This post is adapted from the homily Fr. Tony gave for the Stonehill community on January 19, the vigil of Bl. Moreau's Feast Day. The Gospel for that day can be found here.
At first glance, Fr. Moreau can seem a somewhat grim figure. The only pictures we have of him make it seem that he might have been ill the day they were taken. We know that he practiced what we today might consider severe forms of asceticism in his personal prayer life. As founder and Superior General, many of his surviving letters are records of corrections or even reprimands for his brothers in community. If you looked only at the surface or a first impression, it might be understandable why you wouldn’t immediately identify in Fr. Moreau the joy that is pointed to in today’s Gospel. We need to acknowledge that Moreau lived through very trying times, both in his home country, but also within the struggles of forming and leading a community. There were political battles, financial hardships, and worst of all, the deaths of some of his community members, especially in the hard conditions of the foreign missions. Had it been the case that Fr. Moreau really WAS stern and severe, it could almost be forgiven him.
But, the fact of the matter was, Moreau wasn’t a bitter man. He truly lived up to all of the slogans that we use to describe Holy Cross. He was certainly a man who trusted in Divine Providence and a man who believed that Holy Cross had hope to bring to a world in desperate need. Right from the start he sent his best and brightest religious off to minister in other countries, trusting in God’s Providence that the Good News would be spread no matter what happened. And more often than not they succeeded. If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here today. Even when a financial crisis had nearly ruined the community, Fr. Moreau did not despair.
Instead, he strove to keep pushing forward, confident that God would carry Holy Cross through. He never imposed his own personal asceticism as a rule on the community, and in fact often acted toward his fellow religious as an indulgent father. And even in his later years, after being turned against by many in the community, he still remained a popular retreat master, going from parish to parish, spreading the Good News until the very day he died.
The message we can take from the Gospel today and from the life of Blessed Basil Moreau is that Jesus is still with us. It is not the time to mourn and hide away from the world. No, instead it is time to rejoice and share the hope and love of the Lord. It’s easy to forget this truth in the “busyness” of our lives and the difficulties we face in trying to get by. It’s time to put away our old fears, our old doubts, our old sins, our old failures and put on the new faith of Christ’s love.
At the beginning of this new year, Jesus invites each one of us to share his presence. This is a time of celebration, not hibernation. Those we serve, our Church, our families, friends and our fellow religious need our hope, not fear, our spirit, not gloom, our life, not despair. Our challenge is to bring forth the newness, the excitement, the reality of God’s Kingdom to all the people we meet. Through the intercession of Blessed Basil Moreau, may we rise to meet this challenge and always be men with hope to bring.
Fr. Tony Szakaly, C.S.C. is the local superior of the Holy Cross community at Stonehill College, Director of Campus Ministry, and Alumni Minister at Stonehill College. A South Bend native, he received a Holy Cross education at every level of his schooling, from the C.S.C. sisters in grade school, the C.S.C. brothers in high school and C.S.C. priests at the University of Notre Dame. He took final vows in 1991 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1992.