When I was first considering the seminary, I had no idea who Basil Moreau was. I knew I wanted to be a priest, and I was pretty sure that I wanted to be a religious. However, I was not sure with what community I wanted to join my life. I had been educated in high school by the Jesuits, so I knew who St. Ignatius was. For college, though, I had gone to Notre Dame, and I realized that the life of the Holy Cross priests at ND was how I wanted to live that vocation as a priest and religious. My attraction to that life was never in question, but my devotion to Basil Moreau came later. I often joke that I came for Notre Dame, but that I stayed for Blessed Basil Moreau.
During my postulancy at Moreau Seminary, I gained a cursory knowledge of the founder of the Holy Cross family, but I would not say that I yet knew him. It was only during our second year of formation at the Novitiate in Colorado that I really began to see what Basil Moreau’s life in Christ was truly about. It really comes down to one word: Cross. Before you pull back in terror, hear me out. What makes Basil Moreau saintly, what has made his life a life worth imitating is his willingness to cling to the Cross as his anchor, as his salvation. Over my fifteen years in the community, my embrace of the Cross has slowly tightened as I have faced the demands of this life and this world, but as I have felt the splinters of the wood dig into my face from holding on so tightly, I have experienced the joy and glory of what the Cross brings.
Blessed Basil Moreau must have had many splinters, in his hands, in his arms, in his face, for his embrace was pretty tight. The Holy Cross community in its early years confronted its fair share of trials. From financial troubles at one of our schools in Paris, to the divisions among the Holy Cross sisters, to catastrophic losses of religious in the foreign missions, Blessed Basil knew where to go. It was not just personal with him, though. His own experience of the many crosses that came his way made him a forceful presence of the hope of the Resurrection to those to whom he ministered who were experiencing their own sufferings. This is the model for my life. The world is littered with crosses; we all have them. As I cling to mine, I remember Blessed Basil’s call to me as a Holy Cross priest and religious. It is a call that asks us to imitate our Mother Mary in her devotion to her Son: Stand at the foot of the Cross and speak of hope.
Blessed Basil Moreau did not just stand there. I do not just stand there. We, along with our founder, hold on for dear life, since the Cross is our life. Yes, I came for Notre Dame, and as great as that university is, it is only an expression of the life in the Gospel that our blessed founder taught us to live. It is one that might seem outdated in a world where avoiding suffering is of prime importance, but it is exactly for that reason that Blessed Basil and his teachings have never been more pertinent. For this reason, the world’s cries of foolishness in the face of teachings like Blessed Basil Moreau’s sound more like cries for help. I am happy to be a fool, just like Blessed Basil was a fool. I stayed for the Cross, and Basil guides me right to it. There we meet our Mother, Mary. There we meet her Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. There, we meet salvation.
Fr. Greg Haake, C.S.C. was ordained at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in the spring of 2007. He is currently finishing a Ph.D. in French Literature, and living in Paris, France. Fr. Haake, and the other priests and seminarians of the Congregation of Holy Cross, regularly share their experiences and stories through their contributions to the Spes Unica Blog.