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!