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.
In the Voice of Moreau: The Cross is our truly unique hope. It is not just another thing among a myriad of things to put one’s hope in, but instead it is an altogether different project. Think about it – there is a difference between putting our hope in a football team, a politician, a career or even a spouse and putting our hope in the crucified Christ. The football team wins and loses, the politician rises and falls, a career comes and goes, a spouse is not always faithful, but the Cross does not change! The Cross cannot change! The Christ who has been stripped of everything cannot win or lose, rise or fall, come or go, or be unfaithful – he has made the decision to hide nothing, to leave nothing to the imagination. We can trust the Cross precisely because we know what we are getting! Perhaps we are secretly attached to the drama and suspense of false hopes. We like to be in the darkness as it were, the feeling of not knowing and leaving things up to fate. We feel special when things go our way and we are “blessed” with what we want. The Cross is an emphatic No! to all of this. The Cross is instead an orientation, a posture, a way of relating to the other, a true act of trust that is guaranteed to put us in touch with what is – no matter what! Let us therefore make the decision, here and now, to take the risk of the Cross with our master, our absolutely unique hope that cannot but give us life. Ave Crux Spes Unica!
Holy Cross Educator’s Reply: Blessed Basil Moreau believes that “effective teach[ing]” is the result of a call from God. It is more than a vocation: it is “an orientation, a posture, a way of relating”. How do teachers and administrators in Holy Cross schools assess whether or not they are truly called to teach, to lead? In Christian Education, Part One “Teachers and Students” (Moreau, 1856) Moreau lists nine virtues that Holy Cross educators need to cultivate: faithfulness, knowledge, zeal, vigilance, seriousness, gentleness, patience, prudence and firmness. For the teacher in a Holy Cross school, faithfulness is far more than showing up each day ready to present the lesson. “It is the virtue that draws us to fulfill faithfully our duties to God”. It is the virtue that develops Christians not just scholars. It is the foundation upon which the essence of the mission is provided: “the development of the heart and the soul on which good values depend”. Truly reverent teachers consider their students as gifts from God, “and they consider them adopted children of God and temples of the Holy Spirit”. Moreover, “[t]hey do not cease reminding students of Christian commitments, the works of God, and the effects of the sacraments”. Moreau concludes that teachers imbued with faithfulness “’will shine like the stars of the heavens for eternity’” (Book of Daniel 12, 3). Ave Crux Spes Unica!