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Burial - February 2018

posted Feb 23, 2018, 6:27 PM by RSO The Fenwick Review
By Michael Raheb '20

April 6, 2016. During the monumental construction of Holy Cross’ new Luth Athletic Complex, much-extolled for its heft and grandeur, a time capsule is exhumed. As the Luth absorbs the Hart Center, a steel box is lifted from the latter’s dusty brick rubble. The ideals, memories, and relics of the College’s 1975-1976 students and faculty lie in a worker’s hands. The capsule is opened. Nestled inside is an assortment of memorabilia: copies of the Catholic Free Press, the Worcester Telegram, the Evening Gazette, the Crusader, and Crossroads. An American Revolution bicentennial medal and flag. Mementos from Rev. Francis J. Hart, S.J., and a newspaper article about his dear friend Will Jenks ’54. A letter regarding scheduling intramural basketball. A St. Ignatius Loyola Fundator Society of Jesus token.

And lastly, a “beaded necklace” with images of Christ and the Virgin Mary. Catholics call it a Rosary.

We do not know whose words those were. We do not know on whose account the misprint stole onto the pages of the Holy Cross Alumni magazine. What we do know is a much more sobering fact: that here at the College of the Holy Cross, there are individuals so estranged from the College’s Catholic identity and Jesuit charism that they do not know what a rosary is. The College, of course, doesn’t force prayer on its students; not one person must slide beads across his fingers out of some enforced necessity. But the problem is not that we have non-Catholic students. Rather, the real question is one of presence; one would expect that, in a Catholic institution, one of the most powerful prayers in existence would be visibly displayed on campus. If not that, we should at least recognize that the beads are used in prayer—not in fashion. There is no reason our faith needs to lie hidden.

The misidentification tells us something, like the rest of the objects in the box. Consider the values of faith, history, and patriotism that so many at the College seem to be willing to abandon in the rubble.

The time capsule also contained a copy of the Catholic Free Press, which, in 1975, must have merited value as an emblem of our faith. It was, after all, buried with the cornerstone of the Hart Center. Yet now, over forty years later, it would be bewildering to see a student know what the Catholic Free Press is, much less actually read it. The newspapers usually stand nearly untouched on the newspaper rack in Smith Hall, every-so-often picked at by students who, like winter fowl searching for nourishment, peck and decide that their worth is barren. The St. Ignatius token would have represented the spiritual legacy of St. Ignatius within the Catholic Church; the two were then inseparable. Now? It stands for a nebulous “Jesuit mission.”

The copy of Crossroads accompanying its peers represents the gradual decay of our history. Among the undergraduate body, it has obtained no legacy here; perhaps graduates know it became the current Holy Cross Alumni magazine. And, over the impending years, the same may be said for the Crusader. Its name has been abandoned, buried by the Spire. One must wonder whether this noteworthy change will leave its predecessor swallowed up by the irrepressible gullet of time.

The commemorative bicentennial flag and medal of the American Revolution represent another withering ideal: patriotism. In a college so vehemently concerned with social justice, which often takes the form of a double-edged sword - lacerating the faults of some to bolster the worth of others - patriotism shrivels like a dying vine. “He isn’t my President.” “Crooked Hillary.” The claim “I appreciate the United States for the opportunities it has offered me” is rarely made here. Perhaps that respect had roots here forty years ago, but there is little reason to expect a 250-year-anniversary commemoration of the Revolution in 2026.

That time capsule represented the loyalties of an earlier Holy Cross: an inheritance of Catholicism within a Jesuit charism, history, patriotism. Thus passes the glory of the world. But, within a small scheduling letter, we find something the College has managed to retain: its concern for greater athletic community. We have, at least, accomplished that much. The Luth Athletic Complex will serve over a quarter of the student body with unwavering commitment and presents itself as a source of community pride. We shall, at least, excel in athletics.

But since the Hart Center was built, how far have we come—or how far have we fallen? Does Catholicism still provide a thorough basis for the College’s decisions on the executive level? How much do our current undergraduates actually know about the history of the College? Is there still an underlying love for our country beneath our breath? Unfortunately, these questions cannot be easily answered with statistics and surveys. They embody a greater crisis in our very nature as an institution. And they must not, like our faith and devotion, lie buried.

Emblazoned on the side of the Luth Athletic Complex is a massive cross, shamelessly on high for all to see. At night, it glows a radiant purple, shedding light over the campus and letting its presence be known in the city of Worcester. We aren’t afraid to show the religious tradition of Holy Cross; we need to find the courage to live it.