150th Anniversary of the Entry into Heaven of Basile Moreau
Homily by Grégoire CADOR at Our Lady of Holy Cross, Le Mans, France
JANUARY 22, 2022
Texts of the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Is 8, 23b – 9, 3 ; Ps 26 (27), 1, 4abcd, 13-14 ; 1 Co 1, 10-13.17 ; Mt 4, 12-23
Texts of Blessed Basile Moreau’s Feast :
Is 8, 23b – 9, 3 ; Ps 26 (27), 1, 4abcd, 13-14 ; Ep 4, 1-7 ; 11-13 ; Mt 16, 24-27
150 years ago, just as Thérèse of Lisieux and Charles Péguy were born, Father Basile Moreau took his leave…
“A talented educator and pioneer of free education in the Sarthe region,” as Bishop Faivre recalled at the time of his beatification in Le Mans in 2007.
Basile contributes to the influence of the diocese of Le Mans or rather to the influence of the Cross “source of all hope”, from the diocese of Le Mans and the numerous works that the charism of Holy Cross has given rise to throughout the world: Algeria, United States, Canada, Italy, Poland, Bengal, Chile, Brazil, Haiti, Ghana, Uganda, Peru, Kenya, Mexico, Tanzania, Philippines. The Congregation of Holy Cross is today present in 16 countries on 5 continents. I greet here the leaders and representatives of the Holy Cross Family: Fathers, Brothers, Marianite Sisters of Holy Cross, who have come to celebrate with us the opening of the 150 year jubilee…
It is good in these times when some people think that we are in the twilight of Christianity and when some Christians even seem to be discouraged (it is true that a certain amount of behavior in our ranks can lend itself to discouragement!), it is good to remember that the great and beautiful family of Holy Cross rose from the ruins of the French Revolution and its sacrilegious assaults….
As the first reading reminds us, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone”.
Nothing is ever lost for a Christian when he returns to the source: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?
“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46) exclaims Nathanael doubtfully, before Jesus who speaks to him of Nazareth… And from Laigné-en-Belin then, what good can come out of it?
With Philip, I am tempted to answer: “Come and see!”
I say this seriously and I take the liberty of emphatically inviting all those who can to live a time of pilgrimage in the footsteps of Basile in this Jubilee Year.
Not only to make the beautiful Jubilee journey proposed here in the Church of Our Lady of Holy Cross, cradle of the family of Holy Cross, but to the baptismal font of Laigné-en-Belin… Because that’s where it all began! It is there that Basile became a member of the body of Christ through baptism. The rest is only the intelligent and courageous unfolding of this gift received from above.
Is not holiness indeed the intelligent and courageous unfolding of our baptism? You will think about it…
I cannot see the only fruit of chance in the fact that the Belinois, which saw Basile born in 1799 and which has been integrated since the month of June, by decision of Mgr Le Saux, our former bishop, in the missionary sector of the Centre Sud, is now entrusted to a team of Holy Cross priests from Haiti… What a beautiful return of history! Thank you Basile for having believed and for having held on to the commitments of your baptism to the end.
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”. You took this cross with your hands, Basil, and you allowed it to shine on the world…
We know that the name “Holy Cross”, in the beginning, was simply the name of the neighborhood where Providence had given you an appointment. Where we are today. I am not a historian, but I would like to know how, little by little, this rooting matured in your heart to the point of giving your religious family the motto that we know? “O crux ave, spes unica!” “Hail, the cross, our only hope!”
“Conformed to the image of the divine crucified” (cf. Circular Letter 34), faithful to your Lord to the end and even in the midst of trial and abandonment by your brothers own (fortunately your sisters had not forgotten you!), the dying grain bore fruit in its time!
What is unjustly called “your work” was not yours, but God’s. “I can attribute neither the initiative nor the merit to myself. And this is the unmistakable sign that God alone is its author”, you wrote (cf. Circular Letter 94). This is what allowed you to abandon it to Providence without too much regret. And this is undoubtedly why today it shines throughout the whole world.
“There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all”, Saint Paul reminds us in the second reading. It was believing this, Basile, that gave you, at the whim of Providence and with those whom you had been able to mobilize or who had been entrusted to you by your bishop to relieve Fr. Dujarié, the courage to venture into the accompaniment and formation of priests, preaching in the parishes of our beloved diocese, educating youth, caring for the poor and the sick. Your brothers and sisters, you wanted to gather them in a daring way for the time into one religious family “a sensitive imitation, you said, of the Holy Family” (cf. Circular Letter 14) so that they might become “a powerful lever with which to move, direct and sanctify the whole world.” (cf. Circular Letter 14)
Committed on all fronts, you were. Without ever getting lost in politics. Perhaps this is part of the message you leave to our time, when some seem tempted by the crusade.
“One of the benefits of the July revolution is to have proclaimed freedom of worship and primary education, you wrote in 1845. I now profess to have no political opinion. I see only brothers in the different parties that are agitated. I am neither republican, nor liberal, nor legitimist: I am a priest, and nothing more.” And you add: “My brothers cannot think differently from me in this respect without thereby ceasing to be part of my congregation. Our motto is: Union, charity, obedience to the civil authorities and to the laws, and our flag: the naked cross.” (Inauguration of a school run by the brothers)
We know however that the environment in which you grew up made you rather a legitimist… You write moreover in a circular letter: “I feel the need to warn you against this false and seductive opinion of the sovereignty of the people, which pushes to the revolt against any authority which one did not create oneself or at least recognized and adopted, because it is there what troubles the spirits and agitates unceasingly our fatherland since 60 years….” (Circular letter of 08/12/1851)
I can already hear the wrong exploitation that some could make of this kind of remarks taken out of their context!
Your concern is “as much as it is in my power, to contribute to the good education of the youth and thus to the happiness of the homeland.” (Ref. unknown)
For this you invite every teacher to fulfill “the duties of his state with as much eagerness and affection as courage and perseverance, because at the sight of children plunged into vice and ignorance, [the teacher] feels what the Apostle felt for the Galatians whom he had evangelized, when he wrote to them: My children, for whom I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you!’.” (Christian Education) “For Basile Moreau, Christian education is a work of resurrection and an option for the future”, writes Father Jean Proust.
You are present on all fronts with the poor and the most disadvantaged, encouraging the students of Holy Cross to visit poor families within the framework of the conference of St. Vincent de Paul that Frederic Ozanam had just created with some friends at St. Etienne du Mont in Paris.
You send the Brothers and Sisters who have the competence to serve the sick…
You have a concern: The mission, “the ardent desire to make God known, loved and served, and thus to save souls.” (Christian Education) It is to proclaim the gospel of the Cross by preaching and by the works. “The purpose of the Congregation is preaching the word of God in the countryside and in foreign missions […] and the instruction and Christian education of the young, with special concern for poor and abandoned children.” (1st Constitutions)
Your obsession: the dechristianized countryside… This is what gave you the audacity, in 1835, to found with two or three companions the auxiliary priests who would later join the Brothers of Saint Joseph founded by Father Dujarié. This is also what made you, in the evening of your life, after having been rejected and disowned by your own brothers, put yourself at the service of the priests of the diocese to preach an impressive number of retreats throughout the region. It was during one of these retreats, preached I believe at Yvré-l’Evêque, not far from here, that you caught the illness that took you away a few days later in Le Mans, on January 20, 1873.
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” we heard in the Gospel just now.
Thank you, Basile, for leading us without fail on the path of Life! With you and with the psalmist, we say again: “I believe I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!”
“Hail, the cross, our only hope!”