Saturday, February 21, 2015


During lent I always pray the stations of the cross. I enjoy meditating quietly on the Lord’s
Matisse "Stations of the Cross" 1950
suffering and walking with him on the way to Calvary. So last night I was faced with a choice: I could pray the stations by myself or I could join the parish’s Friday night service of the Stations of the Cross with a group of hearty parishioners who braved the incredible cold. 

Although I would have preferred the quiet, meditative solitude of praying by myself I decided to join the communal celebration of the stations. My decision was probably influenced by my remembering the group of fellow pilgrims that are walking the forty days of lent with me via my lenten book, Pilgrim Road.

So I joined the thirty or so people in church and walked the via dolorosa with them as part of the group. I’m glad I did. There’s no doubt that it’s a different experience to pray with flesh-and-blood people that you can hear and see right beside you.

Simon Helps Carry the Cross
When we got to the fifth station, “Simon helps Jesus to carry his cross,” we started reading the imaginary monologue of Jesus from our devotional booklets. In it our savior says that suddenly he noticed his cross becoming lighter, and then he realized that it was because Simon was now taking more of the weight on himself. Those words really touched me. I automatically began to examine my conscience: how often had I been Simon for someone today? How often had Jesus’ cross been lightened because of my efforts? I found that I could easily make a list of all the people I'd helped lately - a decent sized list, in fact, because as a teacher and a priest I have tons of opportunities to do so.

Another thought came to me later, however, after the service. If Jesus recognized that his cross had gotten lighter because someone was helping him carry it, how many times today was my life made a little easier or more pleasant by some Simon helping me? But when I started looking for the Simons in my life, people who had been of help to me recently, I was embarrassed (ashamed actually) that I couldn’t easily rattle off a decent-sized list of Simons in my life. Yikes! Am I really that oblivious to all the kindness and helpfulness that are given to me every day? 

Of course I eventually started coming up with more and more Simons, but the fact that I had to think so hard about it was a very unsettling experience.

So I have another lenten practice now: each night I’ll make a mental list of the people who have helped me that day in one way or another.

Interestingly, as part of the church service, Fr. Luke gave a short talk, and chose for his subject Pope Francis’ Lenten Message in which he decries our world’s pervasive indifference to the problems and needs of our less fortunate brothers and sisters. He challenges the church as an institution as well as on the level of parishes and individuals to use the time of lent to overcome that pervasive indifference. 

You might say that the pope is calling us to act as Simons for one another as we all walk the same road toward our heavenly home.

So, let's all resolve to be on the watch for Simon of Cyrene this lent.



  1. You made me pause as when I read your take on being Simon to others, I was already projecting that it was easy for me to be Simon but much more difficult for me to identify the Simons in my life. I put it to my innate self-centeredness.

    I say this with no acrimony or self-recrimination but an awareness of my own human-ness.

    I can only continue to move forward in my journey with more God awareness of his and children's presence around me.

  2. It's interesting that being self-centered doesn't prevent us from helping other people carry their crosses, but can prevent us from noticing when someone is helping us to carry our own.