“The tree of the Cross has been planted where our worthy religious dwell … But these religious have learned to savor its life-giving fruits, and if God in his goodness preserves them in the admirable dispositions which they have chosen thus far, they will never taste death, for the fruits of the cross are the same as those of the tree of life which was planted in the Garden of Paradise.” —Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C.
It is bold to claim that the Cross of Christ is our hope. It is even bolder to believe and live the Cross as our only hope. Yet we in the Congregation of Holy Cross profess this truth as the center of our spiritual tradition. Our motto is: Ave Crux, Spes Unica — Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope! And for 175 years, we have worked to bring the hope of the Cross to schools, universities, parishes and other ministries on five continents of the globe.
The Congregation offers the world not only our hope in crosses, but also our trust in Divine Providence, our familial spirit and unity, our eucharistic fellowship and worship, our belief that education is both of the mind and the heart and our apostolic zeal to make God known, loved and served. These are the hallmarks of the Holy Cross tradition.
In 1986, after the Second Vatican Council called upon religious orders to return to the spirit, aims and inspirations of their founders, the General Chapter of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the highest governing body of the community, approved a new version of the order’s Constitutions.
In writing the Constitutions, which provide a definition of daily life in Holy Cross from prayer to community life, the Congregation purposefully reflected on the life of Fr. Moreau and the Holy Cross tradition. Eloquent, even poetic at times, they are at once both a beautiful articulation of and a moving reflection on our religious life in Holy Cross. In fact, much of the language we use today to describe ourselves, our community and our mission comes from the Constitutions: “educators in the faith,” “a great band of men,” “men with hope to bring.” The final of the eight Constitutions is a meditation on the Cross of Christ entitled “The Cross, Our Hope.” Calling on the community to “learn how even the Cross can be borne as a gift,” this constitution makes Holy Cross one of if not the only religious congregations or orders whose rule includes a constitution on the Cross.
Above all, the Holy Cross tradition includes our confidence in the Cross as our only hope. We believe that the Cross is more than a dead piece of wood that we bear; it is a living thing, a new tree of life that is planted in our lives. As we allow this tree of the Cross to take root and to grow in our lives, it begins to bear fruit, giving us new, abundant life. We thus learn how the Cross can be borne as a gift precisely from letting the Cross be born in our lives. In this, we have no greater teacher and example, we believe, than Mary, who stood at the foot of her Son’s Cross. Her suffering and grief as a Lady of Sorrows teach us a great deal about the Cross and about hope. And in the end, it is this belief in the Cross as our only hope that provides order, meaning and life to the Holy Cross tradition.
Taken from the introduction of “The Cross, Our Only Hope,” edited by Andrew Gawrych, C.S.C. and Kevin Grove, C.S.C.
You may have seen the word SPES on the back or a car, stuck to a laptop or wrapped around a water bottle. Spes is the Latin word for Hope, and is part of the motto of the Congregation of Holy Cross as explained above.