Deacon Brian Ching, C.S.C., preached the following homily at the community’s annual All Souls Day celebration earlier this week.
“Do you remember when …” It’s one of my favorite phrases in Holy Cross because it means that someone is about to share part of the family story. For example, there’s one I remember vividly from my early years in formation: “Do you remember when we were burying Br. Borromeo and Br. Beatus, his longtime friend and co-worker at the fire station, was the last one standing at the graveside after the committal? He said, ‘Told you that I’d be the last one to let you down.'”
It’s one of thousands of such stories that we share regularly in Holy Cross. How I relish sitting at a table at any of our community houses where so many of our conversations begin with “when I was at the novitiate” or “when I was in formation” or “do you remember when this or that happened.” For me, one of the best parts about being a Holy Cross religious is that I have never actually met people like Doc Kenna, or Louis Putz, or for that matter Br. Beatus, but after listening to our story, they almost feel like old friends.
There is no question that our community is full of some brilliant story tellers. At times it is easy to dismiss these stories as simple reminiscence, but I think there is often something much deeper at play. In the sharing of our stories, we begin to tell the narrative of Holy Cross, and we are reminded of the many great men and women in whose footsteps we walk as Holy Cross religious.
The story of Holy Cross tells us so much about who we are and what God is calling us to be … about our charism, our life, and our ministry. We are men and women – with a wide variety of personalities, gift, talents, and, for that matter, eccentricities – who have, for love of the Lord, come together to serve Christ and His Church. The stories we share connect us to a Holy Cross that is much bigger than ourselves and shapes the way we look at our life and our ministry. Our experiences and our ministry are but a small sliver of the great story of Holy Cross.
The lives of our predecessors in Holy Cross serve as a profound witness to our readings today – that there is so much to be gained in our life and ministry as religious. It would be easy for some to walk by the community cemetery and think “what a field of fools” who spent their whole lives giving and received nothing but this in return, a field of bodies. However we see things vastly differently; we see a band of men whom now live in great peace because they desired to live for others each and every day. They were men who lived and died for the Lord, sustained by the Body and Blood of Christ, the true food and true drink that they celebrated each day.
The night before our final profession, as has become a tradition of sorts, Mark, Jarrod, and I went to the community cemetery. We went because we desired to stand in the midst of the narrative that is Holy Cross, to be strengthened by their prayer and inspired by their witness. Their stories have written the book of Holy Cross so far, and we can only pray that we might be able to continue writing that narrative because for us the grave is not a sign of despair and sorrow, but a sign of hope, hope that death is not the end but just the beginning of life eternal.
Nourished by the bread of life, we join our brothers in their place of rest to offer them our prayers, but in return we are offered the hope of a world beyond ours. This is the hope that comes from the Cross; this is the hope we are called to share; this is the hope that will continue to write the great narrative that is the Congregation of Holy Cross.
“The Footsteps of those men who called us to walk in their company left deep prints, as of men carrying heavy burdens. But they did not trudge, the strode. For they had the hope.”(Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross, 8:122)
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord … and let perpetual light shine upon them.
Deacon Brian Ching, C.S.C., professed Final Vows with his two classmates this past August 25, 2012. The following day they were ordained deacons. Deacon Brian is currently serving at St. Joseph Parish in South Bend, Ind. He has written for the Spes Unica Blog in the past, including his reflection on parish ministry in Holy Cross during his pastoral year at St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear, Ariz. Learn more about the community that we share as brothers in Holy Cross.