By Fr. Joe Pedersen, C.S.C.
So much of the novitiate is oriented towards discernment. The men at the novitiate are discerning how God is inviting them to make a gift of their life in general and if that call is leading them to a life in Holy Cross in particular. But it is exactly this question of discernment that can be so difficult.
Many men who decide to enter formation with Holy Cross do so because they saw something in the Holy Cross priests and brothers they knew that resonated with them. The witness of community, zeal, or pastoral charity seemed to strike a chord. Men in formation often talk about how good and holy the priests and brothers they knew are. But there was also something uniquely “Holy Cross” about them.
Of course, Holy Cross is shaped by its own history and customs. But like any religious community, Holy Cross is the way that it is because our Constitutions are the way that they are. The Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross are the governing framework that makes Holy Cross who and what it is. Our Founder, Blessed Basil Moreau, considered the original Constitutions to be his greatest contribution to the community he founded. Our current Constitutions, which have grown and developed over our history, are still the most important guide to our religious life and common mission.
An essential aspect of the novitiate year is deliberate and prayerful study of the Holy Cross Constitutions. Just this week we started in on Constitution 1: God’s Call. “‘Come, Follow me,’ It was the Lord Jesus calling us.” This is how the Constitutions begin – with the call. “We heard a summons to give over our lives in a more explicit way.” Each member of the Congregation of Holy Cross heard this call in one way or another. Through prayer, ministry, or study we heard God asking us to make a gift of our whole lives. As the Constitutions say, “We asked how we might follow, and we found many footprints on the road. A great band of men had passed this way. . . . They beckoned us to fall in step with them.”
Studying the Constitutions gives the novices the chance to dive deeper into the call that drew them to enter formation. Just as that initial encounter with Holy Cross pointed toward pursuing this path, so too can this deeper encounter with the document that shapes Holy Cross at a fundamental level. As the novices study the constitution on prayer, brotherhood, mission, or vowed consecration, they continually ask, does this resonate? Does this fit with that deep desire and longing in my heart? What would it be like to live according to this way of life?
The Congregation of Holy Cross has been called to serve Christ and the Church in a particular way – shaped most fundamentally by our Constitutions. By carefully praying with the principles that animate who Holy Cross is, the novices can better discern their response to God who calls, saying “Come, follow me…”