Stations of the Cross always get me. I start out thinking I should probably go home and do the pile of work that’s waiting there. Then, very hesitantly and without being quite sure I’m doing the right thing, I decide to just pray Stations “real quick” before leaving the chapel, and, undoubtedly, am reduced to a blubbering, tear-drenched pile of slush with eyeliner dripping down to my chin by the fifth station. God is so good, and He touches our hearts when we least expect it–even when we’re trying to rush away and avoid fully experiencing Him.
It can be hard to turn toward the Cross. I think this is one of the reasons so few pray Stations—and one of the reasons I sometimes avoid them, too. The Crucifixion is so painful that just contemplating it is enough to reduce us to weeping, and we don’t want to go there. On your knees and weeping is a pretty unappealing place to be, right?
It is. But there’s something that happens in that place that I think the whole world should know about. Catholics already do—anyone who has an ear open to Padre Pio’s or St. Teresa of Calcutta’s wisdom understands this—but it’s something the rest of the world tends to discount. And that’s a shame, because there’s a great richness there.
When you’re suffering and approach it in a Catholic way, asking Jesus to join your sufferings with His, something really special happens that I never experienced before coming Home to the Faith. Under your cross, you’re walking alongside Christ. The heavier your cross is, the more of the weight of it Jesus carries and takes off your shoulders, and the more deeply He ministers to you while you’re carrying it with Him. He walks right beside you and lifts it. And then you’re there, and you’re walking next to Him, His shoulders pushing forward alongside yours, and all the while, He’s taking your burdens on Himself so you don’t have to bear their full weight.
And, while He’s doing that—lifting the burden of the Cross from your shoulders so that it’s not too much for you, He pours the richest treasures into your heart and soul, and it’s so easy to receive them, because you’ve drawn close to Him. Sometimes, it even carries over into material blessings or other gifts we can actually see, and He works real, visible, undeniable miracles there, too, just to strengthen our faith and remind us (again) that He is God and can do whatever He wants.
Before I went through really hard times, I never understood it. For the first 25 (or so) years of my life, I wouldn’t have believed that what the Catholic saints teach about suffering—that there’s a beauty and joy to it—was true. I was “the happy person”—no one ever saw me down; I was always smiling. I’d suffered minor hardships but nothing big enough to make me unhappy.
I thought it would always be that way, and in my naïveté, I ran smack-dab into a situation that wiped that smile off right-quick.
Over the two decades that followed, I lived through some very deep emotional pain. At times, it was grueling. And do you know what? Now, looking back, I’m grateful for all of it, because it was there, at the Cross, that Christ became my Best Friend.
Things are generally better now in my life, and that pain looks as if it’s settled and smoothed out (huge sigh of relief). But I’ll never forget that feeling—of walking alongside Jesus through the hardest parts, shoulder-to-shoulder, Him bearing more of my burdens than I did and ministering to me the whole time. It’s hard to explain, but the Cross, in a very real way, is an especially beautiful place. It’s beautiful, because Jesus is right alongside us when we’re there.