Ten years ago my husband and I received an invitation from a dear friend to attend an event in Le Mans, France. The invitation was to the beatification of Basile Antoine Marie Moreau, CSC, a man who, I must admit, I knew next to nothing about at the time. I did know he had founded the Congregation of Holy Cross, but that was because of the aforementioned friend, a Holy Cross priest. We were able to attend all the ceremonies surrounding the beatification, beginning with a trip to the town where Moreau was born, attending numerous prayer services, the beatification Mass in Le Mans, and the Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Julien’s, a beautiful cathedral in Le Mans with magnificent stained glass. All of the services were prayerful and joyous, truly glorifying God, attended by people from literally all over the world. By the end of it all, I felt as if I knew Basile Moreau like an old friend. Yes, he has indeed become a friend who I turn to in prayer quite often, asking his intercession when I need the prayer support. Ten years later, reflecting upon those events and also on the life of Blessed Basile Moreau, I am filled with gratitude for being able to attend the beatification, for my Holy Cross friends, and for the witness they give as faithful servants of God. The priests and religious of Holy Cross are men and women who have heard God’s call, and in love for the Gospel of Jesus, bring Him into the world. Moreau and his spiritual followers remind me of the difference that one person can make. Perhaps we are called to be such a person.
A heartfelt response to prayerful inspiration was what motivated Blessed Basile Antoine Marie Moreau, (1799-1873) founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross in Le Mans, France. He followed the desire of his heart based on love of Jesus, humbly relying on the power of God to help him realize the mission to which he had been called. The result of his response to God’s call is four inter-related religious congregations, countless lives touched, and the attainment of holiness, all of which will be celebrated on September 15, 2017 when the tenth anniversary of the beatification of Basile Moreau is commemorated by the Holy Cross family of congregations.
Bl. Basile Moreau was born the ninth of fourteen children in Laigné-en-Belin in the diocese of Le Mans, France, just as the French Revolution was drawing to a close. He was ordained at the rather young age of 22 and taught in a seminary. Because of the residual effects of the Revolution, the Church was in turmoil, and therefore early in his ministry he organized a group of priests with the purpose of preaching and teaching. His hope was that they could reach out to those in villages that were in need of evangelization and sacraments. Along the way, the local bishop asked him to oversee a group of religious brothers. In 1840, Basile merged his group of priests with the brothers, thereby forming a new congregation which he named, it is said, for the town where they were set up, Sainte Croix, or Holy Cross. The following year he also founded a congregation of Sisters called the Marianites. Though the bishop made the sisters separate from the brothers and priests, the entire ‘family’ of communities were the result of the work of Basile Moreau: the congregations now named Holy Cross took on the work of Christ in evangelization and education, a mission in which they are still engaged today.*
Basile Moreau was an astute, prayerful man filled with zeal, yet patient with the process of fulfilling his mission. In following God’s call he never gave up, nor did he despair no matter what the adversity and no matter how deeply he suffered; he never forgot that the work was ultimately God’s and not his. I think this is because he understood the Cross of Christ and its power. The motto of the Congregation of Holy Cross is Ave Crux, Spes Unica, (Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope). Basile knew that the only hope for his work, and the only hope for our world, is found in the Cross of Christ: indeed, there is no hope in anything that is apart from Christ. This was the power with which he was able to affect so many, coming from humble beginnings to what is now an international family of orders that continue the work of evangelization, helping the poor and offering education to many.
What we learn from Bl. Basile Moreau is that one person can make a huge difference in our world. He felt a call to courageously respond to God at a time when there was great animosity directed toward the Church and its priests and religious. In some ways it is not unlike our own age in which many are either living without a religious faith or who are openly adversarial toward it. Today the world is filled with many evils, especially falsehood, hatred, bigotry, and worse still, apathy and despair. While prayer must always be part of our lives, the underpinning of everything we do, it is not enough to pray and then do nothing. Basile shows us that we do not necessarily have to have money to solve the issues in our communities and in our world, but we do have to trust in the call we have received, ultimately trusting the One who is doing the calling: God. Just as God empowered Blessed Basile, (and many others throughout salvation history), He empowers us. We can respond to the call we have been given: if all we do is authentically live what we have been taught, that is enough, and it is evangelization. If we teach by lending a hand, using our voice, or sharing our faith with just one person every day, imagine the change we could elicit.
To discern our vocational call we need an awareness of what our desires might be: we should pray about it, and also ask ourselves what gives us a sense of purpose in the task of living out the gospel. It could be in doing service work or simply spreading the gospel in the workplace by acting in a manner that is in accordance with our faith. It could be in a more active participation in our parish family, in volunteer work, or through political activism. A way to discern might be to ask yourself for what you would like to be remembered after your death; and if you were to write your own epitaph, what would you hope it to be? Or you might even dream a little, asking yourself for what reason you would hope to be beatified, like Blessed Basile and others? If we can at least attempt to answer these questions, perhaps we would have a clearer sense of the mission we have been given. It does not have to be something huge, but it does need to involve utilizing the gifts of faith, hope, and love in whatever way God has called us to use them.
No matter our vocation, we need to look at what we are called to do today, in this moment, and in this hour. A good question to continually ask of ourselves is: to whom am I called to minister at this moment? What opportunity is opening before me right now? In what way am I called to ask forgiveness or offer it? In what way am I invited to offer mercy, love, compassion, and therefore, assistance? Who am I called to talk with about my faith today or to give glory to God so that they witness my faith? These are all questions which we can bring to prayer; but we must not leave prayer without asking God to give the grace we need to respond when the time arises. We are all called, as baptized Christians, to arise to our unique call, as did Blessed Basile Moreau. Surely he did not start out imagining that he would have religious followers in four congregations who would be ministering to countless others 170+ years later. But he did pray to find ways of responding to the love of God and he did envision a path to spread the word about the love and mercy of God to a people sorely in need of receiving the message. He heard the call, the desire of his heart, and then acted upon it. With a lot of work his mission materialized into something which grew and took root under the banner of our only hope, the Holy Cross of Christ. Perhaps if we pray to put into action the love we have received from God, and trust that our little efforts do make a positive change in the world, our light might shine as brightly as did the light emanating from Bl. Basile Moreau. Let us answer the call as faithfully as he did, looking to the Cross as our one true hope.
May there be an abundance of vocations to the congregations in the Holy Cross family and other religious orders, and may we pray for them as they live their call to service! May we ask for the intercession of Blessed Basile Moreau, especially when we need help persevering in our call! May we have the strength to visibly live our faith in a world which needs such witness! May we have the courage to affect change in the world by small or large acts of love! May we find courage in the Cross of Christ, our source of hope! And may we glorify God with our lives, as we attempt to grow in holiness as followers of Jesus! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L Catanese
* There are four congregations in the Holy Cross Family: the men (Priests and Brothers) - Congregation of Holy Cross; and three women's congregations: Marianites of Holy Cross; Sisters of the Holy Cross; and Sisters of Holy Cross (Soeurs de Sainte-Croix).
Note: Next post will be on Sept. 25.
1. The first painting is of Blessed Basile Moreau, and it was commissioned for his beatification, unveiled as the celebration began. It hung in the form of a banner throughout the ceremonies and services, a sign of joy, hope, and unity.
2. This is the parish church, Notre Dame de Sainte Croix du Mans in Laigné-en-Belin in Le Mans, France, where Bl. Basile Moreau was baptized. This is one of my photographs from our trip to celebrate his beatification, mentioned at the start of the post.
3. This is the plaque which appears outside the church in photo 2.
4. This is a painting called Flower Carrier by Diego Rivera. (1935) I chose it here because it shows the difference one person can make. The man is unable to stand without the help of the woman who is securing his heavy basket. I loved this painting the moment I saw it because it shows how we all truly need one another. It can be found at https://www.diegorivera.org/flowercarrier.jsp.
5. Though this is a totally different style from the previous painting, this one also shows people working together. It is called The Harvesters by Pieter Brugel the Elder. (1565) I chose it because it made me think of the gospel verse about the harvest being plentiful but the workers being few. (Luke 10:2; Matthew 9:37) We need everyone to do what they can, as they are called, in order to build the Kingdom. The painting can be found at http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435809.
6. This is a image painted by Fr. William Hart McNichols called The Galilean Jesus. I chose it here because it made me think of Jesus beckoning us to come and follow. You can find it at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-galilean-jesus-266-william-hart-mcnichols.html
7. Last is a photo I took of the medallion struck for the the beatification of Blessed Basile Moreau, given to me by my dear friend, Fr. Hugh Cleary, CSC, who at the time was Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross.
Heart Speaks to Heart