February of last year Steven and I attended Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle and afterwards walked the stations of the cross in keeping with
St. Dominic’s posturing, body, mind, heart, and soul.
We’d just read aloud from our Behold! The Stations of the Cross booklets when a woman interfaced with us briefly before heading to the cafeteria, or so we thought.
The cross now becomes too much for Jesus to bear; so the soldiers grab a bystander, Simon, to help Jesus carry his cross. While Jesus carries the more significant burden, Simon plays an important part in the Passion of our Lord. In helping Jesus carry this wood, Simon serves as an example for all who contemplate this awkward scene. We, too, are called to be Simon, to help our brothers and sisters carry the weight of their hardships and difficulties. Simon was transformed by this unexpected experience. We, too, will be transformed by our acts of good will to all who are in need of our assistance.
My Lord, help me be another Simon in the world today. Show me your grace and blessing for the efforts I make each day to help people in their needs. Help me not only assist those who call upon me for help, but also give me the courage to seek out those who might be in need. Give me a strong desire to pray, fast, and give alms for those who are most in need. Through my self-denial, restore dignity to those who are in desperate need of human kindness. May I give all of these things freely expecting nothing in return (Gouin, 2001, pp. 6-7).
As I took photos, Steven’s shared observations attacked my peaceful contemplation like a double-edged sword.
“Just forget about it,” Steven insisted.
But how could I?
Looking back at the fourth station, I could see the woman doing to everyone else what she had done to us. She’d walked the path in reverse (finish to start), imposing pangs of guilt on prayerful thoughts, betraying inner voices (of reason) with malicious intent.
“Aren’t sacred spaces supposed to be safe?” I asked rhetorically. “Is there nothing to stop her?”
I didn’t understand. What was the lesson? Simon’s story encouraged gentle giving, not willful taking.
Still struggling to make meaning, we fell back into step and continued… until the woman passed us by as quietly as possible at the eleventh station.
I stood very still, followed her with my eyes, and observed.
The woman approached a young couple with two kids at the tenth station, told her story, and waited for the man to help her out. The man reluctantly moved his hand near his pants pocket two or three times but never reached within. Clearly, he couldn’t afford to dole out any money; but the woman was relentless.
Right or wrong, I walked over to protect the young family. When I reminded the woman that Steven had given her enough money to buy a few sandwiches and sodas at the cafeteria, she feigned ignorance. So I told her we’d seen her in action with everyone else walking the stations. We hadn’t even been the first ones. Steven had seen “lots of bills” in her other hand, but he’d given her money anyway on the chance that she might be telling the truth.
The woman was furious. I was the guilty party, she said. Why was I so mean? Why was I speaking so badly about her? I was to blame, not her. She had every right to do as she wanted, and she refused to leave.
What a terrible memory! I thought, as the woman persisted in her imagined woes. Is this how I want to remember my time at San Juan? I’d waited years to visit, years to embrace the devotion. Yet this woman had disrupted my tranquility. And it was all my fault, of course.
The woman finally left, and I felt totally drained. I did battle and lost, I thought, as I made my way back to Steven at the eleventh station.
“That was so unfair. I couldn’t let her take advantage of that young couple. I had to speak up.”
“You didn’t stop her. She’ll just be more careful the next time she passes you by. Just forget about it,” Steven insisted once more.
How could I just sluff it off? How could I come to terms with such blatant behavior?
I needed to regain my equilibrium, but my mind and my heart were all over the place. I needed desperately to calm down, complete the stations, and be still again.
For a while serenity seemed unattainable but, soon enough, I was peaceful and wholly engaged. Our unexpected experiences had brought us full circle, and I felt restored.
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because, by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.
Heavenly Father, out of love for us you sent your own son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, as our savior. In him we are redeemed and saved.
Despite our weakness and sinfulness we wish to imitate him and follow in his footsteps. Send your Holy Spirit, we implore you, to assist us as we make the way of the cross.
We invoke the aid of our Blessed Lady and all the saints that we may be enabled to follow Christ and make his way of the cross our way of life and love. Amen (Franciscan Mission Associates, B-26, p. 3).
1: Jesus is condemned to death.
“And they all gave their verdict; he deserved to die” (Matthew 14:64).
2: Jesus takes his cross.
“Pilate handed him over to be crucified” (John 19:16).
3: Jesus falls once.
“I looked; there was no one to help” (Isaiah 63:4).
4: Jesus meets his mother.
“Woman, this is your son” (John 19:26).
5: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus.
“They seized on a man, Simon from Cyrene, and made him shoulder the cross” (Luke 22:26).
6: Veronica wipes Jesus’ face.
“In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
7: Jesus falls again.
“He was praying all the time for sinners” (Isaiah 53:12).
8: Jesus speaks to the women
“Weep rather for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28).
9: Jesus falls a third time.
“They leave me lying in the dust of death” (Psalm 22:15).
10: Jesus is stripped of his clothing.
“They shared out his garments by casting lots” (Matthew 27:35).
11: Jesus is nailed to the cross.
“They crucified him there and the two criminals also” (Luke 23:33).
12: Christ dies on the cross.
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
13: Jesus is taken down from the cross.
“Now let God rescue him if he wants him” (Matthew 27:43).
14: Jesus is laid in the tomb.
“He then rolled a large stone across the entrance of the tomb” (Matthew 27:60).
15: Christ is risen, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Lastly, he showed himself to the eleven themselves while they were at table. He reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:14-16).
Text for the stations is based on Your Way of the Cross (B-8/14) from Franciscan Mission Associates (FMA), P.O. Box 598, Mt. Vernon, NY 10551-0598.
I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me. Insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for, if justification comes through the law, then Christ comes for nothing.
Good Friday Prayer of Pope Francis
O Christ, abandoned and betrayed even by your own, and sold for next to nothing. O Christ, judged by sinners, handed over by the leaders. O Christ, tortured in the flesh, crowned with thorns and clothed in purple. O Christ, slapped and beaten, and nailed in excruciating pain to the Cross. O Christ, pierced by the lance that opened your heart. O Christ, dead and buried, you who are the God of life and existence. O Christ, our only Savior, we return to you this year with eyes lowered in shame, and with hearts filled with hope:
Shame for all the images of devastation, destruction and wreckage that have become a normal part of our lives; shame for the innocent blood that is shed: of women, children, migrants and those who are persecuted because of the color of their skin or their ethnicity and social standing, or because of their faith in you; shame for the many times that, like Judas and Peter, we have sold you and betrayed you and left you alone to die for our sins, fleeing like cowards from our responsibilities; shame for our silence before injustices; for our hands that have been lazy in giving, and greedy in grabbing and conquering; for the shrill voices we use to defend our own interests and the timid ones we use to speak out for others; for our feet that are quick to follow the path of evil and paralyzed in following the path of good; shame for all the times that we bishops, priests, and consecrated men and women have scandalized and wounded your body, the Church; for having forgotten our first love, our initial enthusiasm and total availability, allowing our hearts and our consecration to rust.
So much shame Lord, but our hearts are also longing with trustful hope, knowing that you will not treat us according to our merits but solely according to the abundance of your mercy; that our betrayals do not diminish the immensity of your love; that your maternal and paternal heart does not forget us because of the hardness of our own; the certain hope that our names are written in your heart and that we are reflected in the pupils of your eyes; the hope that your cross will transform our hardened hearts into hearts of flesh that are able to dream, to forgive and to love; that it will transform this dark night of your cross into the brilliant dawn of your resurrection; the hope that your faithfulness is not based on our own; the hope that the ranks of men and women who are faithful to your cross will continue to live in fidelity like leaven that gives flavor, and like light that reveals new horizons in the body of our wounded humanity; the hope that your Church will seek to be the voice that cries out in the wilderness for humanity, preparing the way for your triumphant return, when you will come to judge the living and the dead; the hope that good will be victorious despite its apparent defeat!
O Lord Jesus, son of God, innocent victim of our ransom, before your royal banner, before the mystery of your death and glory, before your scaffold, we kneel in shame and, with hope, and we ask that you bathe us in the blood and water that flowed from your lacerated heart; to forgive our sins and our guilt; we ask you to remember our brethren who are destroyed by violence, indifference and war; we ask you to break the chains that keep us imprisoned in our selfishness, in our willful blindness, and in the vanity of our worldly calculations.
O Christ, we ask you to teach us never to be ashamed of your cross, not to exploit it but to honor and adore it for, by it, you have shown us the monstrosity of our sins, the greatness of your love, the injustice of our judgments, and the power of your mercy. Amen.
February 14, 2016
“It is to those who have the most need of us that we ought to show our love more especially” (St. Francis de Sales).
February 15, 2016
“The love of God inspires the love of our neighbor, and the love of our neighbor serves to keep alive the love of God” (St. Gregory the Great).
February 17, 2016
“Silence is not a virtue when charity calls for speech” (St. Poemen, c. 340-450).
May 3, 2016
“Let us consider what the glorious Virgin endured and what the holy apostles suffered, and we shall find that they who were nearest to Jesus Christ were the most afflicted” (St. Teresa of Ávila).
July 7, 2016
“Woe to me if I should prove myself but a half-hearted soldier in the service of my thorn-crowned Captain” (St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen).
August 28, 2016
“Hope has two beautiful daughters [whose] names are Anger and Courage— anger at the way things are and courage to see that they do not remain as they are”
(St. Augustine, edited).
September 26, 2016
Prayer is the most effective communication with God and the saints. Prayer strengthens us, gives us resolve, and helps us to carry our daily crosses
(Fr. Amador Garza at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle).
January 11, 2017
Lord God, voice of truth, thank you for my voice. Thank you for having given me a way to whisper grace and sing out your goodness and affirm your will with conviction (Colleen C. Mitchell in Who Does He Say You Are?).
Links of interest… Burden of the cross… Delanceyplace: archives / home / second guessing ourselves (Presence)… Holy face of Jesus calls us… Often-overlooked saints of Good Friday… Pain beneath the cross… A person’s a person no matter how small… Prayer before the cross / a crucifix… Relics from the crucifixion… Roaring lion, mourning dove, word of God… Signs & symbols… Simon of Cyrene: athlete & saint of passersby… Stations of the Cross: about / devotions / fish eaters / for families / for kids / how to do / origins / prayers (video & music) / printables / puppet show (YT) / scriptural (JPII) / significance / way of the cross… Twelve things to know about Holy Saturday… Via Crucis at the Colosseum with Pope Francis… Waking up on Good Friday (nine things to know)…
WP posts… Capuchin church stations… Disquieting moments… Growing pains… Lady of sorrows… Lenten meditations… Lenten reflections… Lenten resources… Lingering memory… Mercy and justice… Prayerful ways… Quiet prayer time… Saturday evening Mass… Sioux chapel stations… Sorrowful redemption… Today’s Beatitudes