This Wednesday, January 20th, is the feast day of Blessed Basil Moreau, the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Holy Cross is the religious community to which Fr. Gil, Deacon Geoff and I belong, and Holy Cross religious have staffed Christ the King ever since we were founded in 1933. His feast day is a good opportunity to share something about our Holy Cross family with our Christ the King family.
Fr. Moreau was born in France during the French Revolution, and he was ordained a priest in the revolution’s aftermath. This was a tumultuous time for the nation, including the Catholic Church. The Church had been seriously weakened by the revolution, and so as the Church rebuilt, she was faced with a generation who had received little to no catechism or instruction in the faith. On top of that, the Church was heavily involved in the French educational system, so the secular education system needed to be rebuilt every bit as much as the religious education system, particularly in rural areas.
Fr. Moreau was ordained a diocesan priest for the Diocese of LeMans, and he served as an instructor in the seminary. During this time, two things happened that led to the founding of Holy Cross. First of all, he had gathered together a group of “auxiliary priests” who traveled around preaching parish missions in order to try and re-evangelize parishes. Secondly, he was asked to assume leadership of a group of religious brothers who had been charged with founding parish schools. In 1837, he brought these two groups together to form the Congregation of Holy Cross, and within a few short years, he was sending Holy Cross missionaries all over the world (including to Indiana in 1841). You can read more about his life at https://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_20070915_moreau_en.html.
I think that Fr. Moreau offers a model of holiness that is very applicable to our own modern times. He lived in an area that had once been strong in the Christian faith but which had become increasingly secularized. He lived in a time when many political powers were hostile to the faith. He lived in a time where the need for the Gospel was tremendous, but the obstacles to spreading the Gospel were daunting. If this sounds at all like our modern culture, then I think we can take great hope in Fr. Moreau’s example. No matter what challenges exist in the world around us, a single faith-filled person can do a lot to lead souls to Christ, and their work can have an impact that lasts long after they’re gone. I hope that gives us each a little encouragement as we seek to build the little piece of God’s Kingdom on earth that has been entrusted to us.