“To Remain Steadfast At The Foot Of The Cross”
By Deacon Tom Mulvihill
One of the finest Catholic Lenten traditions, by my way of thinking, is the “Way” or Stations of the Cross.
Somewhere, tucked away in one of my trunks of memorabilia and “stuff” that I have accumulated over the years, is a small, pale yellow devotional “pocket” compartment of sorts that contains, when cracked open, the Stations of the Cross stamped out of pewter. There they are, when opened, fourteen of the most agonizing scenes of human existence, in, of all things, pocket form.
It was given to me by my great-grandmother, Bertha Stolle vonBrecht, known to me, as I was growing up, simply, as “Bobbie.” It tussled about in her sensible handbag for decades, I think. The idea was, she once told me, that when things got tough, you could pull out this item, open it, and meditate upon the Stations and…maybe, just maybe, what you were going through wouldn’t seem so lousy.
I need to get it out again, I think. Soon. Not that things are so tough…but Lent always brings about, for me at least, a call to ground myself in the great traditions of the Church. And if ever there was some one who epitomized tradition and grounding, it was Bobbie.
I’ve extolled the great virtues and benefits to be found in the Stations before. Likely, I will again this Lent. But then, a few weeks ago, I stumbled across this great address delivered by our own Pope Benedict last August at the celebration of the Way of the Cross with young people at Plaza de Cibeles as part of the Twenty-Sixth World Youth Day.
At the Twelfth Station, the point at which I know that I feel thoroughly spent and low and utterly deprived of my Savior, the Holy Father said this:
Let us turn our gaze now to the Virgin Mary, who was given to us on Calvary to be our Mother, and let us ask her to sustain us with her loving protection along the path of life, particularly when we pass through the night of suffering, so that we may be able to remain steadfast, as she did, at the foot of the Cross.
In this, the early weeks of our Lenten practice, let’s remember the passage that Our Blessed Mother made to Calvary. Draw strength from it. Lean on her. Rely on her. Call upon her. She made this trip and she knows our longing.
Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that anyone who fled to Thy protection,
implored Thy help, or sought Thy intercession, was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto Thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother.
To Thee I come, before Thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions,
but in Thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.