Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Stations of the Cross--We Begin...

photo by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

For years now as I turn away from Ash Wednesday which is the first day of Lent--I wash away the cross-smudge on my forehead. But even with this mark gone--I still remember those old words: "We are dust...and to dust we shall return." More than that I remember that cross that was on my forehead and cannot be washed away quite so easily from my heart. 

And so during the Lenten season for several years I have, like pilgrims through the years, pondered the Stations of the Cross. You can find them in almost any Catholic church and in other denominations as well. The Stations of the Cross have been called several different names: Via Dolorosa--The Way of Sorrows. Often these stopping off places have been called simply, The Way.

The Stations date back to the Medieval times when the world was dark and sickness was every-present and the world was a difficult place. And somewhere in that dismal time the Church erected the Stations. Some pilgrims had visited the holy places which portrayed the last days of Jesus' life. But most folk could not travel to Jerusalem. So--we thank St. Francis of Assisi who began the stations as a devotion time for believers. Early they called these stations depicting the last week of Jesus' life--halting places.

 Franciscans began in the 15th and 16th centuries  to build a a series of outdoor shrines in Europe to duplicate their counterparts in the Holy Land. The number of Stations varied from eleven to thirty. But somewhere the church settled on fourteen stations.

The object of these Stations is to help the faithful meditate on the chief scenes of Jesus' sufferings and death. Catholics and some Protestants have taken to walking these Stations particularly during the forty days that lead to Easter.

As I look out at our world it is so different from those Medieval times  which were so crushing to the human spirit.--I think we, too need these Stations. Like other times in our history--there is ugliness and prejudice and hearts so hard we really cannot even open the doors and let any of those millions of refugees in. We battle cancer and alzheimer's and drugs and depression and anger so deep and far-reaching that it is scary. The main-line church seems to be stuck and millions of former-pilgrims would rather read the newspaper on Sunday than go to church. And so maybe we, like our brothers and sisters in the Middle Ages, can look up and find in him  enough to keep us going.

Walk with me this year and look up and ponder that once upon a time there came one who stretched out his arms and his brave heart and gave himself unreservedly for the likes of 
us . No anger there. No rage. Just love for all--not some. For all.

"Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? 
Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow..."

Walk with me by these fourteen stations on the Way of Sorrows and remember.

photo by elycefeliz / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

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