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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 XIII. Our Confraternities and Associates.

ONE invariable method of the Holy Spirit in His development of the Religious Life has been to call souls living in the world into intimate spiritual relationship with Religious Communities. The gifts and blessings that God gives to Religious are not intended for them alone. They must be shared with others.

It is one of our principal grounds for gratitude to the good God that He has made the Order of the Holy Cross no exception in this respect. From the very beginning of its life and work He has called both men and women, living busy lives in the world, to associate themselves with us, and to have part in the work of prayer He has appointed for us to do.


This society was formed in 1895, and consists of clergy and seminarists who, while not called to join the Community, desire to live the celibate life and to pledge themselves to a strict Rule which can be kept in the midst of parish duties, and which fosters and develops the sacerdotal spirit.

An annual Retreat is given at Holy Cross for its members. The Oblates wear a simple wooden cross, [90/91] and spend a week every year at one of the houses of the Order.


These consist of clergy who may not be called to pledge themselves to the celibate life, but who desire in association with the Order to live under Rule while pursuing the ordinary duties of their office in parish or institutional work. Like the Oblates of Mount Calvary, they are accorded the freedom of our monasteries, and one of our most valued privileges is to welcome them from time to time as they come for a few days' Retreat or rest.


Many Seminarists are not ready to choose between the two ideals represented, respectively, by the Oblates of Mount Calvary and the Priests Associate. In 1945 we organized a group with a Rule especially adapted to the needs of men preparing for Holy Orders; with the expectation that, on graduating from the Seminary, they will, on ordination, join one of the two older bodies.


This confraternity was begun as a local work in New York City in 1887. It was at first intended for the purpose of gathering together a few souls who found themselves hard beset by the temptations of the East Side tenement-house life, and desired the help that an organization of this kind affords for the [91/92] performance of the simple duties to which every Christian is bound.

The spiritual advantages of such a society were speedily evident, and it began to increase until it is now extended into almost every country of the world where the Anglican Church has found footing. Its membership is about 1,200.


This association, founded in 1898, grew out of a desire on the part of some to live a stricter rule of life, involving special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. The members are pledged to frequent Communions and to particular devotion to our Lord present in the Holy Sacrament. Prominent among the exercises is the Holy Hour, which is kept by all on one day of each month before the Tabernacle.

A word regarding the principle on which devout souls share their good works and blessings with each other will help to give an understanding of the mutual advantage of such associations as these.

The principle itself is based primarily on the power of prayer. My friend may have a difficult duty to perform for God. He asks my prayers, which I gladly and thankfully give. These prayers help on the work he is undertaking, and I therefore, through the help I give, become partner in what he accomplishes for God.

So it is with a Religious Community and its [92/93] associates. The latter bind themselves to pray continually for the Order and its work. A member of the Order may be sent on a difficult mission. He does not depend on his own efforts alone, but goes forth with the comforting knowledge that many souls are praying for him that he might be able to fulfill his task to God's glory.

Let us suppose that the task is done; that it has been greatly blessed; that many souls have been drawn to the feet of Christ in penitence and loving faith. It is not alone the preacher who has done all this, but every one who prayed for his work has shared in that work.

God may give some soul a thousand miles away the chief credit for this work, because, although knowing nothing of this particular task, or even that it was being attempted, he prayed earnestly that whatever work the Order undertook might be blessed.

This is what is meant when it is said that our Associates by their prayers lay hold of a share in all the good works of the Order.

A beautiful story which comes down the centuries illustrates this principle. A great preacher went forth on a mission, in the course of which many souls were brought to Christ. On returning to his monastery he humbly thanked God that his words had been given such power. Then in a vision of the night it was revealed to him that not his preaching but the prayers of a holy lay brother who sat all the while on the pulpit steps, had brought these souls to God.


We have left to the end of this chapter a small but devoted group who, while not members of the Order of the Holy Cross, are more intimately connected with its life and work than even its Associates. We refer to the Companions of the Order of the Holy Cross.

Occasionally, a man appears who wants to dedicate himself utterly to God but who, for one or another reason, is not for the time at least eligible for full membership in the Community. The Superior may receive such a man as a Companion.

The Companions are under obedience to the authorities of the Order, share in its devotions and labours, have seats in choir and take a Vow of Celibacy which is renewable from year to year. At the end of ten years they may be allowed to take a permanent Vow of Celibacy, in which case their connection with the Order is confirmed for life.

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