The modern version of an ancient devotion remains perennially popular, and now Mark Zimmerman at the Catholic Standard in Washington has the story behind it:
About 45 years ago, amid the happy chaos of his large Bethesda home as his 13 children were coming and going in all directions, Deacon Clarence Enzler would settle onto a living room chair and write a manuscript by hand, or pull up a chair and peck at his typewriter on the dining room table.
The booklet he wrote, “Everyone’s Way of the Cross,” became a spiritual classic, eventually selling more than 3 million copies worldwide. The book was recently re-issued by Ave Maria Press, with woodcut illustrations by the mother-daughter team of Gertrud Mueller Nelson and Annika Nelson.
“It’s still timely, it still works,” said the author’s son, Msgr. John Enzler. “It’s so human… It comes across as a very realistic, human response to everyday life that can help us relate to Jesus carrying his cross.”
Msgr. Enzler, the president and CEO of Catholic Charities, served for many years as a popular local pastor, and now he sees his work as being a pastor for the region’s poor. His father’s example played a key role in his decision to become a priest, and in his outlook for serving the poor.
As a youngster, John Enzler used to tag along with his dad to daily Mass, and one cold morning, they encountered a man on the sidewalk who appeared to be homeless. Deacon Enzler spoke with the man, then gave him the jacket off his back and went inside his house to put on another coat. The future priest asked his dad why he had given away his coat to a stranger, and Deacon Enzler replied, “Because it’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Deacon Enzler later preached at his son’s first Mass in 1973. He remembered being accompanied every morning to 6:15 a.m. Mass by his little boy. “We had something very special going, didn’t we?” the proud father asked, but then he pointed out that his goal was not for his son to idolize him, but to understand that “his Father in heaven can indeed do it all.”
And the deacon praised his wife Kathleen, the mother of their big, happy family, for being Father Enzler’s best teacher. “Her heart and her lap were your most important school room.”
That love for God and his family, that common sense approach to his faith and his life, resonates in Deacon Enzler’s “Everyone’s Way of the Cross.”
The book is available on Amazon, and in a newly-released Kindle edition.