Walking the Via Dolorosa as a Family

I wasn’t going to post again today, but then I read the meditations on the Stations of the Cross used by the Pope today at the traditional Good Friday prayer at the Colosseum. Each year, a different writer or team of writers is commissioned to compose these meditations. This year, for the first time, the meditations were penned by a married couple, Danilo and Anna Maria Zanzucchi, founders of Focolare’s New Families Movement.

It’s hard to put into words what an amazing gift it is to see the traditional events of the Passion through the eyes of contemporary marriage and family life. The focus is so current and the concerns of families around the world presented in such fresh, practical, compassionate, non-twaddly terms that I had to read the biographical note on the Zanzucchis three times before I registered that Danilo and Anna Maria are 90 and 82 years old, respectively, parents of five and grandparents of 12. Read these meditations yourself (click on the image of each station to see the corresponding meditation), especially if you are a spouse, parent, or grandparent, and see what I mean. Family life doesn’t always show up along the Via Dolorosa, though God knows families walk that path, so I give thanks to the Zanzucchis and whoever made this inspired choice.

From a personal standpoint, the meditations were one more nudge from God in my recent reconsideration on my own marriage and its end. Last night at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the choir sang the Monks of Weston Priory’s “The Lord Jesus” during the footwashing, and I remembered singing it decades ago with my ex-husband, and couldn’t stop crying. Today, I read the Zanzucchis’ meditation for the First Station (Jesus Is Condemned to Death) and was astonished. Where else have we ever seen Jesus’ betrayal compared to betrayal or abandonment by a spouse? I wish I had had this prayer to pray years ago, but I can pray it now as I struggle to understand the words of truth God has decided to hand me.

I look to you, Jesus, the victim of betrayal,
and experience with you the moment when the love and friendship
which had grown in our life as a couple fell apart,
and I sense deep in my heart the wounds of trust betrayed,
confidence lost, security gone.
I look to you, Jesus, at this very moment
when I stand judged by someone who has forgotten the bond
that united us in total self-giving.
Only you, Jesus, can understand me, can give me courage,
can speak to me words of truth, even though I struggle to understand them.
You can give me the strength
that enables me not to judge in return,
not to succumb, for love of the little ones
who await me at home,
for I am now their only support.
As a footnote, the whole Colosseum Stations tradition is a bit misplaced. As we learned on our pilgrimage in 2010, no Christians died there for their faith–though there was death aplenty, of animals and slaves and gladiators, for the sport of the bored masses. But maybe it actually makes good sense to stand the cross in the midst of this wholly secular monument to the culture of death, in order to proclaim the truth that is bigger than death. The blood of the martyrs hallowed the ground where it was spilled, most often in Rome in the Circus Maximus. But the story of the Blood of Christ can surely hallow any place–even these ruins of imperial tyranny that has not vanished from the earth, only changed its names through the ages.


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