Last November I was at Notre Dame for a meeting and I was invited to join the Holy Cross community for Mass at Fatima House. It was All Souls Day and my Holy Cross friends assured me that, even if I was the only non-Holy Cross person there, I was more than welcome. And of course, when I worked my way to the back of the packed chapel one of the priests jumped up from his seat and offered it to me. Holy Cross hospitality is more than words on a page.
Maybe it’s a guy thing, but there is something that has always moved me about a group of men, united in purpose and labor, bonded by a shared life, shared sacrifice and shared joy. For me, there is a swelling of pride. A sense of strength. A silent understanding.
I first felt it as a young man whenever I got together with my father and brothers. I felt it with my teammates when I rowed in college, and again when I spent months on a hilltop in Vietnam with a company of men. But that day at Fatima House? I felt it so deeply that it moved me to tears.
There were old brothers and priests in cardigan sweaters who had to be helped into their chairs. And there were young seminarians who laid their backpacks next to their feet. And all of them, together, joined in prayer and song with a deep powerful resonance. Even though I was an “outsider” I couldn’t help but feel part of the family.
After Mass, we all lined up outside the chapel and in a long column of pairs slowly walked to the nearby Holy Cross cemetery. We chanted the Litany of the Saints as we walked. When we arrived at the gate, we each went our own way and carefully moved among the gravestones, pausing, pausing, pausing, to remember the men whose names will always be part of our own private litanies.
The men who processed that day, I knew, return to the cemetery throughout each year to lay newly deceased friends and brothers to rest. But on this one day they were gathered in silent spiritual communion, the living and the dead, to be united in a way that only those who have carried the Cross together can fully understand and feel.
A few weeks ago, right before Fr. Matt Kuczora, C.S.C., was ordained, he and his good friend Fr. Gerry Olinger, C.S.C., walked together to that same cemetery to spend some time with the members of the Holy Cross community who would not be able to attend Fr. Matt’s ordination. It was not autumn. Not the end of a season or a year or a life. It was spring. Easter was just past. Life could be seen celebrating all around. I wasn’t there, but I imagine those two shared a swelling of pride that day. A sense of strength. A silent understanding.
People sometimes say that once Holy Cross gets hold of you, you are part of the community forever. There are rituals and traditions that remind us that true community transcends time and space. And the older I get, the more comforting I find that thought.
Mr. John Soisson is the Special Assistant to the President at the University of Portland in Portland, Ore. He and Mr. Rob Curtis, the Pastoral Minister at St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear, Ariz., team up to contribute to the Spes Unica blog the perspective of our lay collaborators in Holy Cross. Our lay collaborators not only join us in what we do, but they also help make us who we are. It is impossible to imagine our lives, our mission, or our vocations without them, and so to help those discerning with our community, we include their voices on our blog as well.