Back to back celebrations in January get a lot of us Holy Cross guys thinking about our “holy men.” We celebrated Saint André Bessette, (Brother André) on January 7. January 20 is Blessed Basil Moreau´s feast day.
Also, we who serve in Holy Cross Family Ministries remember the birthday of the Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton. We hope and pray that one day soon he too will be venerated as blessed and, one day, a saint.
At this time of the year, too, New Year´s resolutions are (hopefully!) still in our memories. Honestly, I couldn’t get to making many resolutions as I got kind of stuck on one. Excuse me for being quite so blunt about something that is pretty personal, but at New Year’s I simply wanted to grow in holiness this year.
Then I found myself confounded as I simply asked, once again, “How can I do that?” Of course, we all should know the standard answers, but really, how do they get in under the skin in a real, penetrating way?
In my mind, I put the question to Fr. Basil, Br. André, and Fr. Pat: How did you guys get to be holy? I soon found myself asking myself: Is there something they have in common in their holiness? Quickly an idea came to me: Each of them really loved God. Basic, right? However the idea kind of hit me on the head and left it spinning: THEY REALLY LOVED GOD!
Then my experience of being somewhat bewildered moved toward humiliation. How much do I really love God? Honestly, how often do people today really talk and think about loving God? It´s not really a “politically correct” theme!
Maybe we don’t want to “go there” because we do know that it is so fundamental but something in us feels very unsettled. Maybe we’re afraid to admit that not only do we seem utterly incapable of it by ourselves, but also in ourselves we are so helplessly unworthy of it, in spite of how often we hear pop psychology say: “I´m OK; you´re OK.” Yet still the heart yearns and longs for more in life, something bigger than ourselves.
Our Holy Cross holy men remind us that the desire for God and the love of God are of the very essence of Christian life, of all consecrated life especially, and of Holy Cross Religious life in particular. How did they come to love God so very much?
I notice something else in the lives of these three older brothers of ours: They came from big families! Don´t worry, I bring that up in jest … mostly, that is. What I mean to point out is that in these big families, each of them experienced something fundamental.
Patrick Peyton was born in a poor family in post-famine Ireland. Alfred (later Brother André) Bessette was not only poor but sickly and then left orphaned. Yet in spite of what the world focuses on as hardship (and of course it was), they – and Father Moreau too – knew another experience as being infinitely more important: the deep love of their parents and families that was in fact a profound experience of the love of God.
Right from the start these men were imprinted by what Saint John teaches us: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His own Spirit…God is love, and He who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him” (1 John 4).
The love of God they first knew in their faith-filled homes began their journeys of life as walking in God´s presence, enfolded in love. They became more and more aware that their very being is of God who is Being Himself. The great work they did sprung up from His love and they returned it to Him in thanksgiving and adoration. This is loving God.
Some of you who are reading this may be wondering how God is calling you to serve Him, His Church, and His World. His call to each of us is found in how He loved us first. Go there and stay there. Try to listen from within those experiences and memories of how He has loved you in so many ways.
Pray that your life itself can become more and more a journey of wonder as you remain in His love. He will let you know how He wants you to share it!
Ask these Holy Cross holy men – Basil, André and Patrick – to help you grow in the love of God. St. André will tell you, as he told everyone: “Go to St. Joseph.” All of them also knew God´s love through staying very close to our Mother Mary. With them we all say: “Our Lady of Holy Cross, help us to love God as you do!”
Fr. Jim Phalan, C.S.C., is the Director of Family Rosary International, which is a part Holy Cross Family Ministries. HCFM was founded by Servant of God Patrick Peyton, a Holy Cross priest who had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother and preached that the “family that prays together, stays together.” Fr. Phalan will be writing for the Spes Unica Blog each month to share with us the great work of Family Rosary International, yet Family Ministries is one of the creative ways that Holy Cross continues to reach across borders of every sort to spread hope. Learn more about the missionary work of Holy Cross.