Today, Pope Francis presided over the Stations of the Cross in Rome, reading from prayers and meditations he wrote himself.

Traditionally, for the annual Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) held each year at the Colosseum, the pope will designate a person or group to compose the Stations of the Cross that will be prayed, often with a focus on a particular theme. For example, in 2022, each of the stations was composed by a couple or individuals focusing on different experiences and challenges (such as an elderly couple without children, a large family, a family with a disabled child) faced by families around the world. In 2021, the prayers were written by children and young people of Rome. In 2005, the prayers were composed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would soon be elected pope following the death of Pope John Paul II. In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI tapped Sr. Maria Rita Piccione, O.S.A., to compose the meditations and prayers with a distinctly Augustinian spirituality.

Some years, such as the Jubilee Year 2000, the pope himself writes the meditations, and this is what Pope Francis did this year. Some papal critics noted today that the Holy Father made a “peculiar” change to the traditional numbering of the stations, removing the Ninth Station, Jesus Falls a Third Time, with a new Eleventh Station, Jesus’ cry of abandonment.

I would like to share this Station, as well as a reminder that Pope St. John Paul II did a much more extensive overhaul of the stations in 1991 with a presentation of the Scriptural Stations of The Cross.

Here is the text:

Eleventh Station: 

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:45-46).

Jesus, this prayer of yours is unexpected: you cry out to the Father in your abandonment. You, the eternal Son, dispense no answers from on high, but simply ask why? At the height of your passion, you experience the distance of the Father; you no longer even call him “Father”, but “God”, almost as if you can no longer glimpse his face. Why? So that you can plunge into the abyss of our pain. You did this for my sake, so that when I see only darkness, when I experience the collapse of my certainties and the wreckage of my life, I will no longer feel alone, but realize that you are there beside me. You, the God of closeness, experienced abandonment so that I need no longer fall prey to feelings of isolation and abandonment. When you asked the question why, you did it in the words of a Psalm. You made even the utmost experience of desolation into a prayer. As we too must do, amid the storms of life. Rather than keeping silent, closed in on ourselves, we should cry out to you. Glory to you, Lord Jesus, for you did not flee from my pain and confusion, but tasted them to the full. Praise and glory to you, for you bridged every distance in order to draw near to those who were farthest from you. In my own dark night, when I keep asking why, I find you, Jesus, the light that shines in the darkness. And in the plea of all those who are alone, rejected, oppressed or abandoned, I find you, my God. May I always recognize your presence and turn to you in love.

Let us pray together and say: Jesus, help me to recognize you and love you

In unborn and abandoned children,

Jesus, help me to recognize you and love you

In young people who long for someone to hear their cry of pain,

Jesus, help me to recognize you and love you

In the many elderly people left alone and forgotten,

Jesus, help me to recognize you and love you

In prisoners and in the lonely,

Jesus, help me to recognize you and love you

In those peoples most exploited and ignored,

Jesus, help me to recognize you and love you

It is well worth meditating on the whole thing.

Wishing all of you a blessed Triduum.

Image: Christ in Agony on the Cross. El Greco. Public Domain.

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

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