A happy feast day to one and all, as all of us in the Holy Cross family celebrate the feast day of our founder, Blessed Basil Moreau. As celebrations take place throughout the world, we dive into the festivities on our blog with a reflection on Blessed Moreau as a man of prayer, written by Fr. Kevin Grove, C.S.C. At the end of the reflection is a prayer for the canonization of Moreau. May the example and intercession of Blessed Moreau make all of us, like him, men and women of deep prayer, men and women who are God’s saints.
The young Basil Moreau grew up and realized his calling to the priesthood in a markedly middle class family in France. His father worked as a wine broker and young Basil helped his father to watch over the family’s few cattle. At an early age, his parish priest recognized the flickering of Basil’s vocational calling and took it upon himself to teach him the basics of Latin in preparation for seminary studies. Without presentation or pretention, the young Basil undertook his studies on a stool in the pasture while watching his family’s cattle.
When the time came for him to enter seminary, his father walked him down the road to the seminary. Fr. Basil Moreau was ordained a priest on August 12, 1821 at the age of 22, and would be approaching fifty-two years a priest by the time that he died.
Although he was a dynamic preacher, teacher, and a wise leader, Fr. Moreau as a priest was prayerful and recollected. First and foremost he modeled resolute dedication to the discipline of the spiritual life, even when there were many demands on his limited time. He had the same spiritual director, whom he found when he was a young priest studying in Paris, for twenty-five years. From this director, he sought advice for his personal spiritual life, never neglecting his own relationship with the Lord in light of all of the work that needed to be done around him.
Dedication to prayer was what he modeled with his life and taught to those who followed him. He was very frank in telling his religious that the fervor with which they prayed, especially how they prayed as a community, was what determined how well they might do their work. Attention and a spirit of faith were what he preached; dedication and spiritual discipline were important. For Fr. Moreau knew and understood that for busy and apostolic religious who worked hard, there could be the temptation to sacrifice time in prayer. And so he says that a minister who does not pray is like a canal without water or a tree that is withered. And tiredness or weariness should not take them away from prayer, but be all the more reason to give themselves over to the Lord. And so, his spiritual advice is eminently practical:
“Never omit your daily meditation. Study the methods well, and persevere, no matter how weary you may become. If meditation proper proves too difficult …confine yourself to a few simple acts, for example: adoration of Jesus Christ, to studying and trying to practice some special virtue in imitation of him, to offering him your admiration and joy and love because of his goodness.”
Fr. Moreau gave his religious wide flexibility in their spiritual lives provided that they were earnest and sincere in following and imitating the life of Jesus Christ. For his own spiritual life, Fr. Moreau meditated and commented on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, adapting them for Holy Cross novices and religious. He dedicatedly prayed the Stations of the Cross, ever trying to enter more deeply and profoundly into the mystery of hope that comes through the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ.
Lastly, Fr. Moreau’s priesthood was characterized by the Eucharist and a relationship to a growing relationship to Jesus through it. As a priest in Holy Cross, he understood himself to be called “to the remarkable and formidable honor of making [Jesus] present every day on the altar, of receiving him every day in [his] heart by Holy Communion.” He challenged himself and his priests “to plunge” their own hearts into the divine fire of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, seeking what only Christ could bring forth: hearts strong, sturdy, after the apostles’ own, and overflowing with an immense love for God and neighbor.
Fr. Moreau explained that he was a priest in order “to speak to people about God’s love.” Fr. Moreau’s words of love were ever undergirded by a life dedicated to prayer.
Prayer for the canonization of Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C.
Lord Jesus, Source of all that is good, you inspired Blessed Basil Moreau to found the religious family of Holy Cross to continue your mission among the People of God. May he be for us a model of the apostolic life, an example of fidelity and an inspiration as we strife to follow you.