What Do You Do?

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the La Salle Academy educational community on Thursday, 10 April 2014)

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

 “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

Every Friday afternoon during Lent, when I was a grammar school student first at the Assumption School in Providence and later at Saint Matthew’s School in Cranston, the entire student body was brought over to church for the Stations of the Cross.  Between each of the 14 stations we sang the solemn hymn “Stabat Mater” (remembering Jesus’ mother Mary at the crucifixion),

then we knelt as we prayed the prayer that I began with, and then we stood as the priest solemnly announced each of the moments of the last day of Jesus’ life.  Sometimes I returned to church on Friday evening to be an altar server for the adult Stations of the Cross.  In those days, this devotion was a “must” for Lent.

As early as the fifth century the Church solemnized the Stations of the Cross.  This devotion had originated in Jerusalem as pilgrims sought to follow the last steps of Jesus, the Via Crucis (the Way of the Cross), the Via Dolorosa (the Way of Sorrows).

Station 8 Via Dolorosa

Over the years these stations were added to all churches, so today we see them displayed around the walls of every church.  Reflecting on these last moments of the life of Jesus has been and remains a powerful opportunity for each of us to reflect on our own lives as well.

Let’s look at one station this morning, the fifth remembrance of the fourteen—Simon of Cyrene helps to carry the cross of Jesus.  We don’t know much about Simon except that he came from Cyrene (northern Africa).  We don’t know if he was a traveler to Jerusalem that day, an immigrant worker, a follower of Jesus, an adversary.  What we do know is that the soldiers made him carry the cross of Jesus.


So let’s go back in time, close our eyes, put our heads on the desk if we wish, and imagine the scene.  The narrow dusty road is crowded with Roman soldiers and Jewish officials; some followers or friends of the accused man are straggling along crying, upset, beside themselves with grief; some enemies of the man are jeering and shouting; some bystanders are just standing there as the execution procession is passing.  The man to be executed is bloody from being beaten and whipped, his face is covered with sweat and with blood trickling down from the crown of thorns around his head.  He falls in front of you beneath the weight of the cross—he is already exhausted and he still has a way to go up to the hill of Golgotha where executions happen.  A Roman soldier roughly pulls you from the crowd and orders you to carry the cross for the convict.  You pick it up, you wait for him to rise, and you walk on with him at your side.  The cross is heavy; it is at the hottest part of the day; some of the crowd starts to shout at you for helping the man out.   Do you feel angry that you have to do this?  Do you feel helpless?  Do you feel compassion?  Confusion?  You walk on and he stops to have his face wiped by a woman, and again he stops to meet some crying women; he falls not once but two more times.  Are you annoyed by the delays and just want to get it over?  Do you feel like you want to do more for this man who struggles beside you?  Finally, you reach the top of Golgotha, the executioners take the cross from you and your work is over.  Do you disappear into the crowd?  Do you stay to watch?  Do you join the crowd in making fun of him?  What do you do?

What do you do?  What do you do when unexpected crosses come your way—an illness like diabetes that changes the way you live, an injury—concussion, broken ankle, etc. that keeps you from your usual activities, being cut from a team you were looking forward to play on or receiving a failing grade or one that you expected better of?  Are you angry, in denial, depressed?  Do you feel bad for yourself or do you set your sights on getting better, rehabbing, adjusting your life? For Brother Paul the unexpected cross came in early January when he learned that he had incurable cancer.  He has accepted that cross!! What do you do when the crosses of other people become yours?  (I’m sure that Simon labored under that cross even though it was not his.)  What do you do when there is an illness in your family, your mom or dad become seriously ill or a sister or brother get hurt, your child or grandchild is physically or psychologically sick, or grandparents become sicker and sicker either physically or through Alzheimers or some other debilitating illness?  Their cross becomes your cross—are you annoyed?  Do you feel helpless?  Do you try to avoid it?  What do you do?  What do you do when one of your parents loses a job and money is tighter or when alcohol or drugs enters your family and disrupts relationships?  What do you do when you are teamed in school or sports with someone you can’t stand because they are poorer/ or richer, a different skin color, straight/ or gay?  Do you pout, refuse to make it work, just tolerate it, or grow to accept it?


There is no escaping the cross, either our own cross or the cross of another that we have to shoulder.  Jesus tells us: “If you want to be my disciple, you must take up the cross and follow me.”  Will I, will you accept the crosses of this day, the crosses of our lives, and, like Simon of Cyrene, follow Jesus to his death?  Then and only then will we experience the beauty, the wonder, the fullness of new life and Resurrection! As St. Paul tells us: “If we die with Christ, we shall also live with Christ!”


Let us pray:  We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world, you have redeemed me, you have redeemed each of us.  AMEN.


St. John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.

Live, Jesus, in our hearts…forever.

Afternoon Reflection


Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

As we reflect on our day we think of Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross of Jesus.

Did I accept the little crosses that were sent my way today or did I resent them, fight them, feel put upon by them?

How can I learn to take up my own cross and those of the people around me so to follow Jesus more fully and experience his Resurrection more completely?

 St. John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.

Live, Jesus, in our hearts…forever.

 Brother Frederick Mueller, FSC

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