“Are you spending Thanksgiving with family?” This question is often asked by those we minister with and to, and I can always confidently answer “yes” as I’ve celebrated this holiday with my brothers in Holy Cross every year since 2007. Joining Holy Cross doesn’t mean we’re no longer part of our families of origin; rather, it means our family expands.
This idea of Holy Cross as family was central to our founder, Bl. Basile Moreau. In a sermon on “Community Spirit,” he encourages his religious to form “a family knit by the closest bonds.” This can only be achieved by grace, but we cooperate with God in forming that kind of family by engaging in concrete practices of loyalty, humility, and recreation, which Moreau, in that same sermon, states can be “a great aid or a great hindrance to community spirit.” Community is certainly formed by praying and working together, but it is also formed by simply enjoying one another’s company and engaging in the kind of leisure that befits a family.
In two passages that are rich in scriptural allusions, our Constitutions link this both to our personal growth in holiness and our evangelical witness: “If we do not love the brothers whom we see, then we cannot love the God whom we have not seen” (4:34); “It is essential to the world that we strive to abide so attentively together that people will observe: ‘See how they love one another.’ We will then be a sign in an alienated world: men who have, for love of their Lord, become closest neighbors, trustworthy friends, brothers” (4:42). The singular number of “a sign” in that second quotation is significant: while there may be things we are each individually “signs” of, it is our union that is the greatest sign we have to offer the world, a union that must be properly familial.
Our celebration of Thanksgiving at Stonehill was rich this year. Like in other families where the “kids” come home from school to celebrate holidays, two of our young priests came to join us who are working on doctoral degrees and have to live outside of community for a while to do this. Just as other families often travel to be with relatives in larger gatherings this time of year, we also had some religious from smaller local communities come and join us. Two religious invited some of their relatives (one mother, one sister, one brother) to join us, uniting both kinds of family they are part of. Much of our celebration included everyone: Mass (the greatest of all thanksgivings!), dinner, and parlor games. Some of us then took advantage of breaks from apostolic work to gather in smaller groups for a time of intentional faith-sharing, grouped by who had gone through initial formation together. By hearing both how the Spirit had been working in each other’s lives over the past year and the particular forms of cross-bearing each had engaged in, we were able to marvel at God’s action and support one another more closely.
Published on November 27, 2023