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“It felt like an all-day funeral.” That’s what my 5-year-old mind told me on Good Friday. In my Italian grandparents’ home, the radio remained off and there was little talking. We went to church in silence at noon and stayed there until 3 pm.

After my dad returned from World War II, we moved into our own nuclear family home. The rituals became gentler, but we continued to spend three hours in church in programmed sadness and a growing sense of guilt. After all, I put Jesus on the cross. Or did I? It seemed that the Roman authorities were the ones who made the decision, not I.

By junior high, I decided to make the three hours a competition. I wanted to outlast everyone by kneeling straight up for three hours. After about two hours, my extended family members had all settled into a “three-point landing,” their butts against the pew.

I drew more energy as I saw people drop off, one by one. By 2:30 pm., I was the only one who was still kneeling up straight. There were some people behind me, but I thought they had caved in long ago. Back pew folks tended to come late or leave early — they were not even in the contest, a contest held strictly in the silence of my head. I don’t remember praying much.

When I took my first religion class in college, I realized the “funeral” for Jesus was about 2,000 years ago. He doesn’t die again every Good Friday. In fact, he rose three days after his death and now is perfectly happy in heaven. He doesn’t suffer anymore.

So how was I supposed to feel?

Then I took a course about St. Paul. I realized that Jesus does suffer now — in his body. Christians are the Body of Christ. He suffers now in those who are poor and sick, those who are imprisoned and refugees. He suffers in those who are victims of abuse, war, bullying, crime, racism and all manners of xenophobia. He suffers in those without health care, homes, food or jobs.

Back when I was director of the Franciscan Spirituality Center, we decided to walk a social justice “Way of the Cross.” The theme: Jesus Still Suffers in His Body.

We walked through the city, stopping to pray at places that symbolized the ways Jesus still suffers in his body. We paused at St. Clare Health Mission, the jail, and Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, where they feed the homeless. We usually stopped at six other sites where Jesus still suffers today. We always concluded at the Mississippi River, a symbol of life, and a place to celebrate the Resurrection.

Besides empathizing with and praying for those who suffer in the world, Christians have an obligation to relieve their suffering. In the last judgment scene in Matthew 25, Jesus identifies with those in need by saying, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was ill and you comforted me, in prison and you visited me.” Jesus concludes, “As often as you did it for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me.”

A prayer of Teresa of Avila makes the same point: “Christ has no body but ours. No hands, no feet on earth but ours. Ours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world.”

The Franciscan Spirituality Center continues this ritual at 10 a.m. on Good Friday. People will gather at St. Rose Convent.

How does it feel to make this Way of the Cross? It varies for me each year. One man, eager to carry the cross for a while, told me it was his best spiritual experience in a long time.

I encourage you to join us and honor whatever you feel.

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(12) comments

Redwall

In the Catholic faith there are 14 Stations of the Cross, each marking a specific event in Jesus' last day, marking his suffering, and providing a time to give devotion to Him at each station.

There are NOT 9 stations of the cross, each an opportunity to exploit The Faith in the name of liberal social causes, as imagined by Mr. Hatt. Climate change anyone?

This is nothing less than the usurpation and theft of the Catholic Faith in the name of liberal social causes.

kingman10

Well redwall, better write to your pope about liberal causes of the hijacked Catholic faith. Better yet, ask Jesus why he championed liberal causes, like feeding the poor, clothing the naked, welcoming the sinners and outcasts, healing the sick, and welcoming the foreigner.

kingman10

you should take that up with your Pope redwall. Liberal social causes like feeding the hungry, giving to the poor, welcoming the stranger, healing the sick are what he is promoting. Come to think of it, so did Jesus. Hmmm...guess he was liberal too, better have a long talk with him also.

capedcrusader

Well, Redwall, LOVE appears in the bible 310 times in the King James Bible, 348 times in the New American Standard Bible, 551 times in the New International Version, and 538 times in the New Revised Standard Version. The extreme varied numbers for the usage of the word love are due in part to translation. Sometimes in life as well as the Bible it isn't what you say but how you say it.

Redwall

Thank you for the trivia.

Sometimes it isnt what "they" say at all, but what is on the agenda being promoted. Read Mr. Hatt between the lines.

While some of the causes promoted by Hatt may be good ones, usurpation of one of the most holy days of the Catholic year in the name of promoting "climate change" and other liberal goodies is just wrong.

Clarification

I tend to agree. There are 364 other days to try to be clever.

capedcrusader

How about getting the spelling of the authors name correct? Wow.

MelloRedBuggVet2Lax

I'm not knocking this, but every group bends Jesus to their own agenda.

Redwall

Bending? More like the hi-jacking of a religion to promote secular social causes. While not a biblical scholar, I dont believe the terms xenophobia or health care appear in the bible, as Mr. Hatt imagines.

kingman10

You are right Redwall, xenophobia or health care terms do not appear in the bible, but if you bother to read the bible, it does address those issues, among many others. Christians who believe the new testament see Christ as a loving generous person, curing the sick, feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger and the outcast of society, and asking for nothing in return. All he wants from us is to do the same. Easy to say, hard to do. Many Christians want to put Jesus in their back pocket and keep him there when his teachings are difficult, or don't jive with our own made up morality or political leanings, and take him out only when it is easy, and convenient and so we can continue on our own easy path of hate, exclusion, and selfishness. All of societal woes are addressed in the Bible but we often chose to do different.

Redwall

And for you, disregarding the Ten Commandments is all just part if the forgiveness and being generous, I suppose. You are also guilty of picking your passages to support what you want to hear.

kingman10

yes redwall, I am guilty, never said I am perfect. Thank you for pointing that out. As you sit in judgement of others, just be sure you don't forget the most important one, yourself.

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