The first decades following the French Revolution, which were also the years when Blessed Moreau was first ordained a priest, the European world was moving in a direction that emphasized social individualism over the collective good, an ideological shift that continues to be prominent in our secular culture today. It is therefore appropriate for all people, both professed religious and the lay faithful, to use Blessed Moreau’s Feast Day as an opportunity to reflect on an idea that is central to the life of the Congregation of Holy Cross: a sense of community that would be in radical opposition to society’s growing emphasis on the individual.
Early in the life of Holy Cross, Blessed Moreau presented his religious with the Holy Trinity as the image of the union they should strive for among themselves: “Just as in the adorable Trinity … there is no difference of interests and no opposition of aims or wills, so among the priests, brothers, and sisters there should be such conformity of sentiments, interests and wills as to make all of us one in somewhat the same manner as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one. This was the touching prayer of our Lord for His disciples and their successors: “That they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you’” (Circular Letter 14).
In other words, characterizing the communal life of Holy Cross are individuals sharing a life of common prayer and work where the good of the community would be put ahead of the good of the self. Whether in educational institutions, parish life, or missionary endeavors, Blessed Moreau believed that the common life of the community would be the driving force for the evangelization and transformation of the people Holy Cross religious served. He hoped that the lived witness of the communal and common life of Holy Cross would lead observers to a radical commitment to the service of God.
The current Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross state it this way: “It is essential to our mission that we strive to abide so attentively together that people will observe: ‘See how they love one another.’ We will then be a sign in an alienated world: men who have, for love of their Lord, become closest neighbors, trustworthy friends, brothers” (Constitutions 4:42).
Like many others, my four years of high school consisted of playing sports, attending class, hanging with friends in the lunch room, and growing in faith and knowledge. However, these ordinary experiences where shaped and formed by the lives of the 10 or so Holy Cross religious that were the very flesh and spirit of the Notre Dame High School community (today called Notre Dame College Prep) in Niles, IL. What I never envisioned was that the joy, faithfulness, and love that I saw in this family who were my teachers, coaches, and mentors would inspire me to live my life in a uniquely “Holy Cross” way.
Although I initially discerned a vocation as a Holy Cross religious, I was eventually led by the Spirit and called by God to be a Holy Cross educator in the faith as a married man and father. Blessed Moreau’s charge that it is necessary to live a life of common prayer and shared faith is still entwined in the very depths of my heart. I primarily live out this life in my family, but I also live it out with the Holy Cross religious that I work with on a daily basis as the director of Campus Ministry, the dozens of Holy Cross lay educators that partner with me to make up the faculty and staff of Holy Cross College, and of course the hundreds of students with whom I am intimately connected on a daily basis.
Blessed Moreau’s Feast Day is one of great joy in which we give thanks and praise for his family of religious men and women who share a common life of faith and work together to bring hope to the world.
Mr. Andrew Polaniecki, who spent several years in formation with Holy Cross at Old College, is now the Director of Campus Ministry at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Ind. A great friend of and collaborator with Holy Cross, he helps us today celebrate the Feast Day of Blessed Basil Moreau. Learn more about the holy founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross.