A Vincentian View: The Way of the Cross
Are you in the practice of praying the Stations of the Cross? I have known a number of people for whom this is a regular devotion. In different parishes and situations, I have heard the Stations said in numerous ways. Some versions invite one to make the circuit with Mary, or with Ignatius of Loyola, or with Alphonsus Liguori. One finds scriptural stations and stations for children as well as the elderly. Stations exist for those who suffer from mental or physical illness, for those who are refugees, and for the homebound. Many other examples can be found. People feel the need to connect with this intimate human journey in many different ways, and they find a place for it in their story.
I confess that the stations are not a regular part of my personal devotion, but I will willingly join in if they are being said where I am found. Lent presents many opportunities to engage in this Christian prayer. As so many other things, I sense that the stations mean more to me as I get older, have more experiences, and listen more carefully to those who come to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation.
Have you ever considered that the stations usually encircle us when we gather in our place of worship? It occurred to me only recently! In the chapel of the Murray House where I live, the ceramic images are affixed to the wall around me and my confreres. We are caught in their embrace as we pray and meditate. In St. Thomas More Church, where I celebrate mass most often with the university community, the large and beautiful mosaics tell the story of the last day of Jesus in whatever direction one turns. When I think of my home parish in Brooklyn, my mind’s eye easily remembers the elder members of the community slowly making their way along the route of the passion as it wreathes the Church.
In the past weeks, it has seemed right to me to be surrounded by this Christian memory. So much of life seems to be expressed. Those who love us—relatives and friends—are there, as well as those who dislike us. We fall and get up, fall again and get up again, and fall again and get up again. Some people want to comfort and help us, others want to take our dignity and our freedom. In the end, nothing remains to be taken; it has all been given.
Can we imagine Christ coming among us and saying wonderful things and doing marvelous deeds, but not making this last walk which captures so much of the human experience of each of us?
Sitting in the center of the stations can open our minds and hearts in many ways as we look at the world which surrounds us. This position can nourish within us a sympathy for those who suffer in so many ways. Children bring pain of all sorts into the lives of parents, and parents into the lives of their children—despite the love which they have for one other. These images can remind us of our need to continue to try to live faithfully, and to try again when we fail. They can also encourage us in the little kindnesses which we can offer one another. These efforts ease the struggles of our brothers and sisters.
As we enter into Holy Week, our steps must lead us along the way of the cross.