Understanding Blessed Moreau's Educational & Spiritual Philosophy

February 8, 2012


At the January 20th memorial feast of Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C., the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the members of the Holy Cross community at Stonehill celebrated the occasion with a Mass in the Chapel of Mary and presented Biology Professor Maura Tyrrell with the Spirit of Holy Cross Award in recognition of her service to Moreau's educational vision.

The Assistant Provincial of the U.S. Province for Holy Cross, Father Tom Looney '82, C.S.C. (above) presided and gave the homily. Below is the text of his homily, which examines the educational and spiritual tenets that give definition to the uniqueness of the Congregation's mission.

As colleges and universities envision their futures, they often set their sights on a group of aspirant schools in whose company they one day hope to be numbered.

When Basil Moreau founded the Congregation of Holy Cross he set before the eyes of his fledging congregation in post-revolutionary war France several "communities" as models for Holy Cross. Moreau bypassed the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites and even the Jesuits in demarcating the aspirant communities for Holy Cross. He chose instead the Holy Family, the Body of Christ and the Holy Trinity.

Moreau proposed that the priests, brothers and sisters of Holy Cross and their colleagues in mission and ministry should aspire to live in so close a union of sentiment and will that they imitated the union of life that characterized the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Nazareth, the organic unity of the various parts of the one body of Christ and the communion of life and love that is God himself.

Spirit of Union

Why did Moreau propose a spirit of union as the essential and defining element of his new congregation? Why is a spirit of union essential to the flourishing of his Congregation and its works? Why is a spirit of union essential to the flourishing of Stonehill College?

Moreau proposed a union of sentiment and will as essential to the vitality of the Congregation's mission for he believed unity to be a "mighty lever for the transformation of society." Holy Cross and its institutions, if you will, could only help to influence the transformation of society, if the community and its institutions, embodied the communion of life and love, that God desired for the world. The Congregation and its institutions could not give to others what they did not possess.

Authentic Communion

Due to the complex and multidimensional aspects of union, Moreau proposed a variety of models for Holy Cross in order to highlight essential elements of unity. He proposed the Holy Family to underscore the diversity of roles and responsibilities exercised by the various members of a dynamic community. He proposed the Holy Trinity to emphasize the equality and mutuality that must mark the relations between persons, who desire to live in authentic communion with one another. He proposed the Body of Christ, as we heard spoken of in today's first reading, not to highlight the variety or roles within the one body of Christ, as is its usual exegesis, but to emphasize the compassionate care of mutual support and encouragement that is essential to the flourishing of a community in the real, often broken, world in which we live.

A spirit of union among the priests, brothers, sisters, and lay colleagues of Holy Cross required: a respect and admiration for the diverse roles and responsibilities entrusted to each member of the community, an appreciation for the inherent dignity, value and equality of each member of the community and a compassionate love and commitment to care for one another in need. If we are to be faithful to Blessed Moreau's vision every Holy Cross religious and institution must ask if their life and work is marked by these values.

Uniting Mind and Heart

In a fractured and broken world, where the path to unity and peace is often sought in the domination or control of the other, or in isolation from the community of nations, Moreau proposed the difficult path of seeking to live in union of mind and heart with others. But how is such a union achieved? The path that Moreau would advocate, and the common, often unspoken element, in the three models he proposed for unity, is the path of self-emptying love.

Moreau took Jesus' teaching that faithful discipleship required the taking up of one's cross with utter seriousness. In calling us in prayer to imagine what it might look like for us to take up the cross he rejects slavish notions of the imitation of Jesus, but summons us to hear the call to lay down our lives in the service of our sisters and brothers. The path of self-emptying love is the path to union of sentiment and wills that will transform the world and make of it a more just and compassionate place.

Moreau proclaimed that the cross is our only hope for union because union is only possible through the practice of self-emptying love.

Blessed Moreau desired that the educational institutions founded and sponsored by the Congregation be catalysts for the transformation of the world; an ideal mirrored in Stonehill Mission Statement:

Stonehill College educates the whole person so that each Stonehill graduate thinks, acts, and leads with courage toward the creation of a more just and compassionate world.

Scholarship and Faith

Moreau envisioned communities of scholarship and faith where students would never be deprived of all that was essential to a quality education. Moreau welcomed the vibrant and dynamic exchange of ideas. When some in the Church wanted to retreat into a fideism in response to the challenge of the Enlightenment, Moreau demanded rigorous intellectual engagement.

Yet, he insisted that such rigorous engagement be conducted along the path of virtue that was made known in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; the path of self-emptying love.

Holy Cross Honors Prof. Tyrrell

It is extremely fitting that on this day in which the Church honors and holds forth Blessed Basil Moreau as a model and intercessor that the Congregation of Holy Cross honors Dr. Maura Tyrrell with the "Spirit of Holy Cross Award."
Maura embodies the spirit of self-emptying love that is at the heart of Moreau's vision and that speaks to our desire that Stonehill bean educational institution that serves as a lever for the transformation of society.

Service to Others

As a professor, researcher, mentor, and committee member Maura has lived the gift of self-emptying love that was modeled for Blessed Moreau in the life of the Holy Family, the Trinity and the Body of Christ. As she has exercised her various roles and responsibilities she has given herself completely in dedicated service to others. As she exercised her various roles and responsibilities she has always deeply respected the unique roles and responsibilities of others; she has treated others with the dignity and respect that is theirs as her sisters and brothers in Christ and as fellow children of God; and she has come to the aid of both students and colleagues in need with the compassion that marks the heart of Christ.

Passionate Love For Science

Maura has done and does all of this as a woman of scholarship and faith. Her love for the unity of the Stonehill College community and for its mission brings her faithfully to the classroom and the chapel. She models a life of faith that engages the rigors and challenges of academic life within the context of the pursuit of a virtuous life. Her research, scholarship and mentoring are truly acts of love for her students for she gives completely of herself, keeping the needs of others at the forefront, as she shares the fruits of her passionate love for science .

Justice and Compassion

Blessed Moreau taught that the art of education, the formation of persons, was a very demanding work for it requires that the educator give completely of him or herself. He also taught that the Lord provides the gifts that we need to serve God faithfully.

And so every time the Church celebrates the Eucharist we are invited by the Lord to participate and share in the power and dynamism of his self-emptying love; a sharing that brings about the communion of life and love that is a mighty lever for the transformation of society.

Through our participation in this Eucharist today, may we become ever more faithful to our common mission of helping the world to become a more just and compassionate place.

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