Last Friday, May 25, the United States Province celebrated the jubilees of 18 priests and five brothers who celebrated milestone anniversaries of their Ordination or their Final Vows in 2012. In a beautiful Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Fr. Tom Looney, C.S.C., who was celebrating 25 years of priestly ministry, gave the following moving homily on what the ancient meaning of what was celebrated that day. Join us in celebrating these 23 Holy Cross religious who have brought hope to our Church and world.
Have you heard the trumpet blast, its clarion call to celebration? I imagine that all of us are gathered here today for we have heard the blast of the trumpet, the joyous announcement of this time of God’s favor, this time of jubilee. We have heard the trumpet’s clarion call to celebration, not simply in the beautiful invitation announcing this jubilee, but in the lives and ministries of the 18 priests and 5 brothers who rejoice in God’s faithful love in calling them to and sustaining them in their vocations over the course of the past 25, 50, and 60 years.
I imagine that we are all gathered here for their lives and ministries as religious brothers and religious priests of Holy Cross, we have experienced something of God’s favor – that through them the Scripture has been fulfilled in our hearing; through their lives and ministries the Lord Jesus has drawn near and touched our lives and hearts, speaking to us of the Father’s love and mercy and inspiring us to open our hearts to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In gratitude we want to join our voices to the blast of the trumpet and to the chorus of their own voices as together we offer thanks and praise to Almighty God for his goodness to them, and through them to us and countless others.
To what does God invite us in the time of jubilee? The celebration of jubilee in ancient Israel was a moment of gratitude, restoration and trust.
In the trumpet blast announcing the year of jubilee the Israelites were reminded of their election by God as a people, peculiarly His own. The trumpet blast reminded them of the great gift of covenant love that God had freely bestowed upon them and of the gift of the land itself, sign and symbol of Israel’s share in the heritage and love of God. God’s choice was not rooted in anything of their own being, making or doing, but in God’s abundant, extravagant and affectionate love. In the celebration of jubilee, gratitude flowed from the heart of God’s people, for they recognized that all is gift.
In the trumpet blast announcing the jubilees of our brothers in Holy Cross, we are reminded that they were chosen by God to serve God’s people as consecrated religious. The trumpet blast reminds us that their vocation, as every vocation in the life of the Church, is a gift freely bestowed by God to enable the recipient and those they love and serve through their vocation to share more deeply in the heritage and love of God. In their autobiographies, the jubilarians witness to the abundant, extravagant and affectionate love of God, who called them to life in Holy Cross, not due to any merit, talent or virtue of their own, but rather to bless them with every good gift. In this celebration of jubilee, gratitude flows from the hearts of the jubilarians, who recognize and proclaim that all is a gift.
In the trumpet blast announcing the year of jubilee the Israelites were reminded of God’s call to the restoration of right relationship between God and His people and among God’s people – a restoration marked by mercy and compassion. In the forgiveness of debt and in the restoration of the land, Israel recognized the sovereignty of God over every relationship. Debt was forgiven and land restored without the expectation of restitution – or the admission of fault – so that God’s generous desire to share life abundantly by bestowing His compassion and mercy upon all might be made manifest. In the celebration of jubilee, joy and peace flowed from the heart of God’s people for they recognized that all is mercy and compassion.
In the trumpet blast announcing the jubilee of our brothers we are reminded of the many ways that God has graced our brothers with the capacity to serve as ministers of right relationship through living in God’s mercy and compassion. The trumpet blast reminds us that as educators in the faith our brothers have stood side by side with all people, have acknowledged that their lives are burdened by the same struggles and weaknesses, have experienced the renewal of their lives by the same Lord’s love, and have shared the hope for a world were justice and love prevail.
In the spirit of Blessed Basil Moreau the jubilarians have come to see their own suffering and that of others as relics of the true Cross. They have not shirked the Cross, but, by drawing near to others in their suffering, have lived as men with hope to bring. In the celebration of jubilee, joy and peace flow from the hearts of the jubilarians who recognize and proclaim that all is mercy and compassion.
In the trumpet blast announcing the year of jubilee the Israelites were reminded of God’s call to trust in Divine Providence. The trumpet blast declared that the land was not to be seeded, cultivated or harvested in the year ahead. The community of Israel was to live in trust that the God who had provided so abundantly for them in the past would provide once again. In the celebration of jubilee deep trust flowed from the heart of God’s people for they recognized that everything was in the hands and heart of God.
In the trumpet blast announcing the jubilee of our brothers, we are reminded of the many ways that their lives have witnessed to a profound trust in Divine Providence. The trumpet blast reminds us that as ministers of the Gospel they have crossed borders of every sort, they committed themselves to single-hearted intimacy with God, to trusting dependence upon God and to willing surrender to God, and they forgone the independent exercise of their own wills.
In imitating Blessed Moreau’s trust in Divine Providence they have come to share his faith that Holy Cross is not a human work, but God’s very own. The jubilarians have learned by God’s grace that even their own sense of inadequacy or unworthiness in living the mission is no obstacle, if they dare to share with the Lord the emptiness of their hearts, for the Father of Jesus, as Moreau also taught us, loves to “fill an empty vessel.” In the celebration of jubilee, heartfelt trust in Divine Providence flows from the hearts of the jubilarians, who recognize and proclaim that everything is in the hands and the heart of God.
Biblical scholars raise an important yet deeply disturbing question in their study of the jubilee texts. They ask whether or not the prescriptions of the jubilee year were ever fully practiced in ancient Israel. While we know that God has deeply blessed these jubilarians we also know that the kingdom has not yet been realized in fullness among us. Yet, with eyes of faith we recognize that the time of jubilee has been fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
These jubilarians are men with hope to bring, not because of any merit of their own, but because in Christ’s death and resurrection “all is swallowed in victory.” These men know that Christ “has nothing but gifts to offer.” And that “it remains only for us to find how even the Cross can be borne as a gift.”
As our brothers in Holy Cross have sought to know how even the Cross can be borne as a gift, they have modeled their lives on the life of Christ so as to proclaim with the great apostle, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Brothers Clarence Breitenbach, Robert Ewald, Louis Hurcik, John Platte, and Ronald Whelan and Fathers Matthew Miceli, Harry Cronin, James Denn, Jerome Esper, James Flanigan, Gregory Green, Lawrence Henry, Wiliam Persia, Chester Prusynski, David Sherrer, Ronald Tripi, Michael DeLaney, John Denning, Thomas Gaughan, Charles Gordon, Thomas Looney, Robert Roetzel and Eugene Anjus have sought to conform their lives to the life of Christ by making God better known, loved and served.
Some of these men have ministered within the community itself. They have served and cared for their brothers in Holy Cross as vocation directors, formators, administrative assistants, provincial secretaries and counselors, religious superiors on the local, district and provincial levels, companions of our elderly and infirm members, and caretakers of the temporal goods and properties of the community. Their care for the spiritual, educational, emotional and temporal needs of their brothers in Holy Cross has been a sign of God’s providential love and guidance for their brothers in Holy Cross.
Others have served as teachers on the high school, college, seminary or university level, as rectors in university and college residence halls, as presidents of colleges and high schools, as artists, playwrights and swimming and safety instructors, as pastors and associate pastors in parishes, as chaplains in hospitals, hospice units, convents, nursing homes, the armed forces and for sports teams, and as social workers, retreat masters, authors and missionaries.
When Moses asked the Lord for assurance that his call from God was authentic, the Lord God answered that only after Moses had taken up his call from the Lord and returned to worship Him would he know with absolute certainty that he had fulfilled God’s will. The same is true for us. Yet, in His love and mercy, God has blessed these jubilarians with loving families, friends, co-workers and brothers in Holy Cross.
On behalf of my brother jubilarians, I wish to express our deep gratitude to all those, living and deceased, whose faithful love and companionship have been for us the trumpet blast announcing God’s faithful love assuring us that we are on the path the Lord has marked out for us. In gratitude we pray that one day in fullness we will be able to say with you in God’s kingdom: “It is no longer I who live it is Christ who lives in me.” Thank you for your faithfulness and love.
As we express our gratitude to you for your share in our vocation we ask you to pray for vocations to religious life as priests, brothers and sisters in Holy Cross. In this Year of the Brother, it is fitting and maybe even providential that we celebrate the jubilees of the largest class of brothers in the history of the Province. And so we ask that you pray that God will bless us with numerous religious brothers and that, if you meet a young man interested in becoming a brother, you might offer him the sage counsel of our jubilarian, Brother Clarence: “If you’re a man who doesn’t mind doing the little things and the big things and doing them well and doing them all for the love of God, consider being a brother. A vocation to religious life is not just a job; it’s a way of life that requires faithfulness. Trust in God in all things and He will not lead you astray.”
In faith we believe that the God who has begun His good work in each of us will bring it to completion. The clarion call of the trumpet invites us to know that all is gift, all is mercy and compassion, and that all is in the hands and heart of God. So let us then surrender to the mysterious call of the Lord that is at the heart of each of our lives.
To paraphrase the words of Fr. Harry Cronin, our jubilarian playwright: “It’s this giant goodness that moves into your life, when you’re ordained (baptized) — a huge, giant, unfathomable goodness. And you have to go along with it. You have to let that goodness do whatever it wants to do. You have to let it change you. But along with the goodness is struggle. There has to be, because the goodness — that goodness — means to take over your whole life, every part of you.”
May God’s goodness live in us, so that all of us in a chorus accompanied by the trumpet blast will one day proclaim in the fullness of truth: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!”
To learn more about the “great band of men” that forms this year’s Jubilee Class, read their biographies and autobiographies prepared for the celebration. And learn about other heroic Holy Cross priests and brothers who have given their lives in service of hope.