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Way of the Cross highlights victory of love

A French biblical scholar not only wrote the meditations to guide Pope Francis' 2017 celebration of the Via Crucis at Rome's Colosseum, she also designed her own set of Bible-based Stations of the Cross.

Pope Francis asked Anne-Marie Pelletier to share her reflections with the worldwide audience that follows the stations on the night of Good Friday. She is the first wife, mother and grandmother to author meditations for the papal service.

In the past, writers chosen by the popes have used either the traditional 14 stations followed by pilgrims walking the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem or the 14 biblical stations used by St. John Paul II in 1991. The main difference is that Jesus falling three times and Veronica wiping the face of Jesus are in the traditional devotion, but not in any of the Gospels.

Pelletier's stations are a variation on St. John Paul's Scriptural Stations of the Cross. She starts with Jesus being condemned to death, rather than with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, and ends with the women preparing to anoint Jesus' body in the tomb.

Because the Stations of the Cross do not have a "binding form," Pelletier told Vatican Radio, "I chose those moments that seemed particularly significant."

"I didn't think about what I wanted to say or what I wanted to transmit," she said. "Rather, my idea was to put myself on this path, to try to follow in the footsteps of Jesus as he went up to Golgotha."

The driving idea, she said, is that "love is stronger" than any evil. "The love that comes from God is victorious over everything. I believe the task of Christians is to give witness to that."

In the third station, "Jesus and Pilate," she said she felt it was important to show the "complicity" of Pilate and members of the Jewish Sanhedrin in condemning Jesus to death.

In the meditation, which was to be read at the Colosseum, Pelletier wrote: "For all too long, Christians have laid the blame of your condemnation on the shoulders of your people Israel. For all too long, we have failed to realize the need to accept our own complicity in sin, so as to be saved by the blood of Jesus crucified."

She titled the fourth station, "Jesus, King of Glory," and focused on the soldiers dressing Jesus in a purple robe and crowning him with a crown of thorns.

Their actions show "the banality of evil," she wrote. "How many men, women and even children are victims of violence, abuse, torture and murder in every time and place."

"Can the sufferings of yet one more innocent person really help us?" Pelletier asked people to consider.

"The scorn and contempt of Jesus' torturers reveal to us -- in an absolutely paradoxical way -- the unfathomable truth of his unique kingship, revealed as a love that seeks only the will of his father and his desire that all should be saved."

While the Gospels do not mention Jesus falling as he carried his cross, Pelletier imagined that he did "on his grueling journey, most likely under the lashings of his military escort."

"He who raised the sick from their beds, healed the crippled woman, raised the daughter of Jairus from her deathbed, made the lame walk, now lies sprawled in the dust," she wrote. "Through him, the Most High teaches us that he is at the same time -- incredible as it is -- the most lowly, ever ready to come down to us, and to descend even lower if necessary, so that no one will be lost in the depths of his or her misery."

In the prayer she wrote for the sixth station, "Jesus and Simon of Cyrene," Pelletier asks God's blessing for every act of kindness every person performs.

"Deign to acknowledge them as the truth of our humanity, which speaks louder than all acts of rejection and hatred," she prayed. "Deign to bless the men and woman of compassion who give you glory, even if they do not yet know your name."

The seventh station, "Jesus and Daughters of Jerusalem," focuses on Jesus' statement to the women, "Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children."

"These tears of women are always present in this world," Pelletier wrote. "They fall silently down their cheeks."

But women are not the only ones who weep, she said, noting the "tears of terror-stricken children and of those wounded on battlefields crying out for a mother."

She prayed that God would teach people not to scorn the tears of the poor, but rather "to have the courage to weep with them."

The French scholar's reflection on Jesus being taken down from the cross highlights the "signs of loving care and honor" with which Joseph of Arimathea lowers Jesus' body and how, in death, Jesus "is once again in hands that treat him with tenderness and compassion."

The attitude continues in the final station commemorating Jesus being laid in the tomb and the women preparing to anoint his body.

"Lord our God," she prayed, "graciously look upon and bless all that women everywhere do to revere weak and vulnerable bodies, surrounding them with kindness and respect."
 
  • Published in Vatican

Via Crucis meditations highlight victory of love

A French biblical scholar not only wrote the meditations to guide Pope Francis' 2017 celebration of the Via Crucis at Rome's Colosseum, she also designed her own set of Bible-based Stations of the Cross.

Pope Francis asked Anne-Marie Pelletier to share her reflections with the worldwide audience that follows the stations on the night of Good Friday. She is the first wife, mother and grandmother to author meditations for the papal service.

In the past, writers chosen by the popes have used either the traditional 14 stations followed by pilgrims walking the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem or the 14 biblical stations used by St. John Paul II in 1991. The main difference is that Jesus falling three times and Veronica wiping the face of Jesus are in the traditional devotion, but not in any of the Gospels.

Pelletier's stations are a variation on St. John Paul's Scriptural Stations of the Cross. She starts with Jesus being condemned to death, rather than with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, and ends with the women preparing to anoint Jesus' body in the tomb.

Because the Stations of the Cross do not have a "binding form," Pelletier told Vatican Radio, "I chose those moments that seemed particularly significant."

"I didn't think about what I wanted to say or what I wanted to transmit," she said. "Rather, my idea was to put myself on this path, to try to follow in the footsteps of Jesus as he went up to Golgotha."

The driving idea, she said, is that "love is stronger" than any evil. "The love that comes from God is victorious over everything. I believe the task of Christians is to give witness to that."

In the third station, "Jesus and Pilate," she said she felt it was important to show the "complicity" of Pilate and members of the Jewish Sanhedrin in condemning Jesus to death.

In the meditation, which was to be read at the Colosseum, Pelletier wrote: "For all too long, Christians have laid the blame of your condemnation on the shoulders of your people Israel. For all too long, we have failed to realize the need to accept our own complicity in sin, so as to be saved by the blood of Jesus crucified."

She titled the fourth station, "Jesus, King of Glory," and focused on the soldiers dressing Jesus in a purple robe and crowning him with a crown of thorns.

Their actions show "the banality of evil," she wrote. "How many men, women and even children are victims of violence, abuse, torture and murder in every time and place."

"Can the sufferings of yet one more innocent person really help us?" Pelletier asked people to consider.

"The scorn and contempt of Jesus' torturers reveal to us -- in an absolutely paradoxical way -- the unfathomable truth of his unique kingship, revealed as a love that seeks only the will of his father and his desire that all should be saved."

While the Gospels do not mention Jesus falling as he carried his cross, Pelletier imagined that he did "on his grueling journey, most likely under the lashings of his military escort."

"He who raised the sick from their beds, healed the crippled woman, raised the daughter of Jairus from her deathbed, made the lame walk, now lies sprawled in the dust," she wrote. "Through him, the Most High teaches us that he is at the same time -- incredible as it is -- the most lowly, ever ready to come down to us, and to descend even lower if necessary, so that no one will be lost in the depths of his or her misery."

In the prayer she wrote for the sixth station, "Jesus and Simon of Cyrene," Pelletier asks God's blessing for every act of kindness every person performs.

"Deign to acknowledge them as the truth of our humanity, which speaks louder than all acts of rejection and hatred," she prayed. "Deign to bless the men and woman of compassion who give you glory, even if they do not yet know your name."

The seventh station, "Jesus and Daughters of Jerusalem," focuses on Jesus' statement to the women, "Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children."

"These tears of women are always present in this world," Pelletier wrote. "They fall silently down their cheeks."

But women are not the only ones who weep, she said, noting the "tears of terror-stricken children and of those wounded on battlefields crying out for a mother."

She prayed that God would teach people not to scorn the tears of the poor, but rather "to have the courage to weep with them."

The French scholar's reflection on Jesus being taken down from the cross highlights the "signs of loving care and honor" with which Joseph of Arimathea lowers Jesus' body and how, in death, Jesus "is once again in hands that treat him with tenderness and compassion."

The attitude continues in the final station commemorating Jesus being laid in the tomb and the women preparing to anoint his body.

"Lord our God," she prayed, "graciously look upon and bless all that women everywhere do to revere weak and vulnerable bodies, surrounding them with kindness and respect."
 
  • Published in Vatican

Pope washes 12 inmates' feet

In a gesture of service toward marginalized people, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 inmates, including three women and a man who is converting from Islam to Catholicism.

Although in Jesus' time, washing the feet of one's guests was performed by slaves, Jesus "reverses" this role, the pope said during the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper April 13 at a prison 45 miles from Rome.

"He came into this world to serve, to serve us. He came to make himself a slave for us, to give his life for us and to love us to the end," he said. 

Pope Francis made his way by car to a penitentiary in Paliano, which houses 70 men and women who testified as a witness for the state against associates or accomplices.

To protect the safety and security of the prisoners, only a live audio feed of the pope's homily was provided by Vatican Radio as well as selected photographs released by the Vatican.

The Vatican said April 13 that among the 12 inmates who participated in the foot washing ceremony, "two are sentenced to life imprisonment and all the others should finish their sentences between 2019 and 2073."

In his brief homily, which he delivered off-the-cuff, the pope said that upon his arrival, people greeted him saying, "'Here comes the pope, the head of the church.'"

"Jesus is the head of the church. The pope is merely the image of Jesus, and I want to do the same as he did. In this ceremony, the pastor washes the feet of the faithful. (The role) reverses: The one who seems to be the greatest must do the work of a slave," he said. 

This gesture, he continued, is meant to "sow love among us" and that the faithful, even those in prison, can imitate Christ in the same manner. 

"I ask that if you can perform a help or a service for your companion here in prison, do it. This is love, this is like washing the feet. It means being the servant of the other," the pope said.

Recalling another Gospel reading, in which Jesus tells his disciples that the greatest among them must be at the service of others, Pope Francis said Christ put his words into action by washing his disciple's feet and "it is what Jesus does with us."

"For this reason, during this ceremony, let us think about Jesus. This isn't a folkloric ceremony. It is a gesture to remind us of what Jesus gave us. After this, he took bread and gave us his body; he took wine and gave us his blood. This is the love of God," the pope said.

Vatican Radio reported that several other inmates took an active role in the liturgy, including four who served as altar servers. Other inmates prepared homemade gifts for the pope, among them were two dessert cakes, a handcrafted wooden cross and fresh vegetables grown in the prison garden.

The evening Mass was the second of two Holy Thursday liturgies for Pope Francis. The first was a morning chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.
  • Published in Vatican

Chrism Mass

The April 11 Chrism Mass at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington was rich in tradition as priests and parishioners from the statewide Diocese of Burlington gathered to celebrate the priesthood of Jesus Christ and watch Bishop Christopher J. Coyne bless oils that will be used throughout the year in the sacramental life of the diocese.

During the Chrism Mass, the bishop blessed the oils that symbolize the link of the parishes with the bishop in sacramental ministry. The Mass was a sign of the unity of the local Church in Vermont.
 
The oils blessed were the Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens and the Chrism Oil. To prepare the Chrism Oil, Bishop Coyne mixed in balsam, the perfume that gives it a rich aroma.
 
Scores of priests from every region of the diocese attended the special morning Mass, after which they or their representatives received oils to bring to their churches.
 
The Mass also was an opportunity for the bishop to announce major news: the convening of a Diocesan Pastoral Synod, the first since 1962. Its purpose is to establish a pastoral plan for the immediate future of the Church in Vermont and to establish particular laws and policies to do so. This will be at least a yearlong project and is “a serious undertaking by the Church,” he said. “It is not a simple convening of meetings.”
 
The bishop will serve as the convener and presider, and membership of the synod will contain both ex-officio members of the clergy and laity as well as representatives of religious communities, lay fraternities and at-large representation such as young people, parents and minority communities.
 
Before the sessions of the synod are convened all of the members of the Catholic community will be invited to participate in a preparation process in which they will be asked to pray, to listen, to learn and to discern what the future pastoral plan for spreading the “good news” of the Church in Vermont should be. This will take place on the parish level, the deanery level and the diocesan level. It will include personal meetings but could also make use of new digital and social media means of communication.
 
After this work of preparation is completed, the bishop will convene the synod to meet in the necessary sessions to complete the work of discernment and planning and to then enact the policies, laws and directives to carry out that plan in the Vermont Church. “I will seek input from all. I will listen to all. And I will discern with you all,” he said.
 
After the Chrism Mass, Jack Lyons, a senior at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, commented on its meaningfulness: “It’s always cool to come together as a diocese, but it’s also cool to know…the oils will be used to do good all over the state” as they are used “to serve the people of God through the sacraments.”
 
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