Yesterday I gave a Lenten retreat at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Minneapolis. The focus of the day was on two traditional devotions designed to help us walk with Mary and with Jesus in the passion: the Seven Sorrows of Mary and the Stations of the Cross.
These devotions are familiar to many, if not all of the people who attended the retreat. The problem, however, is that when things become too familiar, we cease to see them, or at least cease to focus on them in a meaningful way. We can find ourselves attending a Friday evening Stations service during Lent and mumbling the prayers without really meditating in the event before us. Indeed, while most people could probably mention most of the stations, few have meditated on each of them. So my hope was to encourage prayerful reflection on the events that make up the two devotions.
The day was very powerful for the participants and for me. And I found it emotionally challenging. I have spoken about both of these devotions on a number of other occasions, but never both together. Presenting them like that, I found myself almost choking up at a couple of points.
One of those points came when I was talking about the thirteenth station: Jesus is Taken from the Cross.
When I contemplate this station I think of wakes – of our watch over the dead body of a loved one as a sign of our love and respect. And as we do, we remember the life of the person. At the moment of bereavement, we mourn, but we also celebrate life that was.
And part of this process is about learning to accept the partings that will inevitably come our way. The prayer in Clarence Enzler’s version of stations (Everyman’s Way of the Cross) is one that always touches me deeply. In our response to Jesus at this station, we pray:
I beg you, Lord, help me accept the partings that must come – from friends who go away, my children leaving home, and most of all, my dear ones when you shall call them to yourself. Then, give me grace to say: “As it has pleased you, Lord, to take them home, I bow to your most holy will. And if by one word I might restore their lives against your will I would not speak.”
When I spoke them yesterday, I almost couldn’t get them out. When I pray those lines, I half shake my head, especially at that last line because there are times I’d give just about anything to have some more time with my father…or my mentor Ned…or some of the other people’s whose deaths hurt me so deeply.
So I pray, let me grown in my acceptance so that I am able to pray those lines more honestly and fully, to more and more bow to God’s most holy will.