Project Canterbury

An American Cloister

The Life and Work of the Order of the Holy Cross

By Shirley Carter Hughson, O.H.C.

West Park, New York: Holy Cross Press, 1948.

Chapter XII. Our Rule and Work.

THERE are many forms of monastic Rule, but however widely they differ in their details, the same principles underlie them all. Different communities living different forms of the Religious Life require that the principles of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience be adapted to their particular circumstances and conditions.

The Order of the Holy Cross has not modeled its Rule upon any ancient form, but has exemplified the principles of monasticism in a Rule that is preeminently suited to the demands of our own times. Many communities are founded for special work. One perhaps for nursing the sick; another for teaching the young; a third for preaching. The Order of the Holy Cross places before it no one such end. The Rule is designed to train every man for what he can do best, and the Community offers itself to the Church to serve her, not in any special capacity, but in any field where its labours may forward her great work for God's glory.

Our Rule declares: "We place ourselves unreservedly in God's Hands, but we cannot tell for what He will use us." And again: "Our position as a Religious Order sets us free for prompt movements, and opens to us world-wide possibilities. . . . We must constantly be preparing ourselves for any summons [85/86] that may come, ready to meet whatever opportunities God may provide."

So our principle is not to seek this work or that, but to stand alert, ready to answer whatever summons may come, as did the prophet of old, saying: "Here am I; send me."

A Community based on such a principle will inevitably find its activities developing from one form to another as the years go on. When our Order first began, God sent us into Darkest New York, and for twelve years we gave all we had to city work.

Then the call seemed to come to devote the greater part of our activity to preaching missions, conducting retreats, etc. This continued for many years, when, it pleased God, without any conscious movement in that direction on our part, to call us to the important work of teaching, and in 1905 St. Andrew's School, in Tennessee, was founded, and a year later Kent School, in Connecticut, which the Order conducted until 1943 when it was turned over to a board of trustees of its own alumni.

We say that these institutions were founded without conscious movement in that direction on our part. This has reference to a principle to which we have sought to be faithful ever since the Order was founded--that of not seeking work, but waiting on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Self-chosen work is too often the product of a subtle self-will, and self-will, even corporate self-will, is clean contrary to the principles of the Religious Life.

[87] At the present time the combination of missionary work, of preaching, and of schoolwork, seems to be God's will for us, and the Order is giving itself to it to the utmost of its ability.

One hope that from the beginning had been in our hearts was that God would some day count us worthy to assist in the great and glorious labour of taking the message of the Gospel to those who in heathen lands lie in darkness and in the shadow of death. This hope was fulfilled in 1922, and in a later chapter we shall speak of the work which we have been privileged to enter upon in Liberia.

Its preaching work the Order regards as one of its most important responsibilities, and although there are periods of many weeks when its members are not engaged on the Mission, the intensiveness of this service at other times can be understood when we note that the Community records show that in a single year one member alone preached four hundred and forty sermons, an average of more than one for every day of the year; and another member, on an itinerary extending from September until Christmas, averaged preaching twice every day.

Other works of no less important character, although from their nature not so evident to the public, occupy much time of the members of the Order.

In his great love for souls our Father Founder was moved by a deep interest in those unfortunates who suffer from having come in conflict with the law, and lie under its condemnation.

[88] One of our priests makes weekly visits to Sing Sing prison where an earnest group of men are being trained to take their place in society as Christian citizens when once more free.

In addition to these activities, much work has been done for many years past in ministering to various communities of Sisters in the American Church. This not only involves the spiritual assistance that is rendered to the members of these Communities, but also the spiritual oversight of the institutions under their care, including hospitals, schools, rescue homes, etc.

As a guest at Holy Cross passes along the corridor he may notice a card on the door of a small room on the second floor which announces that this is the guest-master's office. Here is another department of our work that we regard as of first importance. For years there has been hardly a day when several guests have not been with us. For many years past the annual number of visitors registered on the guest-book has run regularly into many hundreds. Some of these remain for a day, others for many weeks.

Almost without exception the ministry to these brethren has been a direct ministry to the Church herself. Many of them are priests who come to get rest and spiritual reinvigoration such as only the quiet and seclusion of a Religious house can offer.

But it is not only the clergy who look to Holy Cross for such advantages. The train this afternoon may bring a party of seminarists who come eager and hungry for all the spiritual guidance they can find; [88/89] or a little band of business men who in the midst of the hurly-burly of the world long for a quiet day of Retreat, where, free from distraction, they can look to their spiritual need.

Besides these opportunities there are several large Retreats each year. During the Retreat for Priests our household often numbers from sixty to seventy souls; and the Retreat for the Oblates of Mount Calvary, and for Candidates for Orders, especially those preparing for immediate ordination, as well as various pilgrimages by bodies of laymen or clerics, give us occasion for ministering to many souls.

Every year in September there is held a two-weeks' school for seminarists the members of which are carefully selected. These are given intensive instruction in the principles of the priestly life, and in the methods approved by the Church's experience through the centuries of training souls in the higher walks of the spiritual life.

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