The following is the homily given by Fr. David T. Tyson, C.S.C., the Provincial Superior of the United States Province of Priests and Brothers, on the Feast of Blessed Basil Moreau at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.
Each year the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross across the world gather on this day to celebrate our Founder, Blessed Basil Anthony Mary Moreau. On almost every continent of the world Holy Cross priests, brothers, and sisters gather to pray and remember the legacy and charism that marks us as Holy Cross.
It was Father Moreau’s vision, coupled with his profound belief and trust in God’s Providence for Holy Cross, that he broadened his view of our mission to extend beyond the borders of France to places some had not even heard of – like South Bend, Indiana! His sending of young priests and brothers, followed later by young sisters, and his trust in Providence as central to our charism have led to the emergence of a truly international religious community of men and women that has planted its roots deep in many places in the world.
Today we are men and women of different cultures, different languages, and different points of view, bound together by our mission to build the Kingdom of God in the world. Father Moreau believed deeply that each one of us is called to live in God’s love by actively embracing and sharing the salvific mysteries of Christ’s life, especially the mystery of the Cross. Thus, “making God known, loved, and served” is essential to our charism, and essential to all of our ministries, wherever they may be. It fuels our zeal to be eager ministers of the Gospel, and it is the glue that seals our union.
Our first reading for this feast day is from the Letter to the Ephesians. In it we hear St. Paul’s exhortation to the Christian Community to live in a manner that reflects their high calling. In his writings to the Congregation, Father Moreau frequently draws upon these Pauline virtues when addressing the conduct of our lives as religious of Holy Cross.
In Humility, we are to set our lives beside the life of Christ, in light of the demands of God. In Gentleness, or Meekness, we are to discern and shape our reactions to things under the power and control of our Lord. In Patience or Long Suffering, we are to resolve never to give up, just as our Savior never gave up, while at the same time never using revenge or retribution in the name of the mission. In Love, we are to always seek the good of the other rather than our own. And to the extent that we live in this manner as Christians and professed religious, we will be at peace, in union with one another, laboring together to build a Kingdom of Justice, Peace, and Love.
In our Gospel reading for today’s celebration from St. Matthew, we are reminded that we should be able to pick up our cross because the Lord commands it of us. We are also reminded that the Lord tells us that if we are willing to lose our lives for His sake, we will find Life. Thus, the Cross of Christ is not folly, it is Hope. Losing our lives for His sake to gain salvation is not the folly of the Cross; it is the very gift of the Cross!
For our Blessed Founder, the Cross is not a reality that we are called to endure in life. Rather, it is a sign and instrument of Christian Hope and the key to our salvation. He told the Holy Cross community at a conference at Saint Laurent, “We must not only take up the cross, we must carry it with courage. If we drag it after us, if we abandon it after having taken it up; if we trample it under foot, it will not save us. So, let us follow that path that Jesus has walked for us, and we will arrive at a happy eternity.”
St. Paul exhorts the Church at Ephesus to “preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” Father Moreau believed strongly in the essential nature of the unity of the members for the sake of the mission, and he frequently exhorted the religious to follow this virtue preached by St. Paul in today’s first reading. Therefore, our common life is not an end in itself. Rather, it is intimately linked to our mission as Holy Cross, and our zeal for the mission. Where we fail in our community life, our mission is simply rendered less effective.
So, my friends, it is with joy and gratitude that we gather here today to celebrate the Feast Day of our Blessed Founder, Father Moreau. For those of us who have joined our lives together in our profession of vows in Holy Cross, his story is very much our story. His work is ours today. As we leave here this evening, I hope that all of us who honor Blessed Basil Moreau on this day might again reflect on the words he used to inspire his spiritual sons and daughters about our mission many years ago.
“With the eyes of Faith consider the greatness of the mission and the wonderful amount of good that one can accomplish. And also consider the great reward promised to those who have taught the truth to others and have helped form them into justice: ‘They shall shine eternally in the skies like the stars of the heavens.’ With the hope of this glory, we must generously complete the Lord’s work.”
Blessed Basil Moreau, pray for us.