Category Archives: Reflections

Remembering Ms. G on “Chews-day”

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

– Maya Angelou

I generally tend to avoid pithy quotes, particularly mushy-sounding ones, but when I learned today that one of my former teachers died unexpectedly on Monday, this quote was the first thing that came to mind.

I only remember a few of the lessons we covered in Ms. G’s classes. She taught me American History in seventh grade, and the only things I remember from that class are being forced to work in small groups with boys that I thought were dumb and writing an angry letter to President Clinton (post-Lewinsky-scandal), telling him he ought to have more integrity and set a better example for us kids. My classmates and I used to joke that we were obviously Ms. G’s favorite students of all time, because after teaching us in middle school she “followed” us to the big public high school to teach us again there. In her high school Bio class, we dissected frogs and talked about dominant and recessive genes, and I learned that the red hair I had when I was born was rare… or something. As far as lessons go, that’s about all I can recall.

What I remember much more vividly is the way Ms. G delighted in her students. No matter how annoying we were—and as Gifted and Talented students, one of our greatest “talents” was pushing our teachers’ buttons—she was always beaming at us, even when she “fussed” us. Despite how I loathed Biology and wasn’t particularly interested in History, I never disliked being in her classroom. It was a place of joy. I remember how incredibly easy it was to make Ms. G laugh, and how she didn’t mind when we laughed at her quirks, like her pronunciation of the word “Chews-day” or the photos of Brad Pitt (her “future husband”) that she had taped up on the door of the mini-fridge behind her desk. She never took herself too seriously, so when we were on her turf, we couldn’t take ourselves too seriously, either. Now that I teach some incredibly bright teenagers who often suffer needlessly because they’re so caught up in themselves and the all-consuming seriousness of EVERYTHING, I recognize just what a gift we were given in Ms. G—to have the chance to be around at least one person every day who reminded us to “chill out!” and told us (without actually telling us) that everything was going to be fine.

I can’t remember everything Ms. G taught me, but I will always remember her contagious joy. If it’s within my power to leave a mark on my students’ memories with that same sort of positivity and love (and I’m not sure I was convinced that it was within my power until today), then I have some big shoes to fill indeed.

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Meekness as a remedy

I had a little epiphany while I was teaching today and thought it needed to be shared. I know I’ve been neglecting the blog for quite a while, but perhaps Lent is a good time to pick it up again. My students have been encouraging me to write more, and it’s good for the soul!

Today I was discussing Dante’s Purgatorio with my Medieval Lit. class, specifically the canto in which Dante meets the souls in Purgatory who are being purified of the sin of Wrath (Anger). He uses Mary’s gentle words to Jesus when she finds Him in the temple as a child as an example of Meekness, the opposing virtue that serves as a “remedy” to Wrath. My students were confused about what Meekness was, exactly, and about how something so seemingly passive could qualify as a virtue, so we worked through it together. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: “When we were reading the Inferno, we talked about Wrath, and we described it as a sinful or selfish way that we respond to certain situations. When is it that we usually give in to Wrath?”

Students: “When my emotions are out of control.”  When things don’t go the way I want them to.”  (And my favorite answer:) “When my will isn’t done.”

Me: “Right. So, if Wrath is the sinful way to respond to a moment when I don’t get my way, then Meekness is the opposite of that. Something happens that upsets me, and I could get angry, but I choose to respond differently.”

Student: “So, how is that a virtue?”

Me: “Because when I am practicing Meekness I say: my will is being contradicted, but I’m not going to be hurtful because of it. I will still be charitable and think of others instead of being selfish.”

Student: “What about this example of the finding of Jesus in the temple? How is that an example of Meekness?”

Me: “Mary had every reason to be angry with Jesus in that moment, but she chose to speak to Him not with an attitude of anger, but rather one of gentleness and love.”

[Confused expressions—so I tried to elaborate.]

Me: “Mary and Joseph were distraught when they were separated from Jesus. They loved Him more than anyone and anything else in the world, and after searching for days, they thought He might be lost to them forever. They probably thought they had failed to accomplish God’s will, that they had failed in their vocation as parents. Then when they found Jesus in the temple, they may have even been tempted to think that He was inconsiderate, that He had forgotten about them, that they were the furthest thing from His mind during such a painful time for them. Was that true? Had Jesus forgotten them?”

Students: “No, of course not.”

Me: “But if they thought He had, they might have been tempted to be angry with Him—and that’s the point, you guys. Any time we feel tempted to be angry at God, it’s because we’re giving in to a lie: the lie that He’s forgotten us, that we’re the furthest thing from His mind—which is never, ever true.”

Any time we feel tempted to be angry at God, it’s because we’re giving in to a lie: the lie that He’s forgotten us, that we’re the furthest thing from His mind—which is never, ever true.

That thought had truly never occurred to me until it came out of my mouth, and it was just what I needed to hear. I guess my students needed to hear it, too.

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On the Calendar: St. Mary Magdalene

This year, the feast of my Confirmation saint, St. Mary Magdalene, falls on a Sunday. While the Sunday Mass takes precedence over her feast, I thought I’d share this beautiful prayer I stumbled upon recently. 


Gabriel Wüger, Stabat Mater, 1868

Gabriel Wüger, Stabat Mater, 1868

Prayer to St. Mary Magdalen

by St. Anselm of Canterbury

St. Mary Magdalene, you came with springing tears to the spring of mercy, Christ; from Him your burning thirst was abundantly refreshed; through Him your sins were forgiven; by Him your bitter sorrow was consoled.

My dearest lady, well you know by your own life how a sinful soul can be reconciled with its Creator, what counsel a soul in misery needs, what medicine will restore the sick to health. It is enough for us to understand, dear friend of God, to whom were many sins forgiven because she loved much.

Most blessed lady, I who am the most evil and sinful of men do not recall your sins as a reproach, but call upon the boundless Mercy by which they were blotted out. This is my reassurance, so that I do not despair; this is my longing, so that I shall not perish.

I say this of myself, miserably cast down into the depths of vice, bowed down with the weight of crimes, thrust down by my own hand into a dark prison of sins, wrapped ’round with the shadows of darkness.

Therefore, since you are now with the chosen because you are beloved, and are beloved because you are chosen of God, I, in my misery, pray to you, in bliss; in my darkness, I ask for light; in my sins, redemption; impure, I ask for purity.

Recall in loving kindness what you used to be, how much you needed mercy, and seek for me that same forgiving love that you received when you were wanting it. Ask urgently that I may have the love that pierces the heart, tears that are humble, desire for the homeland of heaven, impatience with this earthly exile, searing repentance, and a dread of torments in eternity. Turn to my good that ready access that you once had and still have to the spring of mercy.

Draw me to him where I may wash away my sins; bring me to him who can slake my thirst; pour over me those waters that will make my dry places fresh. You will not find it hard to gain all you desire from so loving and so kind a Lord, who is alive and reigns and is your friend.

For who can tell, beloved and blest of God, with what kind familiarity and familiar kindness He Himself replied on your behalf to the calumnies of those who were against you? How He defended you, when the proud Pharisee was indignant; how He excused you, when your sister complained; how highly He praised your deed, when Judas begrudged it.

And, more than all this, what can I say, how can I find words to tell, about the burning love with which you sought Him, weeping at the sepulchre, and wept for Him in your seeking?

How He came, who can say how or with what kindness, to comfort you, and made you burn with love still more; how He hid from you when you wanted to see Him, and showed Himself when you did not think to see Him; how He was there all the time you sought Him, and how He sought you when, seeking Him, you wept.

But You, most holy Lord, why do You ask her why she weeps? Surely You can see; her heart, the dear life of her soul, is cruelly slain.

O love to be wondered at; O evil to be shuddered at; You hung on the wood, pierced by iron nails, stretched out like a thief for the mockery of wicked men; and yet, “Woman,” You say, “why are you weeping?” She had not been able to prevent them from killing You, but at least she longed to keep Your body for a while with ointments lest it decay.

No longer able to speak with You living, at least she could mourn for You dead. So, near to death and hating her own life, she repeats in broken tones the words of life which she had heard from the living. And now, besides all this, even the body which she was glad, in a way, to have kept, she believes to have gone.

And can You ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

Had she not reason to weep? For she had seen with her own eyes – if she could bear to look – what cruel men cruelly did to You; and now all that was left of You from their hands she thinks she has lost. All hope of you has fled, for now she has not even Your lifeless body to remind her of You.

And someone asks, “Who are you looking for? Why are you weeping?”

You, her sole joy, should be the last thus to increase her sorrow. But You know it all well, and thus You wish it to be, for only in such broken words and sighs can she convey a cause of grief as great as hers. The love You have inspired You do not ignore.

And indeed You know her well, the Gardener, who planted her soul in His garden. What You plant, I think You also water.

Do You water, I wonder, or do You test her?

In fact, You are both watering and putting to the test.

But now, good Lord, gentle Master, look upon Your faithful servant and disciple, so lately redeemed by Your blood, and see how she burns with anxiety, desiring You, searching all round, questioning, and what she longs for is nowhere found.

Nothing she sees can satisfy her, since You whom alone she would behold, she sees not.

What then? How long will my Lord leave His beloved to suffer thus? Have You put off compassion now You have put on incorruption? Did You let go of goodness when You laid hold of immortality?

Let it not be so, Lord. You will not despise us mortals now You have made Yourself immortal, for You made Yourself a mortal in order to give us immortality.

And so it is; for love’s sake He cannot bear her grief for long or go on hiding Himself. For the sweetness of love He shows Himself who would not for the bitterness of tears. The Lord calls His servant by the name she has often heard and the servant knows the voice of her own Lord.

I think, or rather I am sure, that she responded to the gentle tone with which he was accustomed to call, “Mary.” What joy filled that voice, so gentle and full of love. He could not have put it more simply and clearly:

“I know who you are and what you want; behold Me; do not weep, behold Me; I am He whom you seek.”

At once the tears are changed; I do not believe that they stopped at once, but where once they were wrung from a heart broken and self-tormenting they flow now from a heart exulting. How different is, “Master!” from “If you have taken him away, tell me.” And, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him,” has a very different sound from,

“I have seen the Lord, and He has spoken to me.”

But how should I, in misery and without love, dare to describe the love of God and the blessed friend of God? Such a flavour of goodness will make my heart sick if it has in itself nothing of that same virtue.

But in truth, You who are very Truth, You know me well and can testify that I write this for the love of Your love, my Lord, my most dear Jesus. I want Your love to burn in me as You command so that I may desire to love You alone and sacrifice to You a troubled spirit, “a broken and a contrite heart.”

Give me, O Lord, in this exile, the bread of tears and sorrow for which I hunger more than for any choice delights.

Hear me, for Your love, and for the dear merits of Your beloved Mary, and Your blessed Mother, the greater Mary.

Redeemer, my good Jesus, do not despise the prayers of one who has sinned against You, but strengthen the efforts of a weakling that loves You.

Shake my heart out of its indolence, Lord, and in the ardour of Your love bring me to the everlasting sight of Your glory where with the Father and the Holy Spirit You live and reign, God, forever. Amen.

Source: http://feastofsaints.com/anselmmarymag.htm

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“I seal my love to-be…”

Here is a glimpse of my Mass of Consecration, together with the beautiful poem that came to my mind at that moment!

Mass of Consecration: prostrate during the Litany of the Saints

During the Litany of the Saints: “All holy men and women, pray for us!”

Who knows what days I answer for today?
Giving the bud I give the flower. I bow
This yet unfaded and a faded brow;
Bending these knees and feeble knees, I pray.

Thoughts yet unripe in me I bend one way,
Give one repose to pain I know not now,
One check to joy that comes, I guess not how.
I dedicate my fields when Spring is grey.

O rash! (I smile) to pledge my hidden wheat.
I fold today at altars far apart
Hands trembling with what toils? In their retreat

I  seal my love to-be, my folded art.
I light the tapers at my head and feet,
And lay the crucifix on this silent heart.

– Alice Meynell, “The Young Neophyte”

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Love’s Way of the Cross: Stations IX-XIV

Stations I-IV

Stations V -VIII


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Ninth Station

Jesus Falls the Third Time under the Cross

“And I, once I have been lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”  John 12:32

Three times Love falls to the ground under the blows of men, under the weight of the cross burdened with sins. But It does not remain down. It knows It will finally triumph over sin and ingratitude, that It “will draw all men to Itself” ­– but not before It is “lifted up from the earth.” Therefore It uses every effort to rise, until It has mounted Calvary, until It has sacrificed all, until It has shed the last drop of blood.

We like to complain when our love is not returned; we decry the lack of charity in our neighbor, instead of lamenting the lack of it in ourselves. We must love still more, give and sacrifice still more. We must mount still higher, until we have climbed Mount Calvary, until we too have been “lifted up.” Only when all self-love has died in us, when we have made a total surrender to the crucified Savior, only then will our love have that overpowering force which draws all men to itself.

Let us sacrifice all, then, for love!


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Tenth Station

Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

“He emptied Himself.”  Phil. 2:7

“If a man intends to rob you of your coat, let him have your cloak as well,” the Savior once said (Matt. 5:40). Now on Calvary, He gives not merely coat and cloak; in His love He allows Himself to be stripped naked. Love gives without calculating and measuring, gives what it can and does not ask whether anything remains.

How selfish I am, Lord, when I compare my love with Yours! Without mercy, take from me everything to which my heart is still attached, everything that I would not be prepared to sacrifice at any moment for You and for my neighbor. Take away all, until I am, like You, completely “emptied,” utterly poor, stripped naked in holy, selfless love!


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Eleventh Station

Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross

“Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”  Luke 23:34

The Savior prays for His enemies while they are nailing Him to the cross. Could I do likewise? At the very moment when I am ridiculed, mocked, tormented, despised, crucified, can I pray for those who cause my suffering – really pray from the heart, just as the Savior prayed for His enemies?

The Savior’s prayer in this hour was not merely a pious wish, but a sacrifice of Himself for His executioners. It was not merely a prayer on the lips; it was self-immolation. Until I am able to pray and offer myself in this same spirit, I have not perfect love.

The Savior prays, “They do not know what they are doing.” Love “take no note of injury” (1 Cor. 13:5), judges no one, “is always ready to hope” (1 Cor. 13:7), never despairs of anyone, though he seem hopeless. How uncharitable is our judgment of others!

Lord, give me true love! 


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Twelfth Station

Jesus Dies on the Cross

“It is now completed.”  John 19:30

The Savior has given all; naked and despoiled He hangs on the cross. And still His love looks for something more to give. Then He sees His mother, and He presents her also to us: “This is your mother” (John 19:27). Now he can cry out, “It is completed”; He has given all.

The triumph of Love can now begin. “Lifted up from the earth,” It can begin to “draw all men to Itself.” The centurion under the cross is the first fruit of this love; after that, the awe-stricken crowd, beating their breasts and repenting their sins; then the holy souls in Limbo; and finally the thousands and millions of souls that are saved by the redeeming “Love unto the end.”

Lord, give us this love, “love to the end,” that the world may be saved!


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Thirteenth Station

The Heart of Jesus Is Opened and He Is Taken Down from the Cross

“Love is not provoked.”  1 Cor. 13:5

Things like ingratitude, misunderstanding, suspicion and unkindness cause most men’s hearts to harden and close. But all these bitter things served only to open the Savior’s heart wider, so wide that the last drop of blood could flow from it as an offering of love.

As long as we experience rancor in our hearts at the injustice of men, we have not yet true love, for “love does not let itself be embittered.” Our heart must be like the Savior’s. Men pierced it, only to find revealed the riches of its love. They surrounded it with thorns, but could not extinguish its fire. They imposed a cross upon it, but the flames of its love blazed up above the cross.

O Jesus, make my heart like Yours, like the heart of Your mother, which was pierced with Yours and which, together with Yours, is a source of grace and love for us! 


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Fourteenth Station

Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb

“Having loved His own… He loved them to the end.”  John 13:1

Bright shines the legend over the Savior’s tomb: “He loved to the end.” “To the end” must our love go, to the end of our strength, to the end of our life. It must be like that of the pious Catherine Emmerich, who in a dream took her heart from her bosom and divided it among many people. “And when I had given away the last little piece,” she relates, “I felt empty, exhausted unto death.” Then Jesus appeared to her upon the cross. “Lord,” she said. “I have nothing left.” Thereupon He gave her His heart, saying, “Take My heart and share it.” And the moment He put His heart into her breast, she awoke and felt strong.

O Jesus, I would like to be like that! And thus should we all be, ready to share our heart and give away the last little piece of it, that we may become emptied of all self-seeking and filled with Your love.

Then above our grave too can be placed the inscription: “He loved to the end.” Our reward for this will be Your “love unto the end” in everlasting bliss. Amen, amen! So be it!


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Conclusion

We have meditated on the Way of the Cross which the Savior’s love traveled for us. It is now our task to follow Him on this way. It is a difficult road, demanding many sacrifices, the “narrow path” of which the holy Scripture speaks. But this road leads to final happiness. It leads to love, which is the greatest thing of all (1 Cor. 13:13). It leads to perfect union with God and men, to blessed oneness in Christ (John 17:21ff.)

“Take courage, then, brethren, let us go forward together and Jesus will be with us. For Jesus’ sake we have taken this cross. For Jesus’ sake let us persevere with it. He will be our help as He is also our leader and guide. Behold, our King goes before us and will fight for us. Let us follow like men. Let no man fear any terrors. Let us be prepared to meet death valiantly in battle. Let us not suffer our glory to be blemished by fleeing from the Cross” (Imitation of Christ 3:56).

Why should we fear death? “He who does not love abides in death,” but “we know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers” (1 John 3:14).

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Love’s Way of the Cross: Stations V-VIII

Stations I-IV


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Fifth Station

Simon Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

“Inasmuch as you did this to one of these least brethren of Mine, you did it to Me.”  Matt. 25:40

It is hard to show love for a man who seems like a criminal unworthy of love. But look into the person’s eyes. Then the Savior’s eyes will meet yours as they did those of Simon the Cyrenian, and the Savior’s words will sound in your ears: “Inasmuch as you did this to one of these least brethren of Mine, you did it to Me.”

Lord, give me the living faith to see You in every human being, to serve You in every sufferer, in every cross-bearer!


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Sixth Station

Veronica Offers Jesus a Handkerchief

“By this token all the world will know that you are My disciples

– by cherishing love for one another.”  John 13:35

The reward of love! Every act of love imprints the image of Christ deeper in our soul. With every act of love we shall become more and more “transformed into His very image from one degree of splendor to another” (2 Cor. 3:18), into “another Christ.” And this is as it should be. Every Christian should be an embodiment of the Savior’s love. One should be able to say of every Christian what is written concerning the Savior: “The goodness and kindness of God our Savior toward all mankind appeared” (Tit. 3:4) and “He went about doing good” (Acts 10:38); he goes through all life like the Savior, thinking thoughts of love, speaking words of love, doing works of love. Thus, according to our Savior’s words, we would be surely known as His disciples by our love for our neighbor.

Lord, give me strength for holy works of love, that Your image may shine ever brighter in me!


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Seventh Station

Jesus Falls the Second Time under the Cross

“Lord, I wish to see.”  Luke 18:41

If only the Pharisees and the Roman soldiers who tortured and tormented the Savior so cruelly on His Way of the Cross had known how much He loved them! Might not even their cold hearts have been filled with shame and sorrow?

And if we too could only see through the eyes of God what loving deeds of silent sacrifice, prayer and suffering are offered up for us, perhaps by the very people whom we love least and offend deeply in many ways!

“Lord, let me see!” May I never fail to recognize the love of my brethren. May I never in pride look down upon others. And when my own love is misjudged, even abused, may I follow Your example and never stop loving!


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Eighth Station

Jesus Consoles the Weeping Women

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Acts 20:35

Jesus, Himself unconsoled, has words of consolation for the weeping women. Submerged in a sea of pain and sorrow, He thinks of the misery and needs of others. Such is the way of love. It forgets its own suffering as soon as it becomes aware of another’s pain. It finds no time to consider its own misery when the need of another calls for help. It can help others, itself it cannot help (cf. Matt. 27:42). It thinks only of giving, and thereby becomes unmindful of receiving.

How happy we would be if we would unselfishly forget our own pain in our concern for another’s sorrow, if we would forget about receiving in our concern with giving! For it is more blessed to give than to receive.

O Savior unselfishly loving, give me that all-pure love which forgets itself, which “is not self-seeking” (1 Cor. 13:5), which is always ready to give, and let me be sanctified in this love!


Stations IX-XIV

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Love’s Way of the Cross: Stations I-IV

Here is Part 1 (of 3) of the Way of the Cross given to me by Fr. Fields. After scouring the Internet for a site where copies of these Stations could be purchased, I’ve concluded that the booklet is out-of-print. I reproduce it here in the hope that readers will find it an aid to their prayer this Holy Week. No copyright infringement is intended.


Murillo, The Embrace of St. Francis and the Crucified, 1668

Murillo, The Embrace of St. Francis and the Crucified, 1668

Love’s Way of the Cross:

Love Revealed in the Stations of the Cross

By Emmanuel Maria Heufelder, O.S.B., Abbot of Niederalteich

Translated from the German by a Benedictine Monk

Doyle and Finegan – Collegeville, Minnesota – 1955

Nihil Obstat: Rev. Gregory J. Roettger, O.S.B., Censor Deputatis

February 18, 1955

Imprimatur: + Petrus G. Bartholome, Bishop of St. Cloud

February 19, 1955


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Preparatory Consideration

“This is My commandment; love one another as I love you.”   John 15:12

Everyone who loves must walk the way of the Cross, just as He who taught love and who is Love has walked the way of the Cross. These stations are the testing time of love.

Lord, I will let my soul review in quiet contemplation those hours which tested Your love as gold is tried in the fire. I will make the stations of Your love to test and measure the extent of my own love.


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First Station

Jesus Allows Himself to Be Condemned to Death

“No one can give a greater proof of his love than by laying down his life for his friends.”    John 15:13

With a love unto death Christ has loved us. “We know what love is from the fact that Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.” And with the same great love we must love one another. “We, too, ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16). As long as we are not ready for this, as long as we are not determined to sacrifice ourselves for others as completely as the Savior did, we have not yet “the great love.”

O Lord, how small is my love when I measure it against the vastness of Yours! I should be ready to give my life; how much more ready, then, to give what is less than life. What I have and what I am – my strength and talents, my time, my possessions – all should be bent upon the service of my brethren, belonging more to them than to me.

Lord, help me to love my neighbor “not merely in word or with the tongue, but in action, in reality” (1 John 3:18). Help me to love with that “great love” unto death with which You have loved me.


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Second Station

Jesus Takes the Cross on His Shoulders

“Love is long-suffering; love bears everything.”   1 Cor. 13:4, 7

“Love bears everything,” even the cross which our neighbor imposes; bears it not complainingly, not unwillingly, but patiently and with resignation – yes, with joy, as the Savoir carried His cross. Love rejoices when it can bear another’s burden and so fulfill Christ’s law of love, as the Apostle bids (Gal. 6:2).

What is the burden that we should carry for our neighbor? St. Benedict tells us in his holy Rule (ch. 72), when he exhorts his monks “most patiently to endure one another’s infirmities, whether of body or of character.” Everyone has his weaknesses and miseries, bodily defects and faults of character, and suffers frequently enough because of them. We should help our brother to carry his burden “most patiently,” with that patient, all-sustaining love which made the Savoir carry His cross: mankind’s burden of sin and pain, for the salvation of all.

My Savior and Redeemer, give me Your long-suffering love! Give me the love that bears all, and so let me be with You a savior and redeemer for my suffering neighbor.


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Third Station

Jesus Falls the First Time under the Cross

“Love will never end.”   1 Cor. 13:8

It is terrible and yet wonderful what divine Love is willing to suffer at the hands of men. It lets Itself be mocked, abused, crushed, tormented with inconceivable tortures, and still It does not cease. “Love never fails.”

Only a love that seeks itself more than its neighbor will give way to disaffection and hate if it is not returned.

True love never ceases. On the contrary, it converts the pain inflicted by the loved one into a sacrifice for him, a redemptive offering to free him from his selfishness. As long as we do not act thus, we have not yet true love.

Lord, give me Your selfless love, which never ends!


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Fourth Station

Jesus Meets His Afflicted Mother

“Love endures everything.”   1 Cor. 13:7

Mary is the model of all who have true love. For this is the perfect love, to walk beside the Savior as He carries His cross, to suffer and endure everything with Him and through Him, to sacrifice everything, even what is most precious, even a treasure on which one has set one’s heart. “Most gladly,” says true love, “will I spend myself and be spend to the limit for the sake of your souls” (2 Cor. 12:15), to make reparation and petition, in union with the Savior, like Mary.

O Mary, mother of fair love, mother of sorrows, teach me this true love!


Stations V-VIII
Stations IX-XIV

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JPII, I miss you.

Karol Woytyla, Marek Skorupski/Agencja FORUM

Photo credit: Marek Skorupski/Agencja FORUM

This morning I woke up with a pang in my heart, thinking about grief. Not my own grieving for any particular person (though I have been doing a great deal of that lately), just about grief itself: how it weakens us, overwhelms us, humbles us. (I am beginning to think that that is one of the goods God brings out of grief: the grace of humility.)

Then, around lunchtime, I was reminded that today (April 2) is the seventh anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul the Great – and it struck me that my heart might have remembered this, even if my brain hadn’t. His death had affected me profoundly. I didn’t expect to grieve the way I did then, but the emotions were there – and perhaps they were so overwhelming because, while sitting there weepy and sniffling at my desk in the Business College that afternoon, I had my first real experience of the Communion of Saints. I just knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that I’d gained a friend in heaven.

JPII was the first person to convince me that the saints really are present to us, that they love us deeply and are rooting for us every step of the way, particularly when we feel friendless or alone. I owe him a great debt of gratitude for that. Whenever I am feeling really burdened or discouraged, I think of him repeating the words he loved to quote from the French poet Leon Bloy:

“The only tragedy in life, dear one, is not to be a saint.”

Blessed John Paul II, we love you. Pray for us!

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Fleeing from the Cross

Bouguereau, Compassion, 1897

Bouguereau, Compassion, 1897

Last year, Fr. Fields gave me a beautiful little prayer booklet called “Love’s Way of the Cross.” These meditations on the Way of the Cross by a German Benedictine abbot are now out-of-print, and I’m hoping to find time someday to type them up and put them somewhere on the blog. In the meantime, I’ll be sharing excerpts here and there as we wrap up this blessed season of Lent.

First, a passage from Thomas à Kempis quoted in the concluding meditation. This was the first thing I thought of after reading Ryan’s latest post: “Little Crosses/Big Crosses.” (Praying for you, brother!)

“Take courage, then, brethren, let us go forward together and Jesus will be with us. For Jesus’ sake we have taken this cross. For Jesus’ sake let us persevere with it. He will be our help as He is also our leader and guide. Behold, our King goes before us and will fight for us… Let no man fear any terrors. Let us be prepared to meet death valiantly in battle. Let us not suffer our glory to be blemished by fleeing from the Cross.”

The Imitation of Christ 3:56

Perhaps this passage strikes you differently, but it helped to remind me of two very important things: (1) We always carry our crosses together, never alone, and (2) Christ goes before us and defends us – and it is because of these two truths that we have no reason whatsoever to fear.

My prayer for all of us this Holy Week: that we would not flee from the Cross, but embrace it!

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Bride of the Crucified

St. Teresa of Avila and the Cross

St. Teresa of Ávila, bride of the Crucified

In a Holy Hour earlier this week, I was reflecting on Mother Teresa’s intimate, personal response to the question posed by Our Lord in Matthew 16:15 – “Who do you say that I am?” – written while she was hospitalized after a fall. The prayer is arrestingly straightforward, and powerful in its simplicity (just like Mother herself, I suppose). I’d read it many times before, but yesterday it was the end of it that really struck me:

Jesus is my God.
Jesus is my Spouse.
Jesus is my Life.
Jesus is my only Love.
Jesus is my All in All.
Jesus is my Everything.

Jesus I love with my whole heart, with my whole being. I have given Him all, even my sins, and He has espoused me to Himself in tenderness and love. Now and for life, I am the spouse of my Crucified Spouse. Amen.

I had to keep reading that phrase over and over again:

“I am the spouse of my Crucified Spouse.”

The bride of the Crucified. Of all the titles I will assume when I am consecrated by my bishop this June, I can admit that this is the one I am most reluctant to own. To be the “bride of Christ” can sound like such a romantic, picture-perfect, sunshine-and-roses thing. What a life, to be married to Jesus!

But being the bride of Christ means marrying all of Him, His whole Person. In this way, it means being the bride of the Crucified One, and not only that! Not only is the bride of Christ asked to accept her Spouse’s suffering – she’s asked to share it. She must allow her uniquely sensitive, feminine heart to be conformed to all of the dispositions of Christ’s Sacred Heart. Which, of course, doesn’t sound intimidating in the least.

I’ll be honest – sometimes when I try to think about what that could mean, I’m frightened. “Bride of the Crucified?” A life full of sufferings yet unknown to me? Doesn’t seem like something to look forward to. Doesn’t seem very natural or very human to desire such a thing. Doesn’t sound consoling in the least. The prayer of my heart this Lent has been: I am not very good at suffering, Lord! How can I learn love the Cross?

That phrase – “spouse of my Crucified Spouse” – kept resounding in my mind throughout the Holy Hour, and I kept trying to get away from it because I didn’t know what it meant, and didn’t really want to know. I was still thinking about it when I walked out of church and ran into some ladies from the parish. We’d just started chatting when we were approached by an elderly priest who I’d been hoping to meet for some time. (He has such a reputation for sanctity that I’d been hoping for a chance to be near him and hopefully “soak up” some of his holiness and wisdom.)

When I introduced myself and briefly explained that I was in formation to become a consecrated virgin, Father’s face lit up, and he took my hand, saying: “Oh, God bless you, dear!” And then, without missing a beat: “You know, there is nothing greater, no power greater than the power of the Cross. When things get hard, when you’re tempted, just remember that: the Cross. Make the Sign of the Cross and the devil will have to flee.” With that, he grinned, gave me his blessing, and left.

I was speechless. Not only had I been praying for weeks for guidance to help me overcome a particular temptation (the Sign of the Cross – I feel pretty foolish for not having thought of that!), but I had also been asking the Lord to use this Lent to teach me how (and why?) I am supposed to love the Cross. Then this little priest came out of nowhere and spoke straight to my heart.

The reading for Evening Prayer that night had been from the Letter of James – Submit to God; resist the devil and he will take flight. Draw close to God, and He will draw close to you (James 4:7-8) – and when I remembered that, I had an epiphany.

Becoming the “bride of the Crucified” shouldn’t frighten me, because that’s really just another way to talk about drawing near to Jesus. Love the Crucified One, love the Cross. So long as I cling to the Cross, none can touch me. So long as remember the Cross, the devil will flee. And when I embrace Christ Crucified, He will be nearer to me than I am to myself – and that is a very consoling thought, indeed.

“Yes, I love the Cross… I love it because I always see it behind Jesus’ shoulders.”

– Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

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