have been obscured by a thick fog on the Cross: Why do I have to go through this? How can anything good come out of my death? Where are all of my family and friends? Why have you abandoned me? Yet, he said yes. Truly, the joy of the resurrection is reserved for those who are willing to walk the way of salvation, though they do not understand: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Mt 7:13-14). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Response: St. Paul in his letter to the Romans tells them that “[t]he sufferings of present are nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us” (8:18). We live in a world that is wedded to many forms of promiscuity. It is so easy to be convinced that a pill can readily provide a cure for any ache or pain. That the application of this or that salve will stave off the effects of aging. That the purchase of this or that gadget will make living increasingly more effortless. And so we give in to these enticements only to find out that our anxieties about living are not alleviated but exacerbated because we have been duped yet again. To see our personal suffering as nothing compared to the glory to be revealed is not easy. It takes more than a one-time yes to God. It is a daily yes–an hourly yes for most of us. What comfort can a Holy Cross educator provide? Make a daily commitment to be zealously faithful to teaching the truth about this life’s journey toward heavenly citizenship. The road is hard because the flesh is weak. If there is a curative for all that ails us, it is compassionate mercy. Do not increase the suffering of the via dolorosa. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: Taking up the Cross is not some clean and sterile process. Those who think that they have taken up the Lord’s Cross by a single stroke of the pen or by a single decision are mistaken. The work of dying to self, rather, is a lifelong journey – messy, emotional, confusing, uncertain, but most importantly good. Like falling in love, we discover that if we truly desire to be with our Beloved for the long-term, we must learn how to dance instead of cling, how to hold with an open hand, how to say “thank you,” and how to get up when we fall. By doing so, our lives weave a magnificent image of the invisible God (Col 1:15) which reveals the texture and beauty of the scars of the risen Christ. Let us therefore not be afraid to put out into the deep and risk everything (Luke 5:4), trusting that our Father is already waiting for us in the mess (Gen 1:2). Blessed indeed is the God who walks with us through the fiery furnaces of life (Dan 3:24) and whose own Cross bears witness to the glory and salvation reserved for those who are simply willing to jump in. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Response: Taking up the Cross is definitely not done at a specific time as a once-and-for-all-time event. Travelling the road of the Cross–“through the fiery furnaces of life”–takes a recommitment each day, and several times during a single day. The poet Langston Hughes writes that “life ain’t no crystal stair”; definitely life is a steep staircase that each of us must climb if we are to realize citizenship in Heaven. The obvious task for Holy Cross educators is to support students along this arduous climb. Assist students to realize that the woes of this life are only made more bearable if each of us does not add to them. Use this message from St. Paul as your prayer for the beginning of this new school year: “Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things people need to hear, things that will really help them. Be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:29-32). At the beginning of each class, ask your students to jump in for the long haul. No one needs to look far away from home and the school for opportunities to become the healing love of the crucified Christ. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: The immigration crisis is really just the story of salvation in disguise. The poor and the oppressed have been beaten up by governments and gangs and extreme weather. They risk everything, their fortunes and homes and even their families, in order to have a fresh start somewhere else. They journey through countless trials and make countless sacrifices, hoping to literally “cross” over the border into the freedom and joy of new life. The drama of immigration thus points unmistakably to our crucified Lord. He is inviting us to join him as he passes over from the dark forces of this world to the Sabbath rest of the next. Let us therefore be careful to not engage in the political and ideological debates surrounding immigration that miss its deeper spiritual implications. Let us constantly be on the lookout for strangers in the midst of our daily lives and assist them in “crossing” thresholds that will lead to life. Let us acknowledge our own interior immigration crisis as we ourselves struggle to live in the light: “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut 10:19). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Response: “Let us constantly be on the lookout for strangers in the midst of our daily lives and assist them in ‘crossing’ thresholds that will lead to life.” These words will resonate with anyone who works in a school where there are many students who are immigrating into the new world of school no matter the level. For many young people entering the “new” school causes them to feel like strangers in a strange land for quite some time. In all Holy Cross schools there are orientation days and programs to assist the new kids on the block to begin to feel more and more at home with each passing day. In Christian Education, Blessed Moreau writes a very detailed essay on “Students’ Relationships with Teachers” where he describes those students in our classrooms who are poor and oppressed: “spoiled, unintelligent, self-centered, opinionated, insolent, envious, without integrity, immature, lazy, or in poor health.” It is the responsibility of the teacher to invite these children to become fully enfranchised citizens of, let’s say, Algebra 1 or English 10. Because each classroom is a world unto itself, the teacher/leader, must see to it that all members of the class learn to treat all other members with respect so that all may cross the various thresholds that bespeak the education of both the mind and the heart. It is the teacher who demonstrates the love of the “stranger,” so that students can model Christ the Healer for each other. This is not an easy task for leaders of the many countries of the world, and it is not an easy job in a classroom with a population of 25 or 30. Yet it is the job description for all Catholic school teachers and those of us who teach in Holy Cross schools. Let no child feel alienated nor be allowed to alienate others. There are so many opportunities to educate hearts in our classrooms. May we have the competence to see and the courage to act so that strangers are strangers no longer because they have been welcomed with the love of the crucified Christ. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: In the spiritual life, we learn that we must keep our foot on the accelerator at all times. The moment we think that we’ve got it figured out and stop is the moment that the evil one enters into the nooks and crannies of our minds, leading us off track, subverting the whole operation. See the intensity with which Jesus travels to Jerusalem. See how he does not settle for temporal comforts nor “a place to lay his head” (Mt 8:20). See how he scolds Peter for being a stumbling block along the way: “You have set your mind on earthly things and not on divine things” (Mt 16:23). Are we really going anywhere on our journeys? Can we be honest and admit the times when we’ve gotten stuck or have abandoned the project of spiritual progress altogether? Do we spend ourselves so that we might finally arrive, with our Lord, at our ultimate destination? Let us therefore put our souls in gear, take up the triumphant Cross, and not stop following the path that leads to life. Half-way-there, close, five minutes away, down the street are not enough. We must finish (Jn 19:30) the race! Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Response: Blessed Moreau writes, “If you want to attain the glory of paradise, imitate Jesus Christ insofar as it depends on you. Let yourself be deeply permeated not only with the good intentions of reaching that end but also of putting that imitation of Christ into practice” (Basil Moreau, Essential Writings, 205). Good intentions mean little without practical application. It has been said frequently this last year in these responses, that educators in Holy Cross schools must be called to the vocation of teaching. If one is called, then it does not matter what one teaches in a classroom or in a lab or on the athletic field. The vocation is a call to formation along with education. The very nature of bringing students to completion, demands the application of all knowledge for the building up of the Body of Christ. Teachers and students alike must take every opportunity to assess if they are on the pathway of charity toward all. The human journey has but one end: love of God and neighbor until the last breath. For those for whom this lifestyle is desired and practiced, it is easy to know when we get off track because our conscience will provoke us to sadness that we have strayed from taking up the Cross. Practically, getting back on the pathway requires but repentance and the reaffirmation to love God and neighbor again, and again, and so on. Whether we be a tortoise or a hare, we can finish the race if we have the humility to admit our weaknesses and rise above them each day. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Voice of Moreau: Why the Cross? Why not some other form of executing our Lord? Human beings have come up with thousands of other, many more creative, ways to kill their kinspeople! Yet, the Cross specifically has been revealed as the most fitting way that God should die. It is the Roman impulse, the need for power and control, to impose one’s self on the other, which the crucified Christ is trying to redeem us from. Exposing a person and making them radically vulnerable, as they are hoisted up and spread out on two beams of wood, is mysteriously transformed into a grace-filled moment of trust and love. As if he is giving his last lecture with the Cross as his podium, this Master Teacher demonstrates that “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9), that the true power of a human person is the capacity to believe in God, precisely in the face of suffering and all the way through the extremities of one’s being. The Roman thirst for blood, thus, pales in comparison to the holy victim who thirsts (Jn 19:28) but gives his own blood in return (Jn 19:34). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Response: “[T]he true power of a human person is the capacity to believe in God, precisely in the face of suffering and all the way through the extremities of one’s being.” The daily news graphically reports one atrocious event of human suffering after another. When it would seem that events could not get more horrendous, they do. These reports about suffering humanity are perpetuated each day–often with a sense of hopelessness. Because the very nature of electronic media can desensitize us to this suffering, how do we remain aware of our duty to make a response other than that of shocked disbelief? What form for us does the love of God take as we watch or listen in the detachment of our homes? As followers of the crucified Christ, we are the outstretched merciful hand of our Savior to those who suffer. If one cannot physically respond, then one prays and prays again for merciful interventions by and from those who can actively respond. When we can physically respond, we pray and pray for “the courage to act,” so we become the outstretched hand of the Lord. Parents and teachers, process with your children and students the suffering that is global, and more importantly, that is proximate. Make plans to act and this action support with prayer. Let my actions be your actions, O Lord. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: What we do with our bodies is who we become. We, for instance, become married to another person by giving our bodies over to that person in friendship and love. We become learned by showing up to class, going to the library and picking up books. We become alcoholic by taking our bodies to the bar night after night to drink. If our ultimate vocation, however, is to become children of God, what should we ultimately be doing with our bodies? Look to the Cross – our Lord offers his body to his Father in a child-like act of simplicity and trust. And though, very few, if any, of us will ever have the opportunity to present our physical bodies to God in such an explicit and literal act of martyrdom, we must, nevertheless, seek out occasions to put our bodies as closley as possible to the invisible God in the daily circumstances of our lives. This means stopping on the side of the road to minister to those in need, standing up for the dignity of the poor, and taking the risk of embracing the outcast. We become beloved of God, indeed, when we make the decision to physically be in these places, making a gift of ourselves to the One who identifies with “the least” (Mt 25:40). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator Response: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40). Being a parent and being a teacher are sacred vocations that require a “manner of living.” The Church teaches that parents, those who are authentic persons of faith, are the first educators of their children as they form the identity of the child as a member of the nuclear family, a member of the local and universal Church, and a citizen of the secular world. As Mary and Joseph did for Jesus, so too, parents construct a strong foundation built upon the teachings of the faith and the secular facts pertaining to survival “in this valley of tears.” When the child is still quite young, parents must make a serious, conscientious, and well thought out plan as they select the professional co-educators who will direct many years of the child’s institutional education. Then parents and teachers, together called to this vocation, do the work of education. Through consistent modeling of the behaviors of engaged life-long learning and scholarship, teachers and parents periodically call upon these children/students to die and to re-blossom as ever more proficient followers of Jesus Christ. This means that the adults create many opportunities for children to become self-gift. All Holy Cross schools assure that students have ample opportunities to give of their time, treasure and talent for God’s suffering people in the U.S. and in countries around the world. Parents and teachers alike must remind children of the many daily opportunities there are to “decrease so that others might increase” (Jn 3:30). This is a living martyrdom of offering our all for the salvation of our brothers and sisters. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: Have you ever fallen in love before? It is a powerful and emotional experience. We invite our beloved into our home, our psyche. There, we enjoy the comfort and consolation of having someone who is with us wherever we go. We keep that one “in mind” at all times and our beloved in turn brings peace and a feeling of security in our hearts. What is it like to fall in love with God? God is not an object that can be kept “in mind.” God is an infinite, pure and simple Spirit, but nevertheless constantly wants to be close to our souls and bring us a deep and infinite peace that does not go away. And so he invites us to welcome the crucified Christ into our homes. As a kind of placeholder in the psyche, the Cross, which truly is the “image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), unmistakably and unceasingly points us in the direction of the one, true God. Let us learn to recognize our Beloved in the shape of the Cross and in so doing enter into passionate union with the One whom our hearts have loved all along (Song 3:1). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator Response: We all “fall in love” many times. Differentiating among those persons deserving of an everlasting love from those momentary infatuations can be difficult especially for young children and teenagers. There is so much that entices us, that mesmerizes us for periods of time. This is a natural part of growing up and learning to make appropriate choices among so many “adorable” things and persons is ongoing. Certainly, one aspect of heart formation for CSC educators is assisting students to understand the difference between so many infatuations and the persons that demand a perpetual loving commitment. Learning to recognize the Lord in the shape of the Cross is really not that difficult. Each day, the news is filled with stories about people who are Christ crucified. The alien, the outcast, the destitute, the suffering child, the old, the infirm and the ignored are among the many who are crucified because of the human condition. Reflect upon the Beatitudes and you will identify those who suffer and yet are blessed. Bringing students “to completeness” is to provide them with many opportunities to reflect upon suffering humanity, the blessed ones. In Blessed Moreau’s words: “We must provide our students with the competence to see and, then, the courage to act.” One cannot fall in love with the crucified Savior unless one, first, falls in love with suffering humanity. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: You are what you eat! We know this from the many conversations we have had with our doctor, the times we’ve stood marveling at the number on the scale, or the many moments we have spent reading the nutritional facts on a candy wrapper. We have learned that when we eat the easy foods, the low-lying fruit, we gain weight, but when we make the effort to eat hearty and nutritious foods, our bodies become lean and healthy and fit. It is the same with our spiritual lives. Do we play it safe? Do we take the easy way out? Do we consume the convenient ideas, experiences and relationships? Or, do we choose the Cross? The Cross will make us strong! Our minds will become focused on God, our souls will become open to God. While the sinner’s heart is “gross and fat” (Ps 119:70), blessed indeed are the pure of heart (Mt. 5:8) who have made the decision to follow Jesus. Let us therefore take our place at the Lord’s Table. Let us feast on the food that he gives and drink from the chalice of salvation. Choose the Cross! You are what you eat! Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: What is the most nourishing diet for one who desires the energy and stamina to travel along the Royal Road of the Cross? What food provides the fuel to go the extra mile as either teacher or student? One hymn proclaims “Eat this bread, drink this cup, come to me and never be hungry.” Another tells us that “wheat and grape contain the meaning: food and drink he is to all.” Simply, we must fortify ourselves with the the bread-body and wine-blood of the Lord each day, if we can. The Eucharist is that food. If you cannot receive physical communion but once a week, you can make a spiritual communion each morning. Teachers, you can do this as part of the prayer that you say with your students at the beginning of each class. Let your students set the table, so to speak, with food that demands the extra mile. Activity that demands some discipline: I intend to get to each class on time and to participate actively especially when I am not inclined to do so. I intend to be a good role model today to students both younger and older than me. These personal food offerings bring intentionality to the actions of the day for students. And teachers, what food do you bring to the table? I intend to create lesson plans that are pertinent to survival in this world and created to assist my students to get to heaven. I want to form the hearts of my students today. I will return all evaluated student work promptly. I will be the first to enter the classroom and the last to leave. I will greet my students with a smile and will maintain a positive attitude beginning first period and continuing throughout the day. For all of us, these intentions are the food that sustains us as we choose and rechoose the Cross each day, throughout the day and for all days. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: Jesus teaches us that the Christian life hinges upon The Greatest Commandment (Mt 22:37-38). But how exactly does a person Love God? By detaching from things, surrendering and being totally receptive to the infinite, immense, purely spiritual One. And how does a person Love Neighbor? By caring for, paying attention to, thinking about, standing up for, making sacrifices for and reaching out in service to others. With our fallen human nature, however, it can be easy to confuse these two distinct loves – surrendering totally to other people or things (idolatry) or merely thinking about God as if he were just another thing among a myriad of things (heresy). We must therefore return to the Cross. See how our Lord is completely opened up to the Other in his crucified form. See how his commitments to the poor, the voiceless, the sick and the marginalized have literally affixed his body to two wooden beams. This symbiotic relationship between Love God and Love Neighbor gives rise to the drama of authentic humanity, a narrow way that mediates created and uncreated reality, a place of true glory and deep peace. Obey our Lord’s commandment by allowing your life to become the Cross. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: Blessed Moreau continuingly reminds the priests, brothers and sisters that the work of Holy Cross is God’s work, not theirs. The best prayer to begin a day of ministry is “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.” Praying to the Spirit, to the God of wisdom, and then being as responsive as one can be to acts of love, better guarantees a balance between love of God and love of neighbor. The commandment is to love God first, and then love one’s neighbor as one loves the self. St. Paul singles out charity as the way to the Way. Perhaps, it is best that the ordinary Christian man and woman who desires heaven not get too tied up in worries about idolatry and heresy. Better to be focused upon doing acts of love for the least of God’s children. Best, too, for CSC educators to couple all secular knowledge to love of God and neighbor. In our pursuit of the good life, Kempis advises that “a good life makes a [person] wise according to God and gives [that person] experience in many things, for the more humble [one] is and the more subject to God, the wiser and the more at peace [one] will be in all things.” If a person cannot love the flawed self by attempting to rise above it each day, then it follows that that person does not have the capacity to love others. And if we do not love our brothers and sisters whom we can see, then how can we say that we love God whom we cannot see? Authentic humanity is owning up to our sinful nature and crucifying it to the Lord’s redeeming Cross. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: How do we know the way in life? In a world with so many apparent options and with souls that have so many various desires, it can very difficult to say that we know anything! Yet, there is a trustworthy method of discernment, classically called the “apophatic way” or the “via negativa:” We learn to close the doors to those apparent and various options, all of them, and we gradually arrive where we are supposed to be, a place of total security and peace where we finally feel like children of God. The trade-off, however, is that we must surrender control and become comfortable with walking in the dark. We unlearn our old ways, and knowing turns into a kind of not-knowing. This is the certainty of the Cross! Our Lord spent years preparing for his mission in Nazareth. Once that door was closed, he traveled throughout Galilee in his public ministry. Once that door was closed, he entered Jerusalem and then to Golgotha and then, when every door had been shut, including the stone on the tomb, true life was revealed. The Cross is the doorway par excellence, and the crucified one is the Way. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: All educators open doors to countless opportunities for students. The most essential of these doors for CSC educators is that which leads to the Way, the Truth, the Life! Today, there is so much uncertainty when it comes to finding one’s way. Although there has never been a time when personal success is guaranteed if one travels this way or that, today, young people feel much stress when it comes to college choices that will lead to a satisfying and prosperous future. College majors are changed sometimes three times prior to graduation. Once a job is secured, a person can be moved hither and yon many times prior to the age of 40. Setting down strong roots is not easy today. Have I chosen the right way for myself and family? Perhaps, for this secular world, the best advice that a teacher can give to the young is adapt or die. For the next world, however, the best advice for all of us is to focus outward by doing many acts of service for the many who suffer “the slings and arrows” of poverty, physical, psychological and spiritual deprivation. As doors are closed upon this and that, keep the doorway par excellence open, responding to Jesus’ words: whenever you do anything for the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done such for me. Through daily sacrifices, small and great, we each crucify ourselves with golden nails to our Lord’s Cross. All students, everyone, no matter the age, need to hear this message frequently. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: Do you ever pray on your knees at night before going to bed? Perhaps we might think that this is how children pray, but isn’t this what our Lord did in the garden on the night before he died (Luke 22:41)? The posture of kneeling is not only a longstanding spiritual tradition that expresses humility in the face of the Almighty, literally grounded in the earth (humus), but it is also an experience of self-emptying as we orient ourselves to the One who calls us to Himself. So it makes sense that Jesus accepted the Cross as his destiny on his knees! Indeed, the Cross, which leads us into the dark night of our final rest, is also anchored in the earth and is a bold act of trust and dependence on the invisible God. Beware of new age spiritualities that do not measure up to this powerful standard! Beware of the evil one who will try to make us believe that a half-hearted prayer the moment before we go to bed is sufficient! Our salvation is too important to not kneel down and imitate the one whose Cross is the way to eternal life. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: The posture that one takes before the Lord is a physical sign of adoration and love. Of more importance, perhaps, is the posture of one’s heart in response to Christ crucified. As educators in the tradition of Blessed Moreau, teachers instruct and form: minds are filled, hopefully, with pertinent information for survival, and hearts are formed to guarantee that the data is used for the building up of the Body of Christ. Providing students with many opportunities for service allows the heart to kneel before the Lord at all times. Certainly, there comes a time in the life of all the Lord’s followers when physical knees can no longer bend; when being seated before the Lord is the only way to be physically present. For the old and the infirm who have devoted their lives to service, a heart that is constantly kneeling before the Lord exists because one has been both physically and spiritually kneeling from an early age. Through example and deliberate instruction parents and teachers encourage children to kneel before the Lord and travel the royal road of the Cross. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: You may know of a popular country music song called, “Live Like You Were Dying.” What would you do if you were diagnosed with a terminal illness? Would your mind really go to skydiving and bull riding and mountain climbing? Would your heart really settle for loving deeper and speaking sweeter, as the song suggests? No way! You would instead become intensely and authentically human. With our crucified Lord, you would experience real vulnerability, confessing your great dependence on others, “I thirst.” You would be emotionally honest with your God, “Why have you forsaken me?” You would finally see the logic of mercy, “Forgive them, Father.” You would realize that life only begins with a definitive act of surrender and trust, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” Don’t we realize that life is constantly moving toward that end point? Let us therefore not get lost in the emotions of this pop theology! Let us adopt the Cross as the rhythm of the song of our whole lives. Let us turn these lyrics upside down by dying daily to self and thus experiencing, here and now, a taste of true life. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: If CSC educators heed Blessed Moreau’s declaration that the goal of a Catholic education is to bring students to completion in Christ crucified, then the real end is to assist young people to become intensely and authentically human. It is as a participating member of the Body of Christ, that Christians respond to the words of Paul to the Corinthians. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.’” No matter what we teach in the classroom, all our work needs to be oriented to our enmeshment in the Body of Christ. Authentic humans come to understand that complete vulnerability to another person is a life-long work in progress. Moreover, complete vulnerability to our authentic Lord is found through daily denial of self for others. It is the work of educators to present students with many opportunities to step outside of “I need” and step forward to “Will you let me be your servant; let me be as Christ for you.” Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: Obsessive thinking is a major obstacle for certain personality types. We have a negative experience and we cannot stop thinking about it. We make a mistake and our minds become absorbed with guilt and self-reproach. When we discover that the word “obsession” literally means “something that sits upon you,” we begin to understand that the Cross indeed is our hope. We shall not be enslaved to this idol which has somehow penetrated the walls of our psyche; we shall not permit our lives to be controlled by the unwelcome guest who wants to rent space in our mind; we shall not invest all of our attention in this squatter. No! We shall instead bind this thought or idea or memory to the vertical and horizontal beams of Truth. We shall test its worth by spreading it out on the form of the Cross. We shall witness its death, trusting that any good will be resurrected and revealed in our souls in some new way. Let us therefore learn to be obsessed with the Cross. Let us be sure that it is the Christ and only the Christ who sits in the throne of our mind. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: Today, it is rare to see a person of any age or cultural background whose hand is not attached to a device–specifically a smartphone. This gadget immediately connects us to anything, be it good or bad for us. So easy it is to become obsessed with the ability to be connected to literally any desired knowledge. Most children and teens are obsessed with but one thing–am I known by others and what do they think of me. Too many times young people fall prey to cyber bullying that provides them with obsessive thinking. In this time of media explosion and instantaneous being in-the-know, CSC educators need to be concerned for the welfare of their students. If we heed Blessed Moreau’s mandate that our educational vocation is to bring our students to completeness, then we must wholeheartedly fight against that which fractures their spiritual and psychological balance. We must assist them to stand firm in the love of the crucified Lord and take their cares to the Lord, not to the Internet. Thomas a Kempis cautions that the person “who does not keep his heart within him, and who does not have God before his eyes is easily moved by a word of disparagement.” We are all pulled mercilessly between two poles: self-centeredness and reliance upon Christ crucified. This tension can lead us to despair because addiction to carnal nourishment is so powerfully alluring. Teachers: pray for your students and yourselves that they and you have the desire and then the power to overwhelm any negative thinking that drives you away from God. This needs to be more than a daily prayer. Let the mantra be Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: There is an implicit tension in the life of any disciple of Jesus. Our Lord says both: “Follow me” (Mt 16:24) and “Remain with me” (Jn 15:4). It is easy to run around following our own impulses. It is easy to remain in the safe haven of our comfort zones. The true key to discipleship, however, is to be both an active and a contemplative at one and the same time. The Cross is the common denominator which links these two spiritual postures. In order to go somewhere, we must stay somewhere; that is, the only way for the crucified Christ to be oriented to the infinite horizon is for him to be firmly and absolutely grounded in the here and now. Like a mighty tree that soars up to the heavens, with all of the splendor of its foliage and the dizzying heights of its branches, we too must learn to grow deep roots and anchor our souls in the rich soil of the present moment. Let us, therefore, have the humility to surrender to this paradox of life. Let us remain with our Lord by constantly following him to the Cross. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: Brother Joseph Schmidt, F. S. C. wrote a book called Praying Our Experiences. Its thesis is simple: the only place where we meet God is in our own experiences. It is the practice of reflecting on and entering honestly into the day-to-day events of our lives to become aware of God’s word in them and to offer ourselves to God through these events.Every moment of one’s day can be prayer – grace – if we have the correct mindset. I place all the moments of the day as adoration and an oblation to Christ crucified. Thomas á Kempis suggests that “true comfort is to be sought in God alone,” and that “the devout [person] carries [the] Consoler, Jesus, everywhere.” Blessed Moreau would agree and encouraged his Holy Cross educators to assist students to completeness in Christ crucified by teaching them daily routines that ground them in the faith.Frequently, remind and recall for your studentsthat they can sanctify each moment of the day if they desire to do so. All activity grounded in love of neighbor is an act of contemplation. Use the lives of holy persons as examples of active contemplation: St. André Bessette, CSC, Blessed Mother Leonie Paradis, MSC, Brother Columba O’Neill, CSC, Servant of God Brother Flavian La Plante, CSC, Father Thomas Barrosse, CSC and Mother Augusta Anderson, CSC. Each of these men and women of Holy Cross are mighty trees whose roots are embedded in Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: The Cross is medicine for our wounded souls. While it burns and stings when first applied, we know that it purges the toxins lest other parts of our souls become infected. Gradually, we do experience relief and our health is restored. This is true medicine that we have access to at all times. It is not received through the senses per se, but in an act of trust in the Good Samaritan to whom we cry out from our destitute posture, laying on the side of the road. He is the only one who will respond to our needs. We must simply have the courage and the humility to call his name. When he comes to us, we do nothing but allow ourselves to become receptive to his Cross, the wine and oil of salvation (Lk 10:25-37). Our scars, like his, remind us of the power of sin and teach us to “walk in the way of perfection” (Ps 101:6) so that our hearts might not be so easily allured to the dangers that lurk off the beaten path. May we never neglect to take our medicine. May we never be ashamed of the Cross. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: Thomas á Kempis writes: “God knows when and how to deliver you; therefore, place yourselves in His hands, for it is a divine prerogative to help men, and free them from all distress” (The Imitation of Christ). Blessed Basil Moreau took every opportunity to remind his educators that their particular goal was “the sanctification of youth”. This work of resurrection for our students requires that we present to them daily, indeed multiple opportunities during each day, to heal their spirits. These doses of heavenly medicine come whenever we connect the information of the class to the promptings of the heart: to make all things whole in Christ crucified by forming our student into Christians “conformed to Jesus Christ.” Conscientiously design all courses and classes with at least one dose of the medicine of the Cross. Connect all information with the need to heal a broken world. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: Divine Mercy Sunday reminds us that the Christ is our eternal and final end who stands at the edge of time, calling us into eternity, nourishing us all the while with life-giving blood and purifying waters. Yet, I ask, are our lives actually oriented to that One? Can we honestly say with Isaiah that we in fact “drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom” (66:11)? Are we really disposed toward receiving the goodness that She has to offer us from Her abundant breasts? We must learn to constantly put our bodies in Her direction. We must learn to trust Her and only Her, to be fed by Her and only Her, to cling to Her and only Her. How often we stray from this cosmic vision of life and nurse instead from the things of this world. Putting our physical lips to beer bottles, our emotional lips to pornography, our spiritual lips to the latest false gospel or self-help program, we become like infants who never receive proper nutrition – we wither, fade and die. Let us therefore become children of God by affixing our whole mind, body, heart, lips and self to Her. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: “To drink deeply with delight” does not come naturally to a person. Mentors (parents, teachers: the Church) must initiate the young into the fundament of the Faith and guide them to trust more and more that Christ is the final end of the quest for the “cosmic vision of life”. For teachers something as simple as beginning each class with a prayer can have lasting impressions upon students. “St. Augustine said that those who know how to pray well also know how to conduct themselves” (Moreau, Christian Education). As the teacher who designs lessons that focus upon forming hearts that temper the application of the world’s knowledge, allow students to take the time at the beginning of each class to focus on a daily act of love, and act of adoration and makinga petition for the grace to trust the Lord always. Guide this prayer because many students, those who are churched as well as unchurched, need to be taught to pray and why to pray. Blessed Moreau says that “…if there are so few children living as good Christians upon leaving school, it is certainly that they have not been formed in prayer”. Before one can drink deeply, one must learn to sip and to savor. It is daily classroom prayer that can enable students to yearn for more and more of the body and blood of the Lord. “Rejoice always,pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: Professionals often use the phrase,“think outside the box,” as a way to spur on creativity or promote innovation in their clients, students and employees. Is this not resurrectional language? Aren’t all of us constantly seeking to transcend the bounds of our own social, cultural, familial, intellectual and spiritual tombs? During those moments when our vision does align in a way that offers us a glimpse of life outside the box, our hearts sing with great joy and our souls are electrified by the prospect of new life. This Hallelujah moment, however, is only temporary and we descend back into our caves and fall asleep once more. As disciples of Jesus, we must not settle for just “thinking outside the box,” but must instead seek to liveoutside the box. Let us not delay in taking up this “work of resurrection.” Let us not be satisfied until the cage of the self has been emptied out by the Cross. Let us hope and pray that through the labor pains of the crucified Christ we may be born out of this tomb once and for all to share in the glory of eternal life. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: For Blessed Basil Moreau life is an imitation of Christ. An authentic imitation of the Royal Road of the Cross is achieved through the renunciation of pride, disobedience, inordinate ambition, greed and carnal desire. To move outside our self-designed boxes of “I am all there is” is to embrace humility and love of God and neighbor—to become living imitations of Christ crucified. Each Christian’s authentic goal is to achieve total and selfless union with Jesus Christ. In one of Blessed Moreau’s sermons, he declared, “How admirable the transformation that will take place in you through your union with Jesus Christ, and how wonderful the characteristics of this union. Total union in being, intelligence, will, body—an intimate union, since it goes as far as living the life of Jesus Christ; an effective union, since it restores to us all we have lost in Adam and through it we become the same moral person with Jesus Christ; a glorious union, giving supernatural merit to our actions and the right to eternal glory.” Each Holy Cross educator should be preoccupied with introducing students to the knowledge that arms them with the ability to live in “this world and the next.” Students need to be presented with daily opportunities to think outside the box. The innovation that we teachers offer to our students is to look for and embrace opportunities to become others-oriented. Living outside the box of self-centeredness is a daily struggle because it goes against the natural urge for self preservation. Our students must be acculturated to lean into the supernatural urge to rise again and again from the entombment of the self. As educators our own outside-the-box thinking allows us to become moments of grace for our students. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: We live in a world that is functionally amoral. What is the Good? For most people it is what serves them. If it is good for me, it is good! This childish way of life is a dead end that leaves many “mourning and weeping in a valley of tears” as they cave into themselves again and again and again. The Church, however, offers a different vision for life. She pronounces that the Good is an objective reality, a standard beyond us that we must abandon all utilitarian thinking to reach. Indeed, she teaches us that only God is good (Mk 10:18), that the Samaritan was good because he stepped outside of himself to serve his neighbor (Lk 10:25-37), and that the thief may be called “good” because of his dependence on the Lord (Lk 23:40-42). She goes so far as to celebrate a Good Friday, on which she invites us to affix our lips to the Cross, that glorious point of reference that delivers us from the idiotic pattern of self-centeredness into a life of true morality. Let us therefore worship the Cross with both our lips and our lives and in so doing become good. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: Because we live in a world of functional amorality, as educators we must consistently direct our students to move farer and farer away from the ego needs of “I” toward the altruism of “You”. Each lesson plan should include information and functional opportunities for students to become Good Samaritans and Good Thieves. Blessed Moreau clearly believes that the role of all teachers in Holy Cross Schools is “to make them [youth] Christians conformed to Jesus Christ; such is the principal goal of our mission among the young. To what end would it serve the students to know how to read, write, calculate, and draw, or to possess some notions of history, geography, geometry, physics, and chemistry, if they were ignorant of their duties to God, to themselves, and to society, or if, while knowing them, they did not conform their conduct to that knowledge.” Blessed Moreau concludes that: “It is by this that you contribute to preparing the world for better times than ours” (Christian Education, Part Three). In the early 1980s public schools began requiring students to look for opportunities to contribute service to the community. William Bennett, Secretary of Education during the Reagan years, believed that a purely secular education was not and could not address the moral decline of the Nation. He said, “ For children to take morality seriously they must be in the presence of adults who take morality seriously. And with their own eyes they must see adults take morality seriously.” A Holy Cross education is designed around ten beliefs (the Core Values). That God is present and active in our world. That teachers will empower students to become lifelong learners. That positive values must influence knowledge and its application. That we value each person and welcome one another. That teachers challenge each student in mind, spirit and body.That our students hold responsibility for the future.That we hope for a world where justice and love prevail.That teachers are guides and companions on the journey of learning and becoming.That true education fosters the formation of hearts. That the convictions of our hearts are translated into the actions of our hands. If each educator believes these convictions and acts upon them each day, then Good Samaritans and Good Thieves will populate the world. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: “My one companion is darkness” (Ps 88:18). With these words, the psalmist perfectly describes the bittersweet phenomenon of the Cross: Only when all of the people, things and ideas in our lives are stilled and put to rest does a trustworthy guide for our spiritual journey emerge. The world wants us to think that it has all of the answers; our so-called best friends want us to follow their advice; our passions seem to change daily and lead us in circles; but a shadow is utterly consistent and dependable. The darkness of the Cross has an unmistakable object, the living God. We need this darkness! We need its clarity! We need the Cross! Without a systematic taming of our mental circus, the night is never born and our lives remain confusing, fragmented and directionless. Let us therefore literally “break bread with” the best companion we could ever have. Let us realize that the whole universe is bound together in this one single friend who has existed from the beginning of time (Gen 1:1) and who is our destiny (Rev 21:23). Let us indeed marry ourselves to that dark night and live. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: In Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord consoles: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (11:28-30). All Holy Cross schools operate out of a set of core values with a preferential option for the poor. Blessed Moreau counsels his educators: “If at times you show preference for any young people, they should be the poor, those who have no one else to show them preference, those who have the least knowledge, those who lack skills and talent, and those who are not Catholic or Christian. If you show them greater care and concern, it must be because their needs are greater and because it is only just to give more to those who have less…[seeing]…in all only the image of God imprinted within them like a sacred seal you prefer at all cost” (Christian Education). Notice that Moreau says nothing about the material poor. His concern is for the poverty of lack of love, of lack of emotional and spiritual balance, of lack of moral awareness, of lack of knowledge. These are the pupils to whom “preference” must be given. These are all of the students we find in our classrooms. This compassion is predicated upon the fact that teachers have the competence to identify these forms of poverty and the courage to embrace them. Moreau further cautions “Never forget that all teaching lies in the best approach to an individual student.” As educators and formators we become the redeeming Lord when we labor for students who are weary and overburdened. For students whose minds roil with attempting to measure up to so many hedonistic templates that are truly “confusing, fragmented and directionless”. To “marry ourselves to that dark night and live” is the only guaranteed method through which we become Christ the Light, Christ the Consoler, Christ the Redeemer for our students. Ave Crux Spes Unica.
In the Voice of Moreau: The Cross is not front page news or a ticker tape parade, but a slow, dark descent into the unknown. The moment we become special or important in the eyes of the world is precisely the moment that we awaken those power structures in our brains which take us away from the hidden and humble truth of our Lord. How difficult it is to overcome this ego delusion! How those worldly tentacles, as with ancient Israel’s idolatrous history, pull us back into the drama again and again and again. In the #blessed era, well-meaning religious people preach a self-serving, utilitarian, prosperity Cross. Do not be deceived! There is one true Cross and it is marked by a self-effacing way of life where we spend ourselves to become little, unimportant and forgotten. Slowly and systematically, we escape the jungle of ourselves. Learning to tame venomous serpents, put ferocious beasts to sleep and step over sleeping giants, we quietly make our way toward the One whom our heart has loved all along. Why not make this commitment right here and now? Why not consummate our relationship with the Beloved? Why not take the risk of the Cross? Ave Crux Spes Unica.
Holy Cross Educator’s Response:As Catholic, Holy Cross educators we need to work with our students to put a bit and bridal upon our appetitive natures to reign in what William Golding identified as the Beast in his dystopic novel Lord of the Flies.“Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are.”In order for the prophet Isaiah to proclaim that “[t]he wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and a little child shall lead them,” our need to gobble up anything thatnourishes ME must constantly be regulated toward a dying to self.This transformation happens through a penetrating formation of the heart. Which of us can know the mind of our Creator when we reflect upon the power of the Beast within? The on-going battle with the ferocity of serpents and the raging of giants is the burden each of us bears because of our flawed human nature. Yet once these enemies are identifiedfor what they are, a one way ticket to hell, this avariciousness for ME, ME, ME can be caged, restrained, tamed, but never eliminated. It is a daily, perhaps an hourly, discipline to lean upon the crucified Lord and not upon the burden of ME. We are reminded by Job that “The life of man upon the earth is a warfare” (1:7). Encouragingly, Thomas á Kempis counsels us about our relentless temptations to turn away from God’s commandments: “Little by little, in patience and long-suffering you will overcome them, by the help of God rather than by severity and your own rash ways” (Chapter 13). And Blessed Moreau advises that all of us must heed the words of St. Paul to the Ephesians. “Having therefore such enemies to vanquish, take unto yourself the armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand to all things perfect” ( 6:11). Teachers let your students know that you, too, work to clothe yourself with the armor of God while fighting the good fight. Always inform your students with “all [they] need to know” and with the desire to empower that knowledge with integrity to make all things perfect. Focus on the hope of the Cross. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: Everywhere I look I see the consequences of postmodern philosophy. The burger joint’s slogan is “Have It Your Way.” Trendy athletic gear is stamped with an emphatic “I Will.” Medicines advertised on television nonchalantly report “thoughts of suicide” as a potential side effect. The financial planning company exhorts you to “not outlast your money.” Does life have any enduring meaning? Is there a point to it all? Does anyone care? This intellectual disease has successfully deconstructed Western thinking, but offers no alternative vision for life. People are instead left to wallow in the mess of their own emotions, desires and insecurities. Postmodernism is a crucifixion that has no hope of new life – just a complicated and frustrating darkness that has no exit. The Cross is the antidote that cures us of this cunning illness. Our crucified Lord does not fear deconstruction, but in fact welcomes the probing eyes of postmoderns as a way to reveal the undeniable truth of the Resurrection. Let us stare this phantom in the eye, proclaiming with the prophet Isaiah, “I have set my face like flint against a stone, and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (50:7). Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: In William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, the character Polonius gives this advice to his son Laertes prior to his son’s departure for school in Paris: “This above all: to thine own self be true”. On the surface this might appear to be good advice, and, today, it is often interpreted to be such. But it is not good advice because Shakespeare is being sarcastic when he has these words coming from the bumptious and bombastic Polonius. The proper interpretation of the lines is to look out only for yourself without regard for others. Look inward for your own created truth rather than focus outside yourself for the truth of the Cross. Being “true to you” only works if that truth aligns with God’s will. Blessed Moreau asserts: “This is what you can and should do for your students, if you are really zealous for their salvation. [T]ake up this work of resurrection, never forgetting the special end of [your vocation], to sanctify youth. It is by this that you will contribute to preparing the world for better times than ours; for these students who attend your school are the parents of the future, the parents of future generations. Influence them, then, by all the means of instruction and sanctification. Then and only then, can you hope to attain the end of your vocation by the renewal of the Christian faith and piety. May it be so! May it be so!” (Christian Education, Part Three. 1854).In another of Shakespeare’s plays Henry V, the playwright borrows from Psalm 119:105 when King Henry declares that “Henry will to himself /Protector be, and God shall be my hope, / My stay, my guide, and lantern to my feet.” The psalmist’s actual words are “Thy Word Is a Lamp Unto My Feet and Light Unto My Path.” Holy Cross educators as co-parents need to give this advice to their students rather than the anemic and false advice from Polonius. Just another moment when we can relate information to Christian formation. Such moments occur throughout all of the academic disciplines. We teachers need to be alert to the many times that we can debunk postmodernist fatalism. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: We live in a world where information and sensory stimulation are a constant reality. In the age of technology, from morning to night, our minds have to be open for business – we are constantly on the spot as it were. Yet, this is a recipe for spiritual catastrophe. What mechanisms do we have in place to prevent the devil, the world and the flesh from accessing our deepest and truest selves? I tell you that we must learn to shut the door of the mind, allow the Cross to descend into the keyhole and dare anything that does not measure up to the standard of our crucified Lord to pass over into our hearts. How often we play with that door! How we let in all sorts of company! Do we not know that the evil one wears disguises? He will do anything to steal us from God. Therefore, I implore you, sisters and brothers, to learn to live in these modern times with a closed door. What our Lord wishes us to know, taste, feel or experience, he will deliver to us through a closed and locked door (Jn 20:19). Trust the Cross! Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: The passion for esteem and honor is the source of all our mistakes and evils. We are all proximate to being irreparably infected with the disease of information bombardment. The relentless flood of media information does not move us toward God. It causes us to be completely focused inward, on our flawed nature, for love and fulfillment. Parents and educators need to be on alert, first, to protect themselves from looking for solace and fulfillment through the pull of instantaneous world-wide information. We must don the armor of faith that is woven from the Cross as our hope. This restraint is an everyday struggle. Yet the more we look to God and less to self, the stronger that armor becomes. If we energetically engage is this struggle, then we can assist our children and students to work toward the exercise of disciplined restraint from attempting to satiate all their needs for recognition and love through their devices. This is a difficult task, yet a critical obligation. The survival of the soul is at stake. In a sermon on “Community Spirit” Blessed Moreau talks about the consequence for our first parents falling prey to Satan’s promise of everlasting bliss. His explanation of the dilemma of Adam and Eve becomes relevant today if we replace their names with ours and Satan’s apple for the internet. “Pride is a vain and deceitful thing. It spoke its first lying words in the Garden of Eden, ‘You shall be gods’. In his state of innocence, the first human was united to God, by complete dependence, and he drew from this union the clear light of his intelligence, the firm rule of his will, the spiritual life of his soul, his absolute empire over his body, his sovereign authority over creatures, and the immortality that allowed him to aspire to eternal glory. All this because our first parent saw himself in God, who was always with him as the source of all his happiness to his perfect submission to the divine will. But that permanent regard of humanity toward its Creator—humanity in whom God mirrored himself, so to speak—which referred all humanity to God was suddenly lost through the deviation of the human mind turned away from God and upon itself.” It is natural to want to be loved. It is unnatural to seek love through the door of the internet. Ave Crux, Spes Unica.
In the Voice of Moreau: Perhaps you have seen the famous icon of our Lady holding the boy Jesus in her arms. She cradles him lovingly as he is confronted by two angels: one has a stick of hyssop with a vinegar-soaked sponge on it, while the other bears a cross. If you look closely at the icon, you will see one of the Lord’s sandals falling off of his foot, as if he has just run into his mother’s arms for comfort and consolation. Our heavenly Father is patient with us, his daughters and sons, as we too make the journey to Jerusalem. Yes, he requires us to pass through the trial of the Cross, but he is a loving Father whose mercy is enduring. Thus he has given us a mother, the Church, to be our protector and nurturer until we are ready to face that reality. She is the local Church, the universal Church, the domestic Church and the institutional Church. She surrounds us with tender, loving care, teaching us the ways that lead to life and the patterns of salvation. When the time is right, we will step forth from her arms and, with our Lord, embrace our glorious destiny. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: Parents and CSC teachers are co-educators in the “ways that lead to life”. Parents who are persons of faith are the first educators of their children as they establish the identity of their child as a member of the nuclear family, the local and universal Church and the secular world. As Mary did for Jesus, parents construct a strong foundation upon the initial teachings of faith and facts. When the child is still quite young, parents must make a serious, conscious and well thought out plan as they select the professional co-educators who will direct many years of the child’s institutional education. Blessed Moreau says about Mary, the Mother of Sorrows: “While Jesus Christ offered himself to his father for our salvation, Mary offered him also for the same end, and we were then so much the sole object of the thoughts of the son and the mother that the Savior, turning upon her his dying eyes still filled with love, addressed her a last word which was not of himself or of her, but us. Enfolding us all in the person of St. John, he presented us to Mary, saying, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ It was as if he said to her: ‘ New Eve, here is your family. You are henceforth, alone the true mother of all the living. You have born all these children in your sorrow, and I wish you to love them even as you loved me’” (Sermon, The Love of Mary’s Heart. Date?) Blessed Moreau teaches that parents and teachers emulate the love of Mary for children when they take upon “the attitude of priest and minister before the altar on which was consummated the sacrifice of our redemption. Truly did she fulfill to the final measure her part in the work of Christ, to ‘fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in her flesh, for his body, which is the Church’” (Col. 1:24). Children entrusted into the mutual care of parents and teachers can only assist them to face the reality of the Cross if they, too, journey toward Jerusalem. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: The Cross is the icon of authentic priesthood. Transcending the geographic bounds of the Temple, our crucified Lord’s sacrifice on Mt. Calvary is first and foremost a missionary act that is meant to be proclaimed through all nations, cultures, races and historical periods. His altar is the instrument of execution that has been thrust upon him. His offering is his very own body. His prayers are the simple words of honest human emotion: Why have you abandoned me? Into your hands, I commend my spirit. And the key which harmonizes these elements and makes this Mass perfect? A pure intention, a Sacred Heart. You and I are called to be priests too. At this moment, exactly where our feet stand, we are invited to concelebrate, with our Master, the cruciform liturgy that gives Life. Let our desks, kitchen tables and computer screens be the places where we decide daily to make an offering of ourselves to our heavenly Father. Let our hearts be converted to the pattern of taking up our daily tasks, dedicating them to the most holy God, and literally executing them for the salvation of the world. Let us indeed be priests forever. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: As Holy Cross educators (sisters, priests, brothers and lay collaborators) we are members of the authentic priesthood. Let’s dedicate our vocation as educators as our first Eucharistic concelebration. Our offering to God is the students entrusted to our care for their intellectual and moral formation. Each lesson plan is Eucharist for our students guaranteeing that our priesthood is a genuine oblation–a sacrament. At the beginning of each day, each class, and each prep period, make the prayerful intention to design and implement all as a celebration of the liturgy that gives life. Let us assist our students to know that they, too, are priests: that they are Eucharist for each other. Let us create classrooms that are Church built around an altar where all gather in adoration and prayer for a world desperately in need of Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Our Lord. Let us conscientiously take on the role of priest and raise the cup and the plate with the wine and bread of adverbs and adjectives, protons and neutrons, theories and dictums, reading and writing, minds and hearts. May we be imbued with a single desire: to be transubstantiated because we “ are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that [we] may declare the praises of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His wonderful light” ( 1 Peter 2:9).
In the Voice of Moreau: We use the word “crucial” to describe the most important part of a story or a lesson or an explanation, but do we realize that this word literally means “like the Cross.” In the same way that “crucial” things are the point, we can say that the Cross is the ultimate point of life – a horizontal and a vertical beam, symbolically encapsulating all of reality, converging in a single point where our Lord’s Sacred Heart pumps blood for the life of the world. Beyond the historical crucifixion of Jesus, the Cross continues to be the point in a mystical form that we catch glimpses of during peak spiritual and emotional moments in our lives. See how people from all sorts of religious traditions and cultural backgrounds are naturally attracted to the Cross. They marvel at it, wondering what it could mean, but at the same time their gaze and attention reveal the correspondence of this “crucial” symbol with something deep in their souls. The Cross is the point of it all, and our hearts will be restless until they are joined with our Lord’s. Let us therefore meet him at this “crucial” juncture and find peace. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: The most essential time, the crux, the crucial moment of each class period for CSC educators is placing Christ crucified somewhere within the minutes of instruction. It takes conscientious commitment to think Ave Crux Spes Unica as each class is designed. For veteran educators as well as newbies, this methodology needs to be preceded by a time of prayerful reflection. What is the focal point of this lesson on poetic scansion or chemical reaction or discussion of an economic theory? When is the opportune time to suggest to students that their educational life is made up of more than well placed semicolons, memorized algorithms and theorems, the correct declension of verbs, or the accurate identification of cells? Among the countless factoids that might guarantee success in living a civil citizenship, where does the CSC educator create the peak spiritual moment and how? Starting each class with a prayer that invokes Hagia Sophia, Holy Wisdom, is a great beginning. Christ Redeemer, grant us eyes of insight and a courageous heart to bring together our human struggle tempered by your desire to love us unconditionally. Amen. The class is now focused to work with the reality of reading and writing or math and science or historical investigation and so forth. The teacher’s role is to inform minds and to frequently refocus students upon the crucial truth. Christ crucified is the only way to heaven because all reality is crucified with Him. Embrace the Cross and be loved into eternal life. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: You have heard it said that zeal is the burning flame of desire to make God known, loved and served. I tell you that the Cross is that burning flame of desire. In a moment of sheer grace, the Cross descends into our souls from on high. It is the glorious and mystical theophany that Moses encountered while tending his flock, “Oh how you burn, but are not consumed!” (Ex 3:2). As disciples of Jesus, we too are called to interiorize the burning bush, the tree of life, the resurrectional Cross of Christ, into our hearts and minds. See how Moses, now beaming with desire for God’s will, traded his safe and peaceful lifestyle in the countryside for a showdown with the pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world. When we have given our consent to this raging fire, our souls become animated by powerful waves of zeal and the world around us is set ablaze with divine love. Our Lord exhorts us: Do not be afraid! Indeed, let us take up his Cross and make the one true God known, loved and served by the dazzling and glorious light of our spiritual conversions. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: “True zeal must be fostered and constantly refined in humble, faithful imitation of Christ crucified, seeking to second the design of divine providence, and striving for greater union in the Body of Christ” (Grove and Gawrych. Basil Moreau: Essential Writings, 2014: 53). For CSC educators it is the virtue of zeal that powers the ardent desire to impart the knowledge of salvation to students. This desire drives the design of every component of the school’s curriculum and each class syllabus. Blessed Moreau emphasizes that “Teachers animated by such a spirit [by zeal] do not simply follow what is generally accepted in the profession but have a thousand little ways to encourage progress in even the weakest and least-talented students and challenge all students to their highest performance” (Christian Education). For many years Moreau scholars have stressed that the founder was an insightful and progressive early 19th century educational thinker. If the above quote is read in the light of current educational thinking, Moreau is promoting differentiated instruction. This mode of instruction has been gaining more and more devotees since the early 1950s. Zealous teachers embrace it because of the skills-diversity that exists within a classroom of 25 students. Educators who either deny or cannot see that such a learning community exists within the individual classroom, do this to the detriment of their students and their families. Parents who pay tuition and taxes for a Catholic education that guarantees differentiated instruction are not receiving the services paid for if educators are not zealous. Blessed Moreau clearly and in strong terms asserts what can happen in a school when teachers do not possess the insight nor the courage to zealously address skills-diversity. “Without this virtue of zeal among teachers in a school, everything changes. Everything falls apart. There is ignorance, disorder, bad conduct, and the true corruption of young people—these are what families experience through faint-heartedness and indifference of teachers without zeal. They [teachers] are put in the midst of young people and cause the ruin of a great number of them. Thus, the virtue of zeal is necessary for a Christian teacher” (Christian Education). Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: Anyone who has ever lived knows the dangers of a codependent relationship. As human beings we find such consolation and comfort in the presence of the other – a boyfriend or girlfriend, a best friend, a spouse, a religious superior, a parent, a boss – but how easy it is to become emotionally and spiritually lost in that person at the expense of our first and truest identity as children of God. The moment we choose to lean on the other is the moment that, albeit inadvertently, we reject the Lord. Look therefore to the Cross. Notice how our Mother and the Beloved Disciple stand specifically at the foot of the crucified Christ as the icon of authentic human relationships. Yes they are together, and yes they have become partners, but only because the Cross serves as the principle of their shared life! They offer themselves together with Jesus to our Father who art in heaven. Let us therefore put an end to these fear-based, codependent behaviors and tendencies that society has normalized. Let us instead cultivate relationships that actually endure the test of time. Let us finally meet our beloved at the foot of the Beloved. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: Blessed Moreau is very clear about detailing the pitfalls when teachers build codependent relationships with students. “Relationships with young people are always difficult. Sometimes those who deal with young people attach themselves too closely to the young and end up giving themselves over strictly to human affections. Finding among their students young people who are frank and open, who are moving towards accomplishing good things, who respond well to the care they are providing, some teachers forget the place of God in the relationship between teacher and student. Learning this often surprises teachers, since it is easily hidden by enthusiasm, kindness, and even duty. Teachers who experience close relationships with their students become totally occupied with them: every place they go the students come to mind; no matter what they do, they think of the students. Teachers like these often enter into unhealthy relationships of all kinds with their students, often without realizing what is happening. Christian educators really need a call from God in order to deal with what they face in working with young people” (Christian Education). CSC educators need to pray for and cultivate the virtue of vigilance. Moreau writes that “[v]igilant teachers forget nothing of what they ought to do and do not become distracted from what they ought to be thinking about, seeing, hearing, or doing. Let your watchfulness and attention be calm, without over-concern, without agitation or trouble, without greater constraint or affectation. But also avoid the opposite, which involves carelessness, distraction, unwillingness to act, and tardiness….” (Christian Education). Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: “Stay in your lane!” is a phrase that has been gaining popularity over the past few weeks and months. It is something that one person says to another who is trying to pry into their affairs or meddle in their business. While you and I might feel offended if a close friend or a spouse spoke these words to us, they would take on a deep spiritual meaning if we imagined them sounding forth from the lips of our Lord, beckoning us from his most holy Cross. The world, the flesh and the evil one looking for ways to lead us off track and the Christ sternly warning us to say “No!” – this is the drama that is constantly unfolding in our souls whether we know it or not! How easy it is to get confused in a culture that has become a web of social media posts, political ideologies and violent confrontations. How quick the senses are to be drawn to the shiny bait that is being set before us on a daily basis. May our hearts never, ever veer from the voice of the Lord. Let us have the courage to stay in the one and only lane which leads to Life. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: With a sense of urgency, Blessed Moreau encourages his educators: “Hurry then; take up this work of resurrection, never forgetting that the special end of [education] is before all, to sanctify youth. It is by this that you will contribute to prepare the world for better times than ours; for these students who now attend…school are the parents of the future, the parents of future generations, each one of whom bears within themself [sic] a family” (Christian Education). The work of resurrection for CSC educators is assisting students not only to avoid the pitfalls of the “shiny bait” that is alluring for all citizens of this world. It is preparing parents as the first teachers of their children for each successive generation. Thomas á Kempis speaks as Christ when he commands: “Follow me. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Without the Way, there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no Living”. Both Moreau and Kempis affirm that the works and events of secular citizenship must be viewed through the lens of the resurrectional Cross of Christ. Responsible educators know that students travel two lanes as they work their way toward eternal happiness. An authentic CSC education is imbued with Hope. Hope that enduring the travails of this life leads to the bliss of heavenly citizenship. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: The Cross is pure trust. There is no bank account, Plan B, or exit route in case it does not work. It is an unconditional, blind act of faith in the living God. Close your eyes and put yourself in the place of our Lord: a quiet life in Nazareth, the Jordan River, the desert, the Galilean countrysides, the formidable city of Jerusalem, the Temple courtyard, the Upper Room, the Garden, Mt. Calvary, the empty tomb. While our society heaps praise upon people who make bold and daring decisions like a marriage proposal or a career move or taking a political stand, the journey of trust is slow, quiet and steady. To get to the point of the simplicity of the Cross, one must make the decision, here and now in the solitude of one’s own heart, to trust God, then again in the evening, and again the next morning, throughout the day and so on. Slowly but surely, reliance on all things that are not God die and pure hearts longing for the peace of his Kingdom emerge. Let us learn to be little like the Christ and entrust our salvation to his most holy Cross. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: Just as the Cross is pure trust so, too, is the relationship between teachers and students. Researchers at Scots College, Sydney, Australia conclude that a teacher builds trust by providing structure, teaching with enthusiasm and passion, displaying a positive attitude, making learning fun, showing interest in students’ lives outside the classroom, treating students with respect and creating a safe environment in the classroom. Veteran educators realize that creating such classroom environments involves steady—daily commitment. CSC educators who are known in their schools to be masters of their respective disciplines foster trusting relationships because they have also embraced the virtue of gentleness. Blessed Moreau teaches that “Teachers who have drawn such gentleness from Jesus Christ will be blessed and happy. They will truly be the important people in their school, and they will cause Jesus Christ to be the important person there. Loved by their students and respected by the parents, who will be so happy to have found such excellent teachers for their children, they will be rewarded with blessings from the entire school community and will go through life ‘doing good works.’ Their memory will remain engraved upon the hearts of those students whom they have brought to the fullness of Christianity, and they will be a model to imitate and an example to follow” (Christian Education). These educators, knowingly and unknowingly, frequently encourage their students to embrace crosses and the most holy Cross. Through the pattern of their lives and practices, these educators transform students’ lives. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: The word “symbol” comes from two Greek words, “throw” and “together.” A symbol has meaning precisely because the concrete image has been thrown together with an abstract reality. When we see the symbol we are put in touch with the reality in some way. While some symbols, like an arrow, are functional, some, like a heart, are meant to arouse emotion, and others, like a dove, carry deep spiritual and religious meaning. The Cross, however, is a symbol that belongs in its own unique category. A Roman instrument of execution paired with the glorious body of our Lord does not point to a vague abstraction, but instead confounds the mind right where it is. Should I be seeing death or life? Should I be seeing darkness or hope? Should I be seeing shame or bold confidence? The truth is that we are witnessing both happening at one and the same time! Such a symbol demands humility and great effort to truly understand, but those who persevere will be handsomely rewarded with nothing less than the transformation of their souls. Let us therefore never avert our eyes from the Cross and in so doing become, ourselves, a symbol of Life for the world. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: Educators in Holy Cross schools are mandated to assist students to become living symbols of Life for the world. To that end teachers must instruct students to become virtuous scientists and mathematicians; lawyers and social scientists; artists and athletes. Leaders in every domain who are transformative motivators for Life. Science teachers such as Dr. Dominic Chaloner at the University of Notre Dame desire to develop the intellectual virtues and character dispositions that contribute to human flourishing or well-being, and include such things as intellectual curiosity, humility, honesty, and open-mindedness in their instruction. Dr. Chaloner’s focus is on “salmon research to understand the ecological consequences of migrating salmon, especially when they spawn in Southeast Alaska streams and Upper Great Lakes tributaries. Most recently, [he has] been interested in salmon as biotransporters of contaminants, including persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals.” Mathematics educators also must become convinced that their discipline “is not merely about teaching students a list of theorems, but is about teaching them how to do mathematics and how to be mathematicians. [T]hese aims involve the cultivation of certain mathematical virtues, like inventiveness, perseverance and open-mindedness.” The study of mathematical virtues provides valuable guidance for mathematical educators, and the wider process of inducting students into mathematical practices as valuable contributors. Blessed Moreau stresses that education “is the art of helping young people to completeness.” Living symbols of Life are persons who have appropriately integrated intellectual pursuits tempered by the promptings of the heart. Living symbols of Life build up the Body of Christ. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: The mind must not be educated at the expense of the heart. In other words, the intellectual and emotional rigor of learning has a point! Look to the Cross. The crown of thorns signifies the trials that the mind must endure in order that a person may be led to a deeper place. Once that process is complete (Our Lord says “It is finished”), the human heart is literally opened up by the legionnaire’s lance. Here blood and water, the glory of God, burst forth into the life of the world. In the postmodern era of deconstructing ideas and truth, the crown of thorns is the default intellectual approach of nearly all academics and sophisticates. Without the hope of a literally deeper meaning, however, all of that hard work is for naught! It is all vanity! Let us therefore never ever separate the crown of thorns from the legionnaire’s lance. Let us never fall into the trap of meaningless thought patterns or get stuck in esoteric musings. Let us never allow a prideful mind to blind us from a heart longing to be redeemed. The mind must not be educated at the expense of the heart! Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Response: A redeemed humble heart arises out of the ashes of the trials of a mind imprisoned in a world of prideful living that only causes anxiety. This redemption only happens to the heart that has been educated to temper the intellect. Thomas á Kempis writes in Chapter 7 of The Imitation of the Cross: “Do not be ashamed to serve others for the love of Jesus Christ. …Do what lies in your power and God will aid your good will. If you have wealth, do not glory in it, nor in friends if they are powerful…do not boast of personal stature or physical beauty. Do not take pride in your talent or ability. If there is good in you, see more good in others, so that you remain humble. The humble live in continuous grace, while in the hearts of the proud are envy and frequent anger.” CSC educators can easily assist students to temper the prideful mind with intentional lesson planning. Educators must consciously see all aspects of intellectual advancement through the lens of the Holy Cross Core Values: reliance upon Divine Providence, excellence, cultivation of the heart as well as the mind, inclusiveness, discipline, option for the poor, hope, family, integrity and zeal. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: Jerusalem is the center of the universe in the first century Jewish mind. It is the city of David and home of the Temple which tens of thousands of Jewish men and women died trying to defend. When creation is finally brought to its perfection, it is believed that the “new Jerusalem” will emerge as the eternal reality upon which all of life will be ordered and enjoy peace forever. Yet, our Lord’s crucifixion takes place specifically outside of the walls of Jerusalem. Could our Lord be telling us that we must not get hung up on worldly signs, such as the literal city of Jerusalem, which merely point to the Kingdom? Could he be telling us that we must look beyond any concept or image of our salvation, such as the literal city of Jerusalem, which prevents our hearts from truly experiencing the embrace of the living God? Could he be telling us that the mind and its knowledge, such as the literal city of Jerusalem, bear no proportion to the actual encounter of our loving Father? Let us therefore be honest about the literal things that rival the one true God in our lives. Perhaps they are goods and legitimately point to our eternal destiny, but we absolutely cannot be satisfied with them alone! Indeed, our hearts, with the Master’s, must constantly be taken to that dark and lonely place, beyond the confines of our thinking, where Life awaits us. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
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!
In the Voice of Moreau: It is a simple fact of metaphysics that the end of a thing dictates the form of that thing. For instance, since the end of a pen is written communication, the pen is designed to dispense a precise flow of ink in a way that permits letters and words to be produced. If the end of a journey is the beach, then that journey will include the literal road to the beach, a stop at the store for sunscreen, and listening to the weather report. In the Christian life, since our Lord has declared to us that the way is the Cross, we can logically conclude that our end must be the Cross. Most of us get caught in the trap of thinking that the Cross is a punishment and burden which we struggle under in this lifetime so that we can enjoy the luxuries and comforts of the kingdom, but this is absolutely not the case! Our end is the cosmic Cross which stands at the end of time, constantly inviting us to be conformed to Love. If the supposed “crosses” that we carry in this world are making us resentful, angry and frustrated, it is a sign that we are going in the wrong direction! Let us have the courage to drop the false crosses that we have imposed on ourselves. Let us worship our one true end, the Cross, with our lives. Let us indeed become the Cross! Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: Suffering is meaningless unless you decide otherwise. Blessed Moreau writes in “Circular Letter 54”, June 19, 1848: “Let us not allow ourselves to be discouraged by trials no matter how numerous or bitter they may be”. Old Testament Job struggled with what seemed insurmountable crosses. He was God’s pawn as the Lord responded to Satan’s dare to “try” Job. The Lord deemed Job to be the best–a man “blameless and upright”. So Job was not selected for the game because he was sinful. He was selected because was the best. Satan provokes God to take away all of Job’s blessings and sneers that if God does this, Job will curse Him. God is so confident in Job’s faith that he allows Satan to test him far beyond what most people will have to tolerate. And Job remains faithful throughout all of it. At the end with head shaved, covered in ashes, Job sits upon a heap of dung. With a last gasp he cries out to his Savior: the Lord gives and the Lord takes. Blessed be the name of the Lord. The best remains the best because he decided to. Blessed Moreau continues his reflection upon crosses in “Circular Letter 54”. “ Afflictions, reverses, loss of friends, privations of every kind, sickness, even death itself, ‘the evil of each day,’ and the suffering of each hour—all these are but so many relics of the sacred wood of the true cross….” CSC educators can and must assist their students to ponder beyond the pain of the mundane crosses to focus upon this worldly journey’s end—the cosmic Cross. Teachers have a myriad of opportunities to assist students and themselves to regulate their minds about the cares and woes of this life. Christ Our Lord climbed upon His cross as the greatest act of love ever. If we decide so, we, too, can transform the suffering of our minds and bodies into the transformative love of the Savior for each other. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: Our Lord says the words “This is my body” at the Last Supper, but he does not reveal the meaning of those words until the Cross. The master has been stripped bare and nailed to two beams of wood. Unlike our first parents, he makes no move to hide in fear and shame. Rather, he presents his whole self, in trust and love, to his heavenly father. The Eucharistic sharing at the Last Supper anticipates this saving moment and invites us into the mystery and intimacy of authentic human living. How often do we long for this kind of intimacy in our own lives? Think of all of the pitfalls of romantic relationships and the awkwardness of two people trying to honestly give themselves to one another. How much more difficult it is to present our souls to the one true God! We subconsciously place obstacles between ourselves and that One. We find ways to mask our hearts and minds so as to keep a safe distance from the one whom our hearts truly love. We rationalize by calling this fear-based withdrawal “a boundary” or “self care.” Yet, experience teaches us that we will remain restless until we have consented to this encounter once and for all. Let us therefore become vulnerable to our Lover who knocks on the door of our hearts. Let us permit the crucified form to grow in us day after day. Let us, with our master, become Beloved of the Lord. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: St. Augustine writes in the Confessions that “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in You.” Resting in the Lord happens when one becomes totally transparent. All barriers that deny an honest look at and embrace of the unveiled self are destroyed. Most of us fear exposure that leaves us openly vulnerable to scrutiny, and so it is rarely achieved in human relationships. We can easily convince ourselves that those we want to love us will find our naked humanity grotesque. We believe that our Mr. Hyde will be seen as so malignant that the beloved will run shrieking into the darkness. Perhaps that is true with human objects of love, but never with the Lord. Complete vulnerability to our Savior guarantees that we will be with Him in paradise. CSC educators can assist their students with owning lives of authenticity through modeling it in the classroom. When students witness our raw edges, the experience can be mutually therapeutic. A healthy and grace-filled teaching moment occurs whenever we own up to our sins, ask for forgiveness and pledge not to let it happen again. Students rarely encounter adult authority figures who humbly admit wrong-doing and ask for forgiveness and a second chance. Teachers in Holy Cross schools have many opportunities to become the open arms of the Savior. We must knock on the doors of our students’ hearts so they may become Christ the Lover for each other. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: If you have ever been with a person who is dying, you know that “to die” is a mysterious thing. Death is not simply something that happens to you, as if the grim reaper goes around kidnapping people from the face of the earth. At the same time, death is not something that a person can simply will, as if one could separate soul from body at any given moment. Rather, “to die” is the paradoxical state of letting go of the here and now while at the same time confronting the unknown. The fact that the Latin verb morari (“to die”) has a passive form but an active meaning attests to the unique phenomenon of human dying. When we look upon the Cross, do we see this glorious tension? Do we see the patience of our Lord as he bids farewell to this world paired with his eagerness to commend his spirit to his heavenly father? Perhaps we think of ourselves as having an assertive and dominant personality type, but do we see our Lord’s vulnerability on the Cross? Maybe we think of ourselves as having a meek and reserved personality type, but do we see his courage on the Cross? Whatever the case may be, let us enter into the mystery of death with our whole hearts. Let us realize our deepest human identity in this paschal way of life. Let us die daily and set this valley of tears on fire! Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: What is the happy medium between graceful acceptance and prideful denial? I suggest that it is in a healthy renunciation of the self-imposed rigor of living up to a secular, consumer-driven society’s standards. God reminds the prophet Samuel that “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” For Christians the attempt to measure up to external templates sets us in constant flux as we repeatedly engage in the battle to die to self aggrandizement. CSC educators need to be concerned about their students and frequently encourage them to take up arms against the daily onslaught of the false prophets of physical beauty, intellectual promise and dog-eat-dog promiscuity. All disciplines of academic study can so easily become oriented to promote living to the max, that too much is not enough, that excess is the access to fulfillment. Educators must look for moments during lectures and student application exercises to insert the truth of the Cross. Our deepest human identity is not defined by external manifestations of the acceptable but by the moderating influence of a heart that has been formed in love unto the death of self need for the betterment of God’s people. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: Executive functioning is all the rage in psychology circles today. It refers to the ability of a person to gather data, analyze and prioritize that data, form a judgment about it and then make a decision. There are tests to assess one’s executive skills, online brain games to improve those skills, as well as therapies to help people understand their particular style of this process. I would like to suggest that while our society hits upon a core truth of the human person here, it blindly goes about training souls to think and choose well. Moreover, I would like to suggest that the one and only program that produces truly effective executive functioning is the Cross. Look upon our Lord, the Logos, the eternal Word and Wisdom of God. He has been analyzed and stripped; he has been exposed and inspected; in an instant, he is literally executed or finished. And the result? The light of the resurrection, the glory of the truth, shining forth into the life of the world. The Lord did not deserve the rigors of the Cross, but he did humble himself to the point of death in order to demonstrate this pattern of authentic human functioning. Dying and rising is what right thinking and right choosing look like. Indeed, the paschal mystery is the icon of true executive functioning, the self-help program that psychology has been searching for all along. Look to the Cross! Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: Executive functioning is at the heart of what it means to be human. In fact, there is a large body of prenatal research that indicates that a fetus gathers information from the mother’s sensual experiences. For example, if a mother listens to classical music during her pregnancy, the assumption is that the baby “feels” something that is somehow imprinted upon the conscious mind. Our senses are designed to gather the information we need to flourish and to reproduce. When serious followers of Christ travel with Him on the Way of the Cross through countless birth/death scenarios, the hoped for result of data collection, analysis and decisions is to possess Heaven. For CSC educators Blessed Basil’s words about educating students for two worlds must ring clearly as we prepare classes and then interact with students. On October 31, the Congregation of Holy Cross recalled the 125th anniversary of the death of the Very Rev. Edward Sorin in 1893 at the University of Notre Dame. At the time of his death, he had spent 49 years in South Bend, Indiana building the University of Notre Dame du Lac. He did not do this without the assistance of priests, sisters, brothers and laypersons, who flawed as they were, reached beyond their weakness to achieve a collective goal. They desired to create a space where all would work as good citizens of this world and become worthy citizens of Heaven. While all university campuses run on executive functioning, the University of Notre Dame and every Holy Cross school shine forth with the unique and splendid glory of paschal life. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
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!
In the Voice of Moreau: Our lives should never be complacent. We should never think that we have “got it right,” as if we might arrive one day at some celestial couch on which to rest eternally – no! We human beings are instead built for the drama of death and new life. Unique among all species, we have that constant capacity to let go, to become willing, to trust and on the other side to change, to be transformed, and to become a new person. This is the pattern of our salvation and the essence of the Kingdom of God. Isn’t this what the Lord was revealing to us at his baptism? He was sinless, yet chose to be baptized, stooping down from the river banks to enter into the rushing waters, only to rise again in the presence of the life-giving spirit and his heavenly father. Indeed his whole life testifies to the reality of this pattern from his humble birth to his public ministry, from the countryside to Jerusalem, from the cross to the empty tomb, from poverty to glory. When will our hearts stop searching for that one “thing” that we falsely believe will unlock our happiness? When then will we take the plunge with our Lord into this glorious and cosmic dance? Let us therefore, right here and now, make the decision to abandon all those empty visions and dreams that simply serve to derail our restless hearts on this journey of salvation. Let us resolve to walk with our Lord on this path no matter what! Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: “We human beings are built for the drama of death and new life”—to be transformed into new persons. Certainly, this phenomenon occurs countless times in the life of a Christian who progressively becomes a facet of the multifaceted Face of God. For the CSC educator, the essence of the interaction between teacher and student is the consistent practice of informing intellects and forming hearts unto the transformation of souls. To transform anything is to rebuild it, to reconstitute it, to cause its death so to blossom once again. Recall that Blessed Moreau teaches that one must possess the call to teach, the vocation to desire to engage in the cosmic dance. Initially, it is the teacher who encourages and facilitates students to learn the moves of the dance—to learn how to dance school. Through consistent modeling of the behaviors of engaged learning and scholarship, the teacher’s intent is for the student to periodically die and re-blossom as an ever more proficient master of the dance . Blessed Moreau counsels young teachers, and master teachers too, that they “must not come to believe that it is age, body size, tone of voice, or threats that give teachers authority and inspire respect.” No, rather “[it is] a character that is fair, firm, and modest, one that is consistent at all times and that never acts without reason or through outbursts.” (Christian Education) The reasonable CSC dance master orchestrates the many moves of the many dances along the journey with the Lord. Let each educator heed the invitation of the old Shaker hymn. “Dance, then, wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance, said He. And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be, And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said He.” Ave Crux Spes Unica!
In the Voice of Moreau: An honest appraisal of the human condition reveals that addiction is the primary sickness of our souls. Literally meaning, “to give assent to,” we become slaves to other people, emotions, ideas, substances, ideologies and the like. We organize our lives around these things, often subtly, and start to worship these false idols with our minds, our hearts and even our bodies. Blinded by pride and the perceived need for control and power, we dismiss the Cross as an archaic and masochistic symbol of a religious tradition that is no longer relevant. All the while, in our unhappiness, we search frantically for a solution to our misery and wretchedness. It is here that we finally realize that the Cross is our one and only hope. In a non-clinging, anti-addiction posture, the Cross transforms our souls and paradoxically enables us to experience a life of pure addiction to God. Open, trusting, exposed, vulnerable, the Cross offers us a taste of authentic humanity – we become children again of the living God, our father on whom we depend for dignity and life. The Lord speaks to us from this throne: Do not be afraid! I am with you! It is finished! When will we exit the cycle of addiction? When will we open our hearts to the living God? When will we give assent to our heavenly father? Let us therefore proclaim Christ crucified to a world that is hurting and desperately seeking after the medicine that leads to life. Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: The verb to be addicted is a pejorative and should ring a fearful pause in anyone before acting upon a desire. For committed Christians, however, living purely and consistently enmeshed in the divine must be the modus operandi for all activities. This is especially so for CSC educators who are to proclaim Christ crucified to their students. These persons need to develop the habit, the disposition for and attitude of always seeking to increase their knowledge. The second of Moreau’s specific virtues for being called to teach in Holy Cross schools, knowledge—to be learned—obviously is essential if the mind is to be informed and of greater importance if the heart is to be formed. CSC educators must zealously cultivate the desire for self-improvement, developing and utilizing effective methods of instruction along with clearly presenting their lessons. These traits must imbue all classroom interaction. Certainly, they must be “convictions of the heart translated into activity”. Authentic classroom instruction is the result of embracing the courage to journey toward authentic personhood: “being open, trusting, exposed and vulnerable” proclaiming Christ crucified. Ave Crux Spes Unica.