Today we’re very blessed to celebrate the feast day of Blessed Basil Moreau, the founder of Holy Cross. (A “Blessed” is someone who is one step away from being declared a saint.) It’s not often that his feast falls on a Sunday, so this year we get to share it with the whole parish.
Basil Moreau was born in France in 1799 and was ordained shortly after the French Revolution. It was a turbulent time for the country, especially the Catholic Church. The Church had been suppressed during the Revolution, and a large number of the clergy had been exiled or killed. This also had serious impacts on education in general, as the Church had run a large number of schools, especially in rural areas. As Fr. Moreau began his priesthood, he faced a generation who had been deprived of proper education and who had very little education in the faith.
Fr. Moreau responded to this situation by forming a group of “auxiliary priests”, who traveled around the countryside giving parish missions to re-evangelize the people. Soon he was asked to take charge of a newly-formed group of teaching brothers who were being sent to re-found parish schools, and in 1838 he combined the priests and brothers into the Congregation of Holy Cross. Holy Cross is the religious community to which Fr. Michael, Fr. Mike and I belong; and the religious community that has staffed Christ the King ever since we were founded in 1933.
I think that Fr. Moreau is an especially inspiring figure for us because the world in which he lived looked a lot like ours in many ways. He lived in a country that had been very religious at one time, but which had become very secular. He lived in a culture that had become hostile to organized religion in many ways. He lived in a time when a whole generation of people were very poorly catechized.
If this sounds familiar, then Fr. Moreau is a powerful sign of hope for us, because he didn’t allow these challenges to get him down. Instead, he saw them as a tremendous opportunity to evangelize, to help people realize that what they were really thirsting for was God. Through his intercession, may we find new ways to re-introduce Christ to our world every day.