Order of the Canons Regular
of the Holy Cross
"Consecrated persons discover that the more they stand at the foot of the Cross of Christ, the more immediately and profoundly they experience the truth of God who is love. It is precisely on the Cross that the One who in death appears to human eyes as disfigured and without beauty... fully reveals the beauty and power of God's love.... The consecrated life reflects the splendor of this love, because, by its fidelity to the mystery of the Cross, it confesses that it believes and lives by the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
- Charism of the Order of the Holy Cross
- The priests and religious brothers in the Order strive to make a complete and total response to the love of God by the profession of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience.
The Order follows the rule of St. Augustine, the 'rule of love'. It exhorts, "Before all else, dear brothers, love God and then your neighbor, because these are the chief commandments given to us (Rule 1). The angels are models of this selfless love of God and neighbor. Accordingly, just as from earliest times the Church has seen the 'vita angelica' as the exemplar for religious life, so also the Order of the Holy Cross since its foundation has striven to live consciously in the company of the holy angels. "Already here on earth the Christian life share by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united to God" (CCC 336).
The Order of the Holy Cross is pledged in a special way to this central mystery of our Faith:
These four expressions of salvific love - adoration, contemplation, expiation and mission - express the contemplative and active goals of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross in their service of God and neighbor.
- To share in Christ's love for the Father in holy adoration,
- to share in His love for all men in a spirit of expiation,
- to steep itself in the contemplation of the mystery of Christ's death so as to more perfectly share in His resurrection, and
- to proclaim the wisdom and power of Christ-Crucified, the sole salvation of the world, as our mission in the Church.
Adoration of God finds its highest expression in the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. The renewal of this sacrifice in the holy sacrifice of the Mass stands in the center and is the summit of every day in the life of the Canons of the Holy Cross. As a community, the members of the Order are dedicated to the solemn celebration of the sacred liturgy. In the liturgy all that is human is directed to and subordinated to the divine, "the visible to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, the object of our quest." (Sacrosanctum Concilium 2)
In addition to the liturgy of the Eucharist, the Canons have a special responsibility to join the saints and the angels in heaven through the communal chanting of the Liturgy of the Hours. "With all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until he our life shall appear and we too will appear with him in glory." (SC 8)
Eucharistic adoration is also an integral part of the daily life of the Canons. In every monastery the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for adoration, and if possible, perpetual adoration is observed.
Following the example of Mary, who continually pondered the words of Christ in her heart, the Canons of the Holy Cross foster a life of meditation drawing on the authentic sources of Christian spirituality. They strive to imitate the saints and angels in a life of silence, simplicity of heart, humility, poverty and holy purity in pursuit of the graces of contemplation.
Following the example of Christ, the priest must know how to maintain the vivacity and abundance of the moments of silence and prayer in which he cultivates and deepens his own essential relationship with the living figure of Jesus Christ." (Directory for the Life and Ministry of Priests, 40)
Spiritual reading provides the necessary "daily bread" for the Canons of the Holy Cross. Priests and students in the community are seriously dedicated to the study of sacred theology, especially the Fathers of the Church, Scholastic theology and the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church.
The spirituality of the Canons of the Holy Cross focuses on the constant growth in priestly sanctity "conforming their life to the mystery of the Lord's Cross." (Rite of Ordination) This is understood to be a call to be both priest and victim with Christ in accordance with the words of St. Paul: "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church" (Col 1,24).
Our share in Christ's redemptive love is nourished daily at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; there we propose to learn the meaning of perfect charity in a spirit of reparation. Without these sentiments the sacrifice of the Mass would remain incomplete, for as P. Pius XII writes: "In order that the oblation by which the faithful offer the Divine Victim in this sacrifice to the heavenly Father may have its full effect, it is necessary that the people add something else, namely the offering of themselves as a victim" (Mediator Dei 98).
In this spirit, the Canons of the Holy Cross unite themselves to Christ in a special commemoration of His passion. On Thursday nights and on Friday afternoons the members of the Order join Christ in prayer and love during the hours of His passion, to pray for the sanctification of priests, for the needs of the Church, and in reparation for sins.
The active apostolate of the Order is to serve the Church in the work of sanctification of priests and the faithful. The Canons work for these ends by giving retreats, and missions, and by offering seminary training and on-going formation for priests. Among the laity, the Order promotes a spirituality which is focused on prayer and expiation for priests. "The missionary spirit must, absolutely, be preserved in religious institutes and must be adapted to modern conditions, in keeping with the character of each, so that the preaching of the Gospel to all nations may be more effective." (Perfectae Caritatis 20).
History of the Order of the Holy Cross
The Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross was founded in Portugal in the year 1131 by Dom Tello and St. Theotonius. St. Theotonius, the first prior in the Order, is celebrated in the liturgy as the reformer of religious life in Portugal. Eventually all canons regular in Portugal came to be united in the Order, which for centuries was a major center for liturgy, theology and the intellectual life in Portugal. It was due to the Marian spirituality of the Order that Portugal was the first nation to be consecrated to the Immaculate Conception in the 18th century. The Order sent missionaries to India, Africa and Latin America, but only established houses in Portugal. In 1834, when the civil government of Portugal became anti-Catholic the Order was violently suppressed.
The restoration of the Order was undertaken in 1977 by members of the spiritual movement called the Work of the Holy Angels (Opus Sanctorum Angelorum). In 1979 the Congregation for Religious and Pope John Paul II formalized the restoration by Decree. due to the remarkable correspondence between the legacy of the old Order and the spirituality of the Opus Angelorum, the Church granted the privilege to introduce into the Order a "special devotion to the holy angels according to the proven tradition of the Church."
Currently, the Order is established in Austria, Germany, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, India, the Philippines, Italy and the United States. The philosophical and theological studies for the priesthood, offered by the Order through the centuries in its Pontifical Institutum Sapientiae, was transferred to Anapolis, Brazil in 1984. In the pontifical visitation of seminaries in Brazil held in 1988, the Monastery of the Holy Cross together with the Institutum Sapientiae were given the very highest rating.
Connected with the Order ar various groups with the same spirituality: a congregation of sisters called the Sisters of the Holy Cross, diocesan associations of priests, and a lay organization for both men and women which is similar to a secular institute.