Saint Ignatius High School

I Believe...Now What?

This week, Tom Healey walks us through what he teaches in his senior capstone course: fixating on the cross and living out our faith. It's one thing to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, but as Catholics we are called to do more. Read this week's blog to see how we can live out our faith and become people of Christ for all of humanity.

On the Wednesday of Holy Week, Pope Francis devoted the remarks of his weekly papal general audience to the topic of “The Crucifix, Well-spring of Hope.” As one who has been influenced by the teachings of Blessed Basil Moreau, I have been conditioned to see the inseparable nature of the Cross of Christ and our Eternal Hope.  Ave Crux, Spes Unica! “Hail the Cross, our only Hope!” is the motto of the Congregation of Holy Cross, founded by Moreau in the neighborhood of Sainte-Croix in Le Mans, France, in 1837.

I have built my Paschal Mystery class around this vision, and in his recent remarks, Pope Francis (without knowing it - or maybe…) backed up my approach. He said, “One image remained fixed in the minds of the disciples: the cross. That is where everything ended. That is where the end of everything was centered.” The focus in the first half of my senior capstone class is just that - the cross. We begin with the topic of the creation of the universe and move inexorably to Calvary, ending on the Wednesday of Holy Week with the (almost) conclusion of the film The Passion of the Christ.

When we return next week, the first thing we will do is watch the last ninety seconds of The Passion (spoiler alert: He rises), and then focus on the artifact known as the Shroud of Turin, believed by millions to be the burial cloth of Christ. This completes the first half of the course, and with it comes the asking of the only question that matters: Do you believe that Jesus really and truly rose from the dead?

I have been amazed over the years by how influential the film Jesus and the Shroud of Turin has been in moving a number of my seniors from the fence of Resurrection agnosticism to the fertile field of belief that Jesus “rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” Maybe the testimony of people from Duke University and the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab at the California Institute of Technology has something to do with it, but maybe it is simply that they have finally been given enough rational evidence to enable them to believe what they have always felt in their hearts.

The final stage of the course is concerned with answering the second most important question that can be asked: Now what? Sure, it is great to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and to draw all of the wonderful theological and philosophical conclusions that flow from that belief, but a Catholic needs to do more. We can do worse than to follow the teaching given in the Letter of St. James: “For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” Tying the Resurrection - the reuniting of the body and spirit of Jesus Christ - to the Christian life is the perfect approach to the topic of so much disunity in the Church over the past half-millenium.

Our “Now what?” approach in class mirrors what I see as the approach that the Apostles must have taken. Now what? Go back and focus on what Jesus said in His ministry, especially in His public ministry. Jesus said many things privately to the Apostles, with the Last Supper Discourses in the Gospel, according to St. John, being the most profound and important. Yet, for the purpose of telling the faithful how to live their lives, the Apostles needed to look to events like the Sermon on the Mount where, as James Joyce might remark, “Here came everybody.”  

To spend the second half of a semester on one sermon might seem to be a bit of overkill, but such is not the case. Every year there is something that Jesus said to the crowd that provides each of my students with their “aha” moment, and there is no way to reach that moment other than to examine the words of Jesus with great precision.

For each of us, the Easter Season provides that movement from the Cross to Hope, and should help us to focus on the essential and challenging teaching found in the Sermon on the Mount [Mt. 5:1-7:27, or the similar Sermon on the Plain, Lk. 6:20-49]. And maybe going back to Pope Francis and his beautiful words - especially about the sadness that he sees on the faces of so many people “talking to themselves, people walking alone with their cell phones, but without peace, without hope.” - will bring us to that place where we can, with Easter joy, echo the words of Bl. Basil Moreau: Hail the Cross, our only Hope!



[General Audience of 5 April 2023 - Catechesis. “The Crucifix, well-spring of hope” | Francis]