From The Stations of the Cross and Their Relation to Family Life
By Joseph A. Breig, 1950’s
The harsh word you spoke to your wife…the nagging you inflicted on your husband…the feud you had with your neighbor…the impatient blow you struck one of your children, or the loveless punishment to which you subjected him because he did something that annoyed you….
These are among the things for which Christ died, and for which Mary, in intolerable anguish, watched Him die. These things are not the least of the things that scourged Him and crowned Him with thorns, and hung Him on the Cross. They are not the least of the things that condemned Our Lady to stand helpless before Him, unable to ease His pain, to comfort His heart, to wipe away the blood from His face that His nailed hands could not touch.
Oh, we are angry, and rightly angry, over the inhumanities, the abominations, inflicted upon men and women and children, and upon the cardinals and bishops and priests of Christ, by the Stalins and the Hitlers and the Titos. But usually there is nothing that we can directly do to stop that sort of thing.
It is not so with the inhumanities that we commit against those nearest to us–our own fathers and mothers, our own wives and husbands, our own children and neighbors. Those inhumanities, we can do something about. We can stop them.
We complain, too, about the attacks of anti-Catholics upon the Church–the lies they tell about her, the preposterous charges they voice, the calumnies and slanders and insinuations they publish. Sometimes we can do something to correct such situations, and sometimes we can’t. But always we can do something about our own coldness to Christ. And cold we are. Cold!
Each day the Church offers us the Mass; offers us the opportunity to join with Mary and Joseph, with the angels and saints, in adoring and thanking Christ as He immolates Himself again for us. Are we there? How few are present in the parish church each morning! How few families are represented by even one member! And why are we not represented? Because we are slothful. Just plain slothful.
Sloth is that insidious, that sneaking, that small and mean and cheap weakness which counsels us to be careless and indolent about spiritual things. Sloth whispers to us that we need our sleep; that we are too tired to rise twenty or thirty minutes earlier in the morning in order to be at Mass. What a thieving and lying thing is sloth, and how it deludes us into depriving ourselves, through our own fault, of riches beyond the wildest power of words to describe!
Each day the Church offers Communion to us; offers Christ Himself to be the invigoration and the sanctification of our souls, the enlightenment of our minds–indeed, even the protection of our bodies, our families, our homes and our country. But sloth, that miserable thing, makes fools of us and leaves us lying abed, missing the greatest things that life can give to us.
We ask ourselves, when we stop to think, why did I quarrel with my wife or husband? Why was I short-tempered, even mean, perhaps even cruel, with the children? Why did I fall into this sin or that sin? Why am I so petty, so uncharitable, so quick to pride and anger and vanity? Why do I complain about everything, and appreciate almost nothing?
Why am I unhappy? Why do I not walk through life singing and smiling, uplifted by the beauty of things? Why am I short and surly with the woman I love and the children I love–with the very persons who, if they were dead before me, my heart would be broken, my life would be desolated?
Why, why, why? The answer is immediately at hand. The answer is our failure, through laziness and self-indulgence, to take advantage of the sources of grace that would transform our souls into shining things,that would open our minds and hearts to the nobility of existence.
The Mass is there, Holy Communion is there, the Sacrament of Penance is there, the Blessed Sacrament is there, the Stations of the Cross are there, the Rosary is within reach whenever we want to stretch out our hands to it.
Christ died to redeem us and to offer us holiness. He died in a world-shaking agony to try to drive home to us the great lesson of what we are. He died to try to make us see ourselves as He sees us. And how does Christ see us?
Let us look at ourselves through the eyes of Christ. What was it God said when He created us? “Let us make man to our image and likeness.”
Now, everything that exists is a reflection of God. The sunset, the flowers reflect His beauty. The wind, the waterfall reflect His power.
The mountains, and great seas, reflect His majesty. The night sky, the stars, the blazing sun, the moon, the trees, the rocks and sands, the animals and insects, the corn growing on the prairie, the tomato ripening on the vine, the worm industriously fertilizing the soil–all reflect something of God’s infinite perfection.
God said, “Let us make man to our image and likeness.” And He gathered up in man something of all these reflections. From all the created kingdoms he took a part of man, so that when Adam and Eve stood before Him, all creation stood there.
Man is mineral, man is vegetable, man is sensitive like the animals, man is spiritual. The nobility of man’s nature is beyond the power of words to express fully. And yet this, all this, is only a beginning.
On the Cross, Christ took man and added the divine. Through His sacraments, He supernaturalizes the inexpressible natural nobility of man. Man now becomes God’s own son and daughter; we are made princes and princesses of Christ’s eternal and infinite kingdom.
Why, it would not be too much to say that angels are stricken with awe at the sight of us, because we are filled with Christ, we are temples of the Holy Spirit, and in us the Son of Man and the Son of God takes up His abode, as He promised, with the Father and the Holy Ghost.
This, then, is a Christian. This is a baptized man or woman. This is one who can walk into the House of God, and go forward toward the altar, and receive the Risen Christ, true God and yet true man–our Creator, our Redeemer and our Brother–for food and drink for the soul.
That is what we are; and yet we snap at one another, we fill our homes with disputes and contentions, with grabbings, with jealousies and suspicions, with ungodliness and inhumanities toward one another.
What preposterous foolishness! What imbecility!
No; we cannot talk around it; we cannot refuse to face it. Christ dying on the Cross is dying to make us like unto Him; to make our homes like the House at Nazareth; to make our families like the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
There is no use in our sitting around telling ourselves that sanctity is for monks and hermits, for priests and Brothers and Sisters. Yes, sanctity is for them; but sanctity is for us, too.
It is our business, we who are husbands and wives and children, we who are family and home people–it is our business to “Christize” ourselves and our houses and our neighborhoods. That is the business that we ought to be about. If we were about it as we ought to be, gradually we would “Christize” all the world; we would create world peace; we would disarm and harmonize the nations.
The Mass and the Sacraments are there at our beck and call, to give us the power and wisdom and zeal we need. Only one thing remains: Are we going to do something about it, or are we going to leave untapped, or hardly touched, the power that would flow to us from Christ Crucified if only we would open our hearts to it?
The Way of the Cross
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He writes very well, and it makes me wonder how he put into practice these things. What did he do at his church? What did he do in his community, his neighborhood? How did he invigorate others in person besides his writings?
A blest Passion Sunday to you.