Prayer: Jesus, we know that all crowns have metaphorical thorns, but upon your head was placed a crown of mockery, meant to further debase you in the cruel manner of bullies. For me, the mockery is not public; it is an interior jeering and snarling at myself. As I seek out jobs that do not exist, or will not be offered to me, my ego is taking a beating; my confidence in my abilities is being shaken. All of my skills, all of my knowledge and experience -- these aspects of myself by which I have been defined for so long -- are being weighed by strangers who find them unremarkable. The indifference of others is painful, and in that pain I find my own excesses of pride; I see that I have built my life around what I do, rather than who I am. Now, faced with less doing and more being, I feel like a stranger to myself, a false monarch in a castle built on sand. Help me to recollect that I am more than my Curriculum Vitae, that I was loved into be-ing. Remembering this, I beg you to help me see what I was born to be, and to pursue my be-ing, in you for whom there are no strangers.

Meditation: Confidence and pride, ego and attitude are all manifest themselves in how we present ourselves to the world, and how we understand ourselves in response to lifelong feedback. A painful stripping off of these protective psychological layers reveals our shared vulnerability. No matter how successful one is in the eyes of the world, or how humble, when stripped of our self-trappings, we are each of us exactly alike in our need to be loved, protected, and valued. Pope Benedict has written, "If an individual is to accept himself, someone must say to him: "It is good that you exist" -- must say it, not with words, but with that act of the entire being that we call love." A prolonged experience of unemployment and refusal can make one feel unloved and irrelevant. But it is good that you exist. Others believe this. Christ knows this. You are meant to know it, too.

Fourth Mystery: Carrying the Cross

Prayer: Christ, when you carried the wood to which you would be nailed, it was a long walk no one else could make. Beaten, exhausted, hungry, and thirsty, you trudged along, each step heavy with fatigue. In the heat and dust, your destination seemed to waver, its location uncertain. Weakened, you must have been tempted to give up and let them kill you where you dropped. When Simon of Cyrene was called upon to help you, your burden was lessened, but that only allowed the torturous walk to go on; it was a bittersweet assist. I know something of that. As I find myself depleting reserves I may never be able to rebuild, or having to accept help I would prefer not to need, it is bitter; it feels like a downcasting humiliation. Help me carry my cross as you carried yours, with humble dignity.

Meditation: Humility is a scorned virtue, a cultivated garden our society disdains. Humility is misunderstood as weakness when, in fact, is it the strong foundation upon which dignity and blessings are built. The Messiah washed the feet of his own disciples; he accepted unjust abuse when he could have unleashed retribution. His eventual victory began with acquiescence, with a willingness to become the most vulnerable of all creatures, a human infant. Humility embraced with dignity is a perspective-changer; it brings gratitude, without which there is no room for even the smallest of joys to penetrate, and eventually heal.

Fifth Mystery: Dying on the Cross