Blessed Basile Moreau: Living the Cross as Our Only Hope

Author: Br. Thomas A. Dziekan, C.S.C.

Blessed Basile Moreau, CSC

Former Superior General Fr. Thomas Barrosse, C.S.C., wrote a piece on our founder entitled “Basil Moreau, Man of God.” He makes observations about what this title might mean. It might describe:

  • those for whom God is real,
  • those in whose life God is a real presence,
  • those who live in the presence of God,
  • those who enjoy the intimacy of God,
  • those who convey by their lives that God is real for them,
  • the one for whom God is really present always and everywhere, at all times in everything, and for whom God is the meaning of life.

For Christians, the man of God is someone who is so imbued with God so that the God of Jesus and Jesus himself are real, really present, and the meaning of life. This person of God is holy, a saint.

We know our founder, Blessed Basile Moreau to be Man of God, imbued with God, holy, a saint. Basile Moreau lived in the presence of God and love of God was constantly on his lips.  We, his sons and daughters, have inherited this legacy of love and zeal as well as being men and women for whom God is real, who live in the presence of God, enjoying the intimacy of God. 

Today, as we celebrate the “feast” of our Founder, Blessed Basile Moreau, we truly gather as “God’s favored children,” and we gather to “sit at His table and hear His word.” In this context of gratitude, as “the spoiled children of [God’s] Providence,” we have heard and hopefully listened to God’s word in the readings chosen for the liturgical celebration of this feast.

Learn more about the Congregation's founder

In our first reading, the letter to the Ephesians (4:1-7, 11-13), Paul gives us an ecclesiology, a theology of Church. Basile Moreau, faithful to the Pope, modeling his religious family not only on the Holy Family, but forming it as a microcosm of Church, lived for the Church. He defined that great virtue “zeal” as “the burning desire to make God known, loved and served.” In the section of the letter to the Ephesians, Paul urges his listeners to “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.” He urges them to “strive to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” Paul says that we have been fashioned by the spirit into a single, harmonious unity, “one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.” He presents the essentials of the creed. He emphasizes unity and union.

Holy Cross Family in Mexico

Did not Blessed Basile Moreau also stress the importance of union for Holy Cross and the mission of Jesus? He called the brothers, priests and sisters to be united in their efforts, in their living and working together! The first coat of arms of the Congregation was this union of hearts – the hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In that union was strength.

Matthew’s Gospel today (16:24-27) gives us the “cost of discipleship”: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

This passage comes after Jesus warns against false teachings and after He confers authority on Peter: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.”  This church will make demands. Matthew’s account tells us that the cost of discipleship – the cost of being a “pupil” is high. After Peter objects to Jesus saying that he will suffer, be killed and will be raised on the third day, it is then that this passage is placed. More importantly, it is followed by an account of the Transfiguration. Matthew underlines the cost of discipleship and also its results. Death to self brings life; death to self transfigures us.

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Blessed Basile Moreau

Blessed Basile Anthony Moreau was a teacher of Scripture. He who Providence led to a neighborhood called “Sainte-Croix” or “Holy Cross,” who Providence inspired to name his congregation after that neighborhood, whose life was the Cross, encouraged his religious to be disciples of Jesus, to deny themselves and to take up their crosses.

He wrote: What must we do to become perfect?  Follow Jesus Christ, that is to say, imitate him; that is the commitment we made in baptism … following Jesus is the consequence of this sacrament of faith; it is the holy and irrevocable law of our vocation to Christianity, and we renew it by our religious promises.  In what does this imitation of Jesus Christ consist?  He himself told us that it is reduced to three things: renouncing ourselves, taking up our cross, and walking in his footsteps (Sermons, "The Rule," 1st Sermon, 1833).

Basile Moreau also lived the Cross. A man who was an educator, teacher, preacher, retreat master, founder, fundraiser, Scripture professor, lived the life of the Cross. He lived to do God’s will. He suffered much in his life, even seeing much of what he had worked for lying on the brink of ruin, and yet, Moreau’s trust in God’s Providence never wavered. He continued to strive to do God’s Will. He remained faithful. He preached and gave retreats.  He did not give in to despair.

Perhaps as we celebrate the life of Blessed Basile Moreau, we can turn to him again and learn to trust in God’s Provident care, discern His will for us. God’s Kingdom is still to be built. The Cross speaks to us and the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross remind us that “We are men with hope to bring.”

St George's Students on Mission in Southern Chile

This world needs hope. We are and must always be men and women of hope. We can say with all our hearts: “Ave Crux, Spes Unica.” Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope.

That is what we have yet to do. That is what we have to say to God’s precious people, “Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope.” We are “God’s favored children,” “the spoiled children of [His] Providence,” and we say with great faith, trust and love: “Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope.”

Blessed Basile Anthony Moreau, pray for us!

This reflection for the Feast Day of Blessed Basile Moreau, the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, was shared with us by Br. Thomas A. Dziekan, C.S.C., who is the Vicar General and First General Assistant of the Congregation. It is part of a reflection Br. Dziekan originally gave last year on the founder's Feast Day to the Holy Cross Forum.