A happy feast day to one and all, as all of us in the Holy Cross family celebrate the feast day of our founder, Blessed Basil Moreau. As celebrations occur worldwide, we dive into the festivities on our blog with a reflection on Blessed Moreau as a man of prayer, written by Rev. Kevin Grove, C.S.C. At the end of the reflection is a prayer for the canonization of Moreau. May the example and intercession of Blessed Moreau make all of us, like him, men and women of deep prayer, men and women who are God’s saints.
The young Basil Moreau grew up and realized his calling to the priesthood in a markedly middle-class family in France. His father worked as a wine broker, and young Basil helped his father to watch over the family’s few cattle. At an early age, his parish priest recognized the flickering of Basil’s vocational calling. He took it upon himself to teach him the basics of Latin in preparation for seminary studies. Without presentation or pretention, the young Basil studied on a stool in the pasture while watching his family’s cattle.
When the time came, his father walked him down the road to enter the seminary. Fr. Basil Moreau was ordained a priest on August 12, 1821, at the age of 22, and was approaching fifty-two years a priest at the time of his death.
Although he was a dynamic preacher, teacher, and wise leader, Fr. Moreau as a priest, was prayerful and recollected. First and foremost, he modeled unwavering dedication to the discipline of the spiritual life, even when there were many demands on his limited time. He had the same spiritual director whom he found when he was a young priest studying in Paris for twenty-five years. From this director, he sought advice for his personal spiritual life, never neglecting his own relationship with the Lord in light of all of the work that needed to be done around him.
Dedication to prayer was what he modeled in his life and taught to those who followed him. He was very frank in telling his religious that the fervor with which they prayed, especially how they prayed as a community, determined how well they might do their work. Attention and a spirit of faith were what he preached; dedication and spiritual discipline were important. Fr. Moreau knew and understood that busy and apostolic religious who worked hard could be tempted to sacrifice time in prayer. And so he says that a minister who does not pray is like a canal without water or a tree that is withered. And tiredness or weariness should not take them away from prayer but be all the more reason to give themselves over to the Lord. And so, his spiritual advice is eminently practical:
“Never omit your daily meditation. Study the methods well, and persevere, no matter how weary you may become. If meditation proper proves too difficult …confine yourself to a few simple acts, for example: adoration of Jesus Christ, to studying and trying to practice some special virtue in imitation of him, to offering him your admiration and joy and love because of his goodness.”
Fr. Moreau gave his religious broad flexibility in their spiritual lives provided they were earnest and sincere in following and imitating the life of Jesus Christ. For his spiritual life, Fr. Moreau meditated and commented on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, adapting them for Holy Cross novices and religious. He dedicatedly prayed the Stations of the Cross, ever trying to enter more deeply and profoundly into the mystery of hope that comes through the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ.
Lastly, Fr. Moreau’s priesthood was characterized by the Eucharist and his growing relationship with Jesus through it. As a priest in Holy Cross, he understood himself to be called “to the remarkable and formidable honor of making [Jesus] present every day on the altar, of receiving him every day in [his] heart by Holy Communion.” He challenged himself and his priests “to plunge” their hearts into the divine fire of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, seeking what only Christ could bring forth: hearts strong, sturdy, after the apostles’ own, and overflowing with an immense love for God and neighbor.
Fr. Moreau explained that he was a priest “to speak to people about God’s love.” Fr. Moreau’s words of love were ever undergirded by a life dedicated to prayer.
Prayer for the canonization of Blessed Basil Moreau.
Lord Jesus, source of all that is good, you inspired Blessed Basil Moreau to found the religious family of Holy Cross to continue your mission among the People of God. May he be for us a model of the apostolic life, an example of fidelity, and an inspiration as we strive to follow you. May the Church proclaim his saintliness for the good of all people.
Lord Jesus, you said, “Ask and you shall receive.” I dare to come to you to ask that you hear my prayer. It is through the intercession of Blessed Basil Moreau that I ask…
May I learn to imitate his holiness and service and look to him confidently in times of need.