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.
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, Who Does He Say You Are?).
Links of interest… Burden of the cross… Delanceyplace: archives / home / second guessing ourselves (Presence)… 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 the athlete… 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… Via Crucis at the Colosseum with Pope Francis…
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
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