Ave Crux Spes Unica
Ave Crux Spes Unica – Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope. That is the motto that Blessed Basile Moreau gave to the Congregation of Holy Cross. The words come from the ancient hymn Vexilla regis prodeunt written by Fortunatus and traditionally sung on Good Friday. They capture well the life and work of both the Congregation and Moreau.
We are men with hope to bring precisely because we know the true power of Christ’s resurrection. We have witnessed how God can transfigure sin and death – what can seem to be most hopeless – into wellsprings of love and new life.
The tree of the cross has been planted where our worthy religious dwell … But these religious have learned to savor its life-giving fruits, and if God in his goodness preserves them in the admirable dispositions which they have chosen thus far, they will never taste death, for the fruits of the cross are the same as those of the tree of life which was planted in the Garden of Paradise. – Blessed Basile Moreau
Since our foundation in 1837, the Congregation faced a litany of crosses from the deaths of religious due to disease and natural disasters, to attacks and lawsuits from detractors, to scarce financial resources, to political unrest and violence. Seeing himself as the father of Holy Cross, Moreau experienced many of these trials personally and went through his own dark night of the soul in October 1855.
In the midst of these crosses, Moreau always encouraged the Congregation to see the hand of Divine Providence. He believed that the Lord’s choicest blessings come through the crosses we bear out of love. This truth of Christ’s Resurrection has played out again and again in the life of the Congregation.
The missions to East Bengal and Indiana in the mid-nineteenth century experienced a staggering number of deaths among the Holy Cross missionaries. And yet, through bearing these crosses in hope, Holy Cross brought the tribal peoples of East Bengal to faith in Christ and laid the foundation for the University of Notre Dame to become the premier Catholic research university that it is today.
Uganda, Chile, and Haiti in the late twentieth century all experienced tremendous political unrest and violence from oppressive regimes that threatened even the lives of our missionaries, some of whom were imprisoned and tortured. And yet, through bearing these crosses in hope, Holy Cross forged a solidarity with the people that opened the promise of a better tomorrow through education and work on behalf of justice.
Jesus entered into the pain and death that sin inflicts. He accepted the torment but gave us joy in return. We whom He has sent to minister amid the same sin and pain must know that we too shall find the cross and the hope it promises. The face of every human being who suffers is for us the face of Jesus who mounted the cross to take the sting out of death. Ours must be the same cross and the same hope. – Constitutions, 8:114
As the Holy Father, Pope Francis preached at his Installation Mass, “Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others.”
Strengthened by our patroness, Our Lady of Sorrows, the Congregation continues to stand with people at the foot of their crosses, both big and small. We stand there so as to bear witness to the light of hope that shines forth from Christ’s resurrection.
The hope of the cross is to know that things are never hopeless. Even in our darkest hour, our deepest despair, our greatest suffering, God is present and can make all things new. All has been swallowed up in the victory of God’s love.
We must be men with hope to bring. There is no failure the Lord’s love cannot reverse, no humiliation He cannot exchange for blessing, no anger He cannot dissolve, no routine He cannot transfigure. All is swallowed up in victory. He has nothing but gifts to offer. It remains only for us to find how even the cross can be borne as a gift. – Constitutions, 8:118