Friday, April 22, 2011

Make Way for Catholics

At midday today, my wife, daughter, and I walked the Way of the Cross with 100 friends. We started out at the Park Street T Stop in Boston, crossed the Common and Public Garden, and ended at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, praying with Cardinal Seán O’Malley. We stopped at five “Stations” en route, to hear choral singing, scriptural and other readings, and reflections by Fr. Stefano Colombo, FSCB. Along the way, friends Andrea, Coppa, Lorenzo, and Patrick played crossing guards for a man-sized wooden cross and its followers.

Forgive me if I couldn’t help thinking of my four friends as policeman Michael and his mates from the Robert McCloskey classic Make Way for Ducklingsor the rest of us as Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack. In that 1941 children’s book, the eight ducklings waddle along behind their mother, Mrs. Mallard, and cross to and from their home in the Boston Public Garden with police assistance.

This was not the only unusual thought that came to me as I participated in a moving human event and witness to Christ, sponsored by Communion and Liberation. A program booklet handed out on our Way of the Cross beautifully explains the meaning of our communal gesture:

The Way of the Cross [takes place] in the heart of a city where millions of people carry their daily cross, most of the time dreadfully alone: if God exists, He has nothing to do with my daily life. 

This is the true cross of every day, the cross of a person abandoned only to himself with innermost needs for never-ending love, truth, beauty, and justice.

We need the presence of “God with us,” Jesus every day. And Jesus, because of the sacrifice of His Cross and because of His resurrection, dwells among us, every day. There will be noise in the city, possible confusion. It is the very noise and confusion of our city where we spend our days. We will need to desire great attention in order to follow Jesus and to fix our gaze on the event of His Passion. It is that very same attention that is needed to look at the event of His presence among us every day.

We stopped first at the base of a statue commemorating the founding of Boston by John Winthrop and companions in 1630. The Boston CL choir sings in the photo. After a second Station at the Charles Street edge of the Common, we walked through the Public Garden, passing George Washington on horseback (no swan boats yet on a chilly spring day), then crossing Boylston Street for a third Station in Park Square.

It was here that I began to notice and sympathize with passers-by and the rare individuals who stopped to listen. I have lived in and around this city for forty years, and I have walked these streets as they have. In the course of my days, God has reached out to me in so many ways: through the beauty of flowers in the Public Garden, in the gaze of a homeless man on a park bench, in the mostly unintentional music of the city and its traffic. . . . How often have I stopped to look and listen? So very seldom.

I turned in my place at the Third Station and was struck by the sight of a lone man standing at an office window about four stories up, eating his lunch with a fork while watching us and perhaps gazing at the Cross.

The journey from the third to the fourth Station was longest—as the Mystery of Christ carrying his Cross to Golgotha must certainly have been a long journey too. We finally came to rest in a small park on Tremont Street in the South End (pictured below).

In the chapel at the Cathedral, our fifth and final Station, we waited in silence for Cardinal O’Malley, who has been generous in his support of CL in Boston—as has the Pope in Rome. As one of two lay readers for the event, I had the honor of reading in the presence of His Eminence a portion of a homily by CL founder Luigi Giussani (below, with John Paul II). 

“Lord, free our hearts of every worldly sadness” says the reading, and it’s right, because everything dies. I was looking at the plants outside my window destroyed by the frost. All things, if not for the force of God, would end, if not for the Power of God wanting to make itself seen. In the same way, the Power of God says to each of us: “I was like you, I was unjustly condemned and killed, and I accepted it so that you understand that I was a participant in the trial that you’re now undergoing.” 

Life is a land of trial, but the Mystery appeared as one of us; nothing is excluded—even death. His resurrection is life’s cry that wants to resound in everyone: this is the goodness and ultimate reasonableness of all things. “I assure you, I have risen from the dead to make you certain that everything will not die.” Like Mary Magdalene, we don’t know how, but we have been told that God, by rising from the dead, invites us to purify our hearts of sadness, a sadness which would be justified if God hadn’t become a man and died and rose for us. It’s what gives a reason every day for the hope in life. Every morning, let’s take up the positivity of things so that what we value we will never lose again. 

The message of CL, like the Christian proposal, is about this “positivity”—and the attention we need to notice it.

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