Crosier Fathers and Brothers
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The Conventual Priory of the Holy Cross is the U.S. headquarters of the Crosier Fathers and Brothers. Ours is the only religious community with national headquarters in the Diocese of Phoenix. We also have a significant presence in Onamia, Minnesota, where the Crosier filial priory serves as an active and dynamic hub of spiritual life in the poorest county in the state. The international headquarters is in Rome, and Crosiers serve in the Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia.
Patron Saints/Famous Saints of the Community
St. Odilia, Principal Patroness of the Order (July 18)
Early documents of the Order identify St. Odilia as a companion of St. Ursula, part of a group who were supposedly martyred for their Christianity by Huns near Cologne. In 1286, John of Eppa, a Crosier in the Paris community, received a vision to exhume the relics of three of Ursula's companions: Christina, Basilia, and Yma. He went to Cologne, found the relics, and transferred them to various churches. The next year, he received a vision from Yda and Odilia, also companions of Ursula.
According to some accounts, Odilia introduced herself as the daughter of Emperor Maromeus and companion of Ursula, and insisted that John travel to Cologne and unearth her remains and those of her sister Yda. When told of this apparition, the Prior at first refused permission for the trip, but in 1287, Brother John left for Cologne. On September 1, the Crosier brother and his priest companion found the grave under a pear tree and unearthed the relics. The Archbishop of Cologne was present when the relics were removed. A few days later, the relics were on their way to the mother house of the Brethren of the Holy Cross at Huy. Along the journey, numerous miracles were reported as people came in contact with the relics. The relics were received in Huy amid great rejoicing. The relics were then placed in a wooden reliquary in the Crosier monastery at Huy. This feast day commemorates the arrival of St. Odilia’s relics to Huy.
St. Helena (Aug. 18)
A central figure in Crosier history, St. Helena was the mother of Emperor Constantine. According to legend, she found the true cross and built the churches on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and a church in Bethlehem. She died around 330. The stories of the founding of the Crosiers, which are variations of the legends of the finding of the true cross, give Helena an important role not just in finding the cross, but in establishing the Order itself. Helena is seen as a founder of the Order that had perished under persecution and was refounded at the time of Innocent III. As a result, she was the principal patroness of the Order into the sixteenth century.
Blessed Theodore De Celles, Founder (Aug. 18)
Theodore of Celles (in present-day Belgium) is venerated as the primary founder of our Order. Theodore is first mentioned in the 17th-century work of Henricus Russelius, Chronicon Cruciferorum sine Synopsis Memorabilium Sacri et Canonici Ordinis Sanctae Crucis. According to Russelius, Theodore, while participating in the Third Crusade, visited Jerusalem where he became acquainted with the Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulcher. He was attracted to their way of life, both their common prayer and their ministry. The Bishop of Liege, whom Theodore accompanied on the Crusade, appointed him a canon of the cathedral of Liege when they returned home.
Theodore soon became interested in the community life of the canons of the cathedral. After he made a journey to southern France to preach against the Albigensians, he returned to Liege and renounced his position as a canon and took up residence near St. Theobald's chapel outside Huy in a place called Clarus Locus.
In 1214, Theodore and his companions applied for confirmation of their foundation to papal authorities. Later, Theodore traveled to Rome, and Pope Innocent III confirmed his request to begin a religious community on May 3, 1216 (feast of the Invention [finding] of the Holy Cross). The earliest Crosiers, under the leadership of Theodore, were known as the Brethren of the Holy Cross. Little else is known of the life of our holy founder. It is believed that Theodore of Celles, the first prior of Clairlieu in Huy, died in 1236.
St. Augustine (Aug. 28)
Augustine was born November 13, 354, in North Africa. His father, Patricius, was a pagan who later converted to Christianity, but his mother, Monica, was a devout Christian who labored untiringly for her son's conversion. Augustine was educated as a rhetorician. Between the ages of 15 and 30, he lived with a Carthaginian woman whose name is unknown; in 372 she bore him a son, whom he named Adeodatus, which is Latin for "the gift of God." About 383 Augustine left Carthage for Rome, and a year later he went on to Milan as a teacher of rhetoric. In the course of his intellectual struggle, Augustine became an earnest seeker after truth. In Milan he came under the influence of its bishop, Ambrose, then the most distinguished ecclesiastic in Italy. Augustine soon embraced Christianity and was baptized by Ambrose during Easter Vigil in 387. His mother, who had rejoined him in Italy, rejoiced at this answer to her prayers. He returned to North Africa and was ordained in 391. He became Bishop of Hippo in 395, an office he held until his death. As bishop, Augustine provided for the restoration and continuation among his clergy of the apostolic life, the life in common of the early Church as described in the Acts of the Apostles. The Rule of Augustine and the way of life which it symbolizes was later adopted by the early Brethren of the Holy Cross and other religious. Augustine died at Hippo on August 28, 430. He is venerated as the spiritual father of the Order.
For more than 800 years, the Crosier charism has centered on our commitment to live and work harmoniously in community, to celebrate the prayer of the Church, to serve the people of God and to welcome all with a spirit of hospitality. Each member gives himself to the life and unity of the community while respecting each man for the unique person he is.
Our religious way of life is that of Canons Regulars following the Rule of St. Augustine. Living together for God alone, we are vowed men who seek to combine contemplative routines with a shared apostolic life.
As a community founded in faith, the Crosiers recognize that prayer is an essential expression and source of our life and work together. Crosiers gather five times a day to pray together as a community: in the morning, at noon, and in the evening. We live out the special Crosier vocation to foster the liturgy of the Church—both the liturgy of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours.
Our lives are spent in service. Our mission is to touch suffering with hope. We serve Jesus by serving our fellow men and women through our various ministries, and through our most immediate apostolate—our community life—we are called to assist our confreres in charity and unity, by our prayers, and through all of our daily activities. Crosiers actively minister to the needs of the Church and society, working in education, chaplain service, pastoral ministry, spiritual direction, jail ministry, immigrant services, and elder care.
An essential element of our charism is expressed in our name, the Order of the Holy Cross. Our spirituality of the cross is rooted in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus (the Paschal Mystery). We recognize that there is much suffering and pain in the world, but we also believe the resurrection of Jesus guarantees that in our suffering and pain there is hope and healing. Because of this, we emphasize the glorious, or triumphant, cross.
What sets us apart from other religious orders is our ability to relate to people in a different way. By just being natural with people who enter our doors, they feel welcomed with a sense of peace and joy. After all, God gave us the gift to do so through our charism of hospitality!
Plus, we’ve been told we have the best-looking habit out of all of the religious orders!
The Order was founded in 1210 by Blessed Theodore de Celles and companions. The name Crosier is derived from the French word croisés—signed with the cross. In medieval England, Crosiers were known as the Crutched (crossed) Friars. The designation refers to the cross and the spirituality of the Order.
The primary feast day of the Crosiers, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, reflects a spirituality focused on the triumphant cross of Christ and our glorified Lord. A distinctive mark of the Crosiers is the red and white crusaders’ cross worn on the scapular of our religious habit.
The Order’s history can be divided into three periods.
The first period of Crosier history, during medieval times, was one of growth. Blessed Theodore and four companions came from Liège in Belgium and formed a community near the city of Huy called Clairlieu. They were influenced by the fraternal life movement in the Church at the time that led to the founding of the Franciscans, the Dominicans, and the Carmelites. Their vision was to live a life of prayer and pastoral service as brothers inspired by the spirituality of the Holy Cross. Adopting the Rule of St. Augustine, they established other communities, serving churches throughout Europe. At one time there were as many as 90 Crosier communities. Crosiers were involved in the running of inns for travelers and those on pilgrimage. While the motherhouse remained at Huy for much of the Order’s history, there was also a significant Crosier presence in France (Paris and Toulouse), in the Rhineland (Cologne), and in England (London), as well as in the Low Countries.
The second period of the Order’s history was ushered in by a reform initiated at the General Chapter of 1410. This reform, influenced by a spiritual movement called the devotio moderna, was spearheaded by the priory of St. Agatha in the Netherlands and was typified by a very personal devotional spirituality. While the house at Huy remained the motherhouse, St. Agatha became the spiritual center of a reformed and revitalized Order. During the Protestant Reformation, many Crosier priories and churches were suppressed, and under Henry VIII all the houses in England were confiscated. By the end of the 18th century, the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic reforms further reduced the number of Crosiers, and by the early 1800s, only two priories remained—St. Agatha and another in Uden, also in the Netherlands. By 1840, because secular authorities had forbidden men to join, only four elderly Crosiers remained.
The modern era began in 1840 when the law forbidding the reception of new members was repealed and surprising numbers joined the Order, some of them diocesan priests who believed all along they had a call to religious life. Henricus van den Wijmelenberg was one of them. Before long, this new Crosier was appointed superior, and then, in 1841, he was named Commissary General of the revitalized Order. Houses were reestablished in Belgium and the Netherlands and beyond.
In 1850 Fr. Van den Wijmelenberg sent priests and brothers to Wisconsin to work among the Dutch and Belgian immigrants who had settled in the Green Bay area. Along the Fox River, Fr. Edward Daems, osc, tried to establish a priory, but plans were abandoned when the Civil War began. A second attempt to establish an American presence by the Crosiers came in 1910. In 1922, a priory and school were established in Onamia, Minn., 90 miles north of Minneapolis. At the same time, men were sent into other parts of the world as well, beginning missions in the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1920; sending Crosiers to the island of Java in Indonesia in 1926; and, in 1934, establishing a presence in Brazil. Since 1958, Crosiers have worked in the Diocese of Agats-Asmat in the West Papua region of Indonesia.
Today, the worldwide Order of the Holy Cross has communities in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Congo, Germany, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and the United States. There are about 400 Crosiers throughout the world. The residence (Generalate) of the Master General is in Rome, at the Church of San Giorgio in Velabro, a seventh-century basilica the Order has cared for since 1939.
Our prayer life (horarium) is the following:
Morning Prayer (Lauds) at 7:30 am
Mass at 8:00 am
Mid-day Prayer at 12 noon
Evening Prayer (Vespers) at 5 pm
Night Prayer (Compline) at 9 pm
On Sundays, we have an additional Bi-lingual (English and Spanish) Mass at 10:30 am
We draw our inspiration from our Crosier heritage and celebrate it liturgically on a number of days throughout the year. Our titular feast is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14. Our most ancient identity is as Brethren of the Holy Cross and as we live the rule of St. Augustine we honor him as patriarch of the Order. When we celebrate these feasts, we are united with our Crosier ancestors and with our confreres around the world.
Anniversary of the Dedication of the Church (May3)
Since the early days of the Church, May 3 was celebrated as the Invention (finding) of the Holy Cross. This is significant to Crosiers because of our tradition that on this day in 1216 Pope Innocent III confirmed the Brethren of the Holy Cross. With the long history of the feast on this day and the significance of the Cross for the Crosiers, the Order devotes this day to the dedication of churches, evoking the early tradition of the Crosiers to dedicate most churches and priories of the Order to the Holy Cross. In other churches or priories, we make a commemoration of the Holy Cross on this day.
Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14)
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is the titular feast of the Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross. Most early documents of the Order indicate that the first Crosiers were inspired by the legends of the Holy Cross, popular throughout Europe in those times because of the Crusades to the Holy Land. Russelius indicated that Theodore of Celles, whom he identifies as the founder of the Brethren of the Holy Cross, actually made a crusade and visited the sacred shrines in Jerusalem.
Tradition says that Helena discovered the true cross of Christ on September 14, 320. Fifteen years later, the two churches built by Constantine, the Martyrium and the Anastasis, were dedicated in Jerusalem. The following day, on September 14, the true cross was raised and solemnly exposed for veneration by the assembly. Those churches which had major relics of the cross would on this feast imitate the ritual of Jerusalem and raise up the Cross for the veneration of the people. Thus the feast, though also the anniversary of the finding of the cross, receives the name exaltation (meaning lifting up). The liturgical manuscripts of the Order indicate that this feast has been celebrated with great solemnity and joy since our beginnings.
All Holy Canons Regular of St. Augustine (Nov. 5)
While many religious orders or congregations have numerous canonized saints, the Crosiers do not. However, there is a sense of a shared history and tradition among those religious who, like the Crosiers, are canons regular. In the eighteenth century, the Order adopted an officium canonicum celebrating saints connected with the canonical life. This list included numerous saints who lived as canons regular.
This list of more than a hundred saints disrupted the liturgical calendar and the temporal cycle (the celebration of the mysteries of the Lord). In later reforms, it was dropped. But in order to accommodate the commemoration of numerous saints connected with a religious institute and not unduly disrupt the temporal cycle of the Church year, the norms of the current Roman liturgical calendar encourage a collective celebration. "A collective celebration may be added to the calendar of a diocese or religious institute for all the saints or the blessed belonging to them..." [#14b, General Instruction of the Roman Calendar]. On the first free day after the feast of All Saints (November 5), the Crosiers celebrate the feast of All Holy Canons Regular of St. Augustine. The propers for this collective feast indicate its purpose: "The Order of the brethren of the Holy Cross does not have any canonized saints among its deceased members, although in the course of time many of our brothers have excelled in true and profound holiness. All of these, together with our confreres from the whole order of canons are celebrated in one feast."