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Via Dolorosa: The Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross (Via Dolorosa) has become a common way of prayer during Lent for Catholics. As we enter into the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus, meditating on certain points in His suffering leading up to the crucifixion provides a powerful source of prayer.

If you’ve seen Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ,” Mary is often depicted not far from her son. She is also wounded, as the prophet Simeon proclaimed to her: “...and a sword will pierce your own soul” (NASB). This has always struck me while watching this movie, which I try to do every Lent. What was it like to be Mary during the Passion? How did she endure the cruel sufferings done to her only Son, knowing that they were necessary for the salvation of a world who didn’t care? I invite you this Lent to meditate on Mary’s Passion as you pray the Via Dolorosa, either at a local parish or on your own.

A man who pondered Mary’s Passion much better than I have is Charles Peguy, a French poet from the late 1800’s. I encourage you to read and reflect on “Our Lady’s Passion,” the title of his poem (below). The images throughout this blog post are created by local artists in the surrounding Rochester area and will be used at Pax Christi Catholic Church’s Stations of the Cross. May Our Lady guide us, as she always does, closer to her son’s Sacred and Suffering Heart as we walk with Him down the Via Dolorosa.

“The Passion of Our Lady,” by Charles Peguy

Jesus is Condemned to Die by Jim Stanislawski

For the past three days she had been wandering, and following.

She followed the people.

She followed the events.

Jesus Carries His Cross by Frances Phillips

She seemed to be following a funeral.

But it was a living man’s funeral.—

She followed like a follower.

Like a servant.

Like a weeper at a Roman funeral.—

As if it had been her only occupation.

To weep.—

Jesus Falls the First Time by John Engesser, designed by Mary Whalen

That is what he had done to his mother.

Since the day when he had begun his mission.—

You saw her everywhere.

Jesus Meets His Mother by Tim Zappa

With the people and a little apart from the people.

Under the porticoes, under the arcades, in drafty places.

In the temples, in the palaces.

In the streets.

In the yards and in the back-yards.

And she had also gone up to Calvary.

Fifth Station by Tim Zappa
Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross by Tim Zappa

She too had climbed up Calvary.

A very steep hill.

And she did not even feel that she was walking.

She did not even feel that her feet were carrying her.—

Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus by Alexis Zaccariello

She too had gone up her Calvary.

She too had gone up and up

In the general confusion, lagging a little behind ...

She wept and wept under a big linen veil.

A big blue veil...

A little faded.—

Jesus Falls a Second Time by John Engesser, designed by Mary Whalen

She wept as it will never be granted to a woman to weep.

As it will never be asked

Of a woman to weep on this earth.

Never at any time.—

Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem (Photo taken at St. Boniface Church, Leeuwarden, Netherlands)

What was very strange was that everyone respected her.

People greatly respect the parents of the condemned.

They even said: Poor woman.

And at the same time they struck at her son.

Because man is like that.—

The world is like that.

Jesus Falls the Third Time by John Engesser, designed by Mary Whalen

Jesus is Stripped of His Garments by Francois Nguyen

Men are what they are and you never can change them.

She did not know that, on the contrary, he had come to change man.

That he had come to change the world.

She followed and wept.

Everybody respected her.

Everybody pitied her.

They said: Poor woman.

Because they weren’t perhaps really bad.

They weren’t bad at heart.

They fulfilled the Scriptures.—

They honored, respected and admired her grief.

They didn’t make her go away, they pushed her back only a little with special attentions

Because she was the mother of the condemned.

They thought: It’s the family of the condemned.

They even said so in a low voice.

They said it among themselves

With a secret admiration.—

She followed and wept, and didn’t understand very well.

Jesus is Nailed to the Cross by Emmanuel Akande

Jesus Dies on the Cross by John Engesser

But she understood quite well that the government was against her boy.

And that is a very bad business.—

She understood that all the governments were together against her boy.

The government of the Jews and the government of the Romans.

The government of judges and the government of priests.

The government of soldiers and the government of parsons.

He could never get out of it.

Certainly not.—

What was strange was that all derision was heaped on him.

Not on her at all.—

There was only respect for her.

For her grief.—

They didn’t insult her.

On the contrary.

People even refrained from looking at her too much.

All the more to respect her.

So she too had gone up.

Gone up with everybody else.

Up to the very top of the hill.

Without even being aware of it.

Her legs had carried her and she did not even know it.

She too had made the Way of the Cross.

Jesus is Taken Down From the Cross by Kieran McDonnell

The fourteen stations of the Way of the Cross.

Were there fourteen stations?

Were there really fourteen stations?—

She didn’t know for sure.

She couldn’t remember.

Yet she had not missed one.

She was sure of that.

But you can always make a mistake.

In moments like that your head swims.

Jesus is Placed in the Tomb by Theodore Marie Francois Lybaert

Everybody was against him.

Everybody wanted him to die.

It is strange.

People who are not usually together.

The government and the people.

That was awful luck.

When you have someone for you and someone against you, sometimes you can get out of it.

You can scramble out of it.

But he wouldn’t.

Certainly he wouldn’t.

When you have everyone against you.

But what had he done to everyone?

I’ll tell you.

He had saved the world.

(Poem taken from

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