One of the most central parts of being a religious of Holy Cross, or just a Catholic for that matter, is in some way reaching out to the poor and the afflicted. One of the most memorable homilies I ever heard was one line: "If you ignore the poor, you will probably go to hell."
What a difficult thing to hear, especially as a person who is wrapped up most of the time in academics! Are we supposed to drop everything – our jobs, our responsibilities, our academics, our prayer life, our community life, everything – so that we can minister to the poor?
The answer I found was, as usual, a paradox: yes and no. We do need to give of ourselves for others. We have to see the face of Christ in every person we see if we are to follow Him. The Gospel of Matthew makes it clear that the standard for judgment is service to others.
But who are the least of the brothers and sisters that Jesus talks about? Certainly this includes the poor and afflicted, like those served at André House in Phoenix by the Congregation of Holy Cross. But this is not a limitation. It is not only the person who is on the soup line who is doing service. It is the whole structure that allows for a soup line that does this great and holy work. Those who direct the program, those who financially support it, and those who spiritually care for it through prayer are all included.
This year, as a first year student in the Master of Divinity Program, I am working with the Center for Social Concerns. Although I do not work on a soup line or in emergency resources for the poor like others in my class, I still have the opportunity to do incredibly important work: recruiting students and supplying them with the means to do such work. The goal of the Center for Social Concerns is to get students from our campus to actively engage in this ministry, which is essential to the Christian Faith. By immersing students in service, academically and practically, we provide for a crucial need in our University: getting people involved. Ultimately, we hope to create a culture in our student body that is zealous to serve in any way.
Although not everyone may be called to run a soup line shift at André House or work in the outreach programs at the Downtown Chapel in Portland, everyone is called to service. That may be in the classroom or the parish office. All of us in Holy Cross have some part to play in carrying out this mission.
It is only appropriate that the first Saint of our Order is Saint André Bessette, the brother dedicated to serving those most in need. Our Constitutions call us to serve those most in need, wherever they may be, and wherever we are. I am so excited and blessed to be working with the Center for Social Concerns in spreading this Good News to the Notre Dame student body!
Mr. Matt Hovde, C.S.C. is in his first year of temporary vows as a seminarian at Moreau Seminary. He and other seminarians at Moreau post twice each month for the Spes Unica Blog, sharing on their life and formation at Moreau. Meet our other men in formation, and learn more about seminary life in Holy Cross, and specifically about the Postulant Program at Moreau Seminary, which constitutes the first year of religious and priestly formation in Holy Cross for college graduates.