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The Crosier Charism & Spiritual Direction

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

“To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” ~ 1 Cor 12:7 The Crosiers Fathers & Brothers perceive their charism as a collection of gifts they offer the church and world for the building up of both.

The Crosier Charism & Spiritual Direction

By Fr. Virgil Petermeier, osc

The Crosiers Fathers and Brothers perceive their charism as a collection of gifts they offer the church and world for the building up of both. Therefore, they understand that their gifts can build up and enrich all the various ministries they carry out for the church and world, including the ministry of spiritual companionship. (I prefer the term “companionship” over “direction.”)

What is the multi-gift charism of the Crosiers, their most common name worldwide, meaning “Crossbearer”. Their charism is a unique configuration coming out of a rich heritage of 810 years. Theodore de Celles and his companions founded the Order in 1210. Crosiers are a predominantly clerical group, living in community according to the Rule of St. Augustine. According to their heritage Crosiers served as ministers of the liturgy of the hours in churches, around which they carried out an active apostolic presence in accord with the local needs. Crosiers never specialized in a particular ministry, as many congregations did in the later ages. Crosiers operated colleges, parishes, and hospices for pilgrims. The latter ministry underscored hospitality as a major aspect of their apostolic presence. Due to the curing presence of the relics of St. Odilia, their patroness since 1287, healing became a significant Crosier ministry from that beginning and on into the present day.

In accord with the characteristics of other ancient orders, Crosiers highlighted the presence of God through their life of community, liturgy, and apostolic service. The communal life of the early Christians, as described in Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-35, has served as a key inspiration for Crosiers from the start.

As intimated in their name, the Holy Cross and paschal mystery became the central focus of Crosier spirituality. The predominant flavor of Crosiers’ cross spirituality has varied throughout its long history in accord with changing spiritual emphases and pieties of each era. The red and white Maltese-shaped cross characteristic for the Crosiers, always symbolized the blood and water flowing from the heart of Jesus, as he poured out his love on the cross. That red and white cross, also affixed to the Crosier habit (religious garb) became their original glorious cross, the flip-side and/or fruit of the excruciating cross which Jesus suffered in “his total service in love to all of humanity” (Crosier Constitutions 2.2). Jesus’ obedience to love unto death proclaimed the glory of God (Phil 2:6-11). Therefore, the cross of suffering and the cross of glory are a necessary combination for Crosiers.

Obviously, this dual cross is the heritage and possession of all Christians. It is not an exclusive treasure of the Crosiers. However, highlighting and boldfacing those two aspects of Christ’s cross has been a key element of the Crosier charism. Crosiers feel called to underscore the cross as a sign of the essence of Christian spirituality. A Crosier in the middle ages once described the red and white Crosier cross as a “star of light” for themselves and for all who see it. Crosiers, along with St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, call the cross a “message,” a word (“verbum crucis”) which reveals and proclaims the strength and wisdom of God as a basis for hope. That is why Crosiers, especially in the U.S., have been calling their mission as one of “touching suffering with hope.” The Crosier Associates, a mostly lay group who live the charism and spirituality of Crosiers, envision creating a community “that experiences the timeless treasures of hope, joy, and new life by embracing the Cross.”

Hopefully the description above can help us answer the key question of this presentation: How can the Crosier charism helpfully impact the ministry of spiritual companionship? What follows are starter answers for a conversation that hopefully will expand, both for Crosiers as well as among and with others. Here are some of the ways Crosier charism has and still can enrich spiritual companioning.

1) The Crosier charism’s prioritizing of community can remind and call a spiritual companion to perceive the spiritual journey as necessarily done together with someone else, either in a twosome relationship or even in a group. High regard for community and fraternity may also help a spiritual companion in affirming the spiritual seeker (directee) in her/his desire for community.

2) Closely related to that communal aspect is St. Augustine’s emphasis on “going together into God.” His Latin term “in Deum” doesn’t mean just being in God. That would be rendered by “in Deo.” Augustine emphasizes an existential dynamic of moving, even if only incrementally, INTO God—a never ending, exciting, frightening, consoling and enlivening journey into loving and being loved. Augustine’s book, Confessions, is a clear example and witness to such a journey with God, into God, with the help of significant others, such as his mentor and baptizer, St. Ambrose, and his prayerful mother, St. Monica. Augustine later valued community as his treasured way of reflecting and sharing with others in order to deepen good thinking and spiritual growth.

3) An utterly key aspect of journeying together is the inviting, encouraging, responding, respecting and welcoming of hospitality, an important aspect of Crosier charism. How important it is for a spiritual companion to be hospitable in these various ways with a spiritual seeker.

4) Crosiers prioritize vibrant liturgical life and a rich contemplative personal prayer life. These two related elements can deepen a spiritual companion’s awareness, sensitivity, and relationship with God’s activity and presence in her/his life and subsequently in the lives of other spiritual seekers.

5) The third major component of Crosier charism, ministry, helps spiritual companions stay rooted in the realities their sisters’ and brothers’ worlds and that of the wider community of humankind, even to the horizons of our global family and common home. The many and varied ministries and simple loving services inside and beyond peoples’ immediate families/communities is one of God’s major ways of drawing us beyond ourselves.

6) Crosiers believe that living the three components, (community life, liturgical/prayerful life and ministry) in a balanced and integrated way, is essential for a fruitful and joyous life by anyone. That conviction will influence how spiritual companions perceive the longings and goals of their spiritual seekers.

7) The Crosier charism prioritizes a solid and biblically based spirituality of the cross as essential. It will enable spiritual companions to be persons of hope, deep faith with a dedication to love boundlessly as Jesus did. They will trust fully that new life will bud forth whenever and however they embrace Christ’s cross of love.

8) All begins with our compassionate and merciful God. In his intimate relationship with God, Jesus too was most compassionate by freeing people from their ills and demons. St. Odilia, the Crosier patroness, had chosen the cross of our compassionate Lord to the point of martyrdom. She has since stood compassionately with thousands through the centuries joining with their strong desire for healing in the Lord. Such compassion ought to fill the hearts of all spiritual companions for all their spiritual seekers, especially those who come for some form of internal healing.

As I mentioned above, this reflection can hopefully spark further reflection and conversation, specifically about the enriching relationship of the Crosier Charism and the ministry of Spiritual companionship, and/or the charisms of other religious groups (persons) and spiritual companioning.

“To each individual [religious group/person] the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit” (1 Cor 12:7).

The formal name of the Crosiers is: Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross

Fr. Virgil Petermeier, osc, joined the Crosiers in 1968. He lived and served as a missionary in Papua, Indonesia (western portion of the Island of New Guinea) from 1974 to 2010. He is presently involved in Muslim-Christian dialogue, spiritual companioning and writing about religious life. The Crosiers Fathers and Brothers perceive their charism as a collection of gifts they offer the church and world for the building up of both.

You can find out more about spiritual direction at Crosier Village HERE.

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