About eight years ago, Michele and I had the opportunity to travel with ND's Board of Trustees, upon an itinerary that included parts of France and Germany. On that trip, we had the great privilege of visiting LeMans for the first time, and descending into the crypt of the parish church.
We did so, because in that quiet, darkened, humble place was to be found the resting place of the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the Rev. Basile Moreau.
If there's one thing we've learned over these past weeks, it's the fact that windows tell stories... Everywhere from Chartres to Rome, Scripture has been unfolded in beautiful, radiant splendor. We have learned to keep our eyes open when it comes to the windows of a church.
The parish church that witnessed the beginnings of the Congregation of Holy Cross is Eglise Notre Dame de Saint Croix. Upon entering, you can see, on each side of the sanctuary, two brilliant stained glass representations. The one to the left of the sanctuary has a resplendent golden dome, surrounded by students and teachers, watched over by Mary, the Mother of God. It tells a story, and it is a representation of the place where I work.
The second one, to the right of the sanctuary, shows an immense Basilica, embracing the image of a family, and watched over by Saint Joseph. This is a depiction of the famous Oratory in Montreal, and it, too, tells a story: the story of a Holy Cross brother, a simple man of prayer, who went on to be the community's first canonized saint.
The fact is, neither of these places would exist were it not for the man buried in this church in LeMans, Basile Anthony Moreau.
Sunday was our last full day in France, and by design, Michele and I ended our time in this wonderful country by going back to the beginning: back to the founder of Holy Cross. And we did so by simply stopping in for a Sunday morning mass. No state visit, no special call ahead of time. We just wanted to be in the congregation with these folk, and experience a weekend liturgy at the birthing place of the order.
There was a trumpet player and an organ, and a marvelous leader of song. We sang Gelineau's famous setting of Psalm 23 – My Shepherd is the Lord – in its intended language. Always finding curious moments of cross-pollination, we joined in the French acclamation for the Mystery of Faith – an adapted text sung to the hymn tune "Amazing Grace."
It was parochial liturgy at its ordinary French best, filled with women and men from the wide diversity LeMan's population. And it was a marvelous reflection of the founder of the religious community with whom I've worked for more than half my life.
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