Mar 24 to Mar 30: Jesus . . . VI. Meets Veronica; VII. Falls Second Time; VIII. Meets Women of Jerusalem

Reading: Walk With Jesus, Chapter VI, VII, VIII (pages 37-54)

It is a joy to be sharing this Lenten journey with such Spirit-filled companions in a warm, supportive, and compassionate community. Thanks to each of you for being here, those who are posting comments and those walking with us in silence.  As we begin this week, I would ask that we pray for Ernie’s grandson Luke and his family and all the other intentions that we hold quietly in our hearts.

This week as we continue to walk with Jesus on the way to Calvary, we encounter an anguished woman whose husband has disappeared without explanation, a desperate farmer losing his way of life due great economic forces, and women weeping over the destruction of their people, their land, and and their homes due to war and violence. As tragic as each of these situations would be on their own, each one also calls to mind the many uncounted similar situations occurring every day in countries around the world.

Clearly, we live in a world where there is often great pain and suffering.  Yet Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10) Henri’s reflections that that link Sr. Helen David’s contemporary images to Jesus’ way of the cross help us to reconcile these seemingly insurmountable differences. As Henri writes in Jesus Meets Veronica, “Jesus looks at me and seals my heart with the imprint of his face. I will always keep searching (for a new life), always waiting, always hoping. His suffering face does not allow me to despair.” (p.42)

How have these reflections given you greater insight into the paradox of a world of both great pain and suffering and one of abundant life? Jesus also says, “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (Jn 10:11)  Does the image of Jesus as the good shepherd who lays down his life aid in reconciling this paradox.  Why or why not?  In addition to considering these questions you may refer to the reflection guide at the end of this post.

These questions and the reflection guide are simply offered for your consideration. They may or may not be helpful.  It is much more important for you to follow wherever the Spirit leads you as you reflect on Sr. Helen David’s images and Henri’s meditation. Regardless of how you get started, please share with the group whatever is on your heart to the extent you are comfortable.  We will all be enriched by your thoughts and insights.

May our discussion flower and be fruitful during this first full week of spring.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Peace and all good.

Reflection Guide:
Henri follows a threefold approach at each Station. First, he places us in Sister Helen David’s picture. He then transports us to Jerusalem to join Jesus on his way to Calvary. Finally, Henri challenges us walk with Jesus and to build God’s Kingdom here and now.

At each Station (or in each chapter) you might:

  1. Ponder on Sister Helen David’s drawing.  Take note of your observations, impressions, reactions, and any questions that my arise.
  2. Read Henri’s reflection.  How does Henri’s reaction to the drawing compare to yours?  Does Henri’s description of Jesus’ suffering at this Station give you new insight into your life and faith journey? How do you respond to Henri’s challenge to walk with Jesus? What concrete steps will you take and when?
  3. How you will respond? Carefully (prayerfully) consider how your heart responds to the insights gained during your reflection. Are there small steps you can take to incorporate these insights to strengthen your spiritual life
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39 Responses to Mar 24 to Mar 30: Jesus . . . VI. Meets Veronica; VII. Falls Second Time; VIII. Meets Women of Jerusalem

  1. Patrice Donnelly says:

    To fall a second time is eloquently presented in Henri’s reflection. The connection with the farmer who has lost it all after repeated efforts is a poignant example. How can one go on in the face of so much devastation? And in fact many do falter and deserve our compassion, not our judgement.
    As the women of Jerusalem weep, we also feel comforted when others grieve with us during our time of sorrow. We may not wish to see loved ones hurt, but at the same time, sharing that grief through public display can provide some comfort. I recall how I felt at a funeral long ago of a loved one, seeing a close friend of mine also cry. I was moved by her sorrow. They were tears of comfort as well as sadness. I will never forget it. I hope I have been of comfort in a similar way to others who are grieving.

  2. Patrice Donnelly says:

    Henri connects those who have been “disappeared” and the women who remember their faces with Veronica who loses the person Jesus, yet is given a picture to keep, evoking his humanity and spirit. This picture also is an emblem of longing, which we all experience when we lose someone precious and dear to us. We keep the picture as remembrance but it also makes us sad that the person is no longer with us. Our culture does not discuss spirit well. We understand emotions very well, but not the spirit world. We tend to deal mostly in the tangible, that which can be explained through physical sciences-although we have opened up new worlds that are not easily available, such as atomic sciences and other unseen phenomenon. Although we all sense a spirit world as truth and experience it in some way, we lack a clear, culturally approved way of speaking about the spirit world with credibility. We simply do not know what happens after death. Yet it is one of the most important questions humanity has to consider. If there is no further life of any kind after death, then what is our purpose in being here, in knowing what we know and in seeking new knowledge? Many ask why not simply live a life that is purely self-interested, yet that rings hollow to most of us. We feel bonds of love, we sense the presence of spirits after a person dies, we understand what psychology has to offer on these matters and that is helpful, but we sense if not know that there is more yet to understand. I give credit to religion for continuing to ask the question about life after death, while many simply dismiss it as fantasy, but I also think it is important to consider it as a scientific question. We simply do not have all of the answers at this time. We do not even have the technology to explore these issues in a scientific manner, although maybe someday we will. We have only devotion, hope, and love. That is enough at least to give us direction. Longing has a place not only in our hearts but perhaps in our scientific body of knowledge sometime in the future.

  3. Chris Hoffman says:

    On page 53 Henri encourages us to become a humble people. Not only does he encourage us but he shows us a path of humility to walk on. He shares with us that in our lives we will experience losses. This is not a matter of “if” but that we will. The question than is how do we respond to the losses which confront our lives. One response that he shows us which is not beneficial leads to anger and frustration. This is the result of our failure to realize our limitations and inability due to our mortality to evoke expectations we hold as being important. He tells us on page 53:

    “If we cannot confess our own limitations, sin, and mortality, then our well-intended actions for the making of a better world easily backfire on us and become expressions of an undirected anger and frustration. Our tears can lead us to the heart of Jesus who wept for our world. As we weep for him, we are led to his heart and discover there the most authentic response to our losses.”

    I find as I ponder Henri’s words that I need to be found in the embrace of Jesus’ heart. And from this position I do not respond towards the calamity of life surrounding me in a reactive manner. Instead, as I am buried in Jesus’s heart in all humility I view the world around me with all of its complexities redemptively.

  4. Chris Hoffman says:

    We are accustomed with an understanding that our lives must be productive or they have less value. So we remain busy in ways to give us a sense of worth. Nothing wrong with this as long as our busyness is not what necessarily identifies just who we are. If our busyness is how we prefer to be identified when we become less busy or not busy at all we may slip into despair.

    Henri Nouwen encourages us that when we falter, when we fall off, when we cannot bear the weights we once carried that all is not loss. In fact the opposite occurs in our life. Hope is discovered. We read on pages 47-48:

    “‘Is my life worth anything?’ There can arise in our hearts a deep fatigue that makes it seem impossible to go on. Everything looks like one big failure. All our efforts seem to have come to nothing. Dreams are scattered, hopes are dashed, aspirations are ripped away. Depression takes over, and nothing seems to matter anymore.”

    “Jesus suffered this with us as he fell. He calls us now to trust that both his and our failing are a true part of the way to the cross. Maybe all that we can do when we fall is to remember that Jesus fell and is falling now with us. That rememberance may become the first inkling that there is hope.”

    Our insignificance in the world around us is not meant to alarm us. God broadcasts us out as seed into the fields of this world. As seed we are dead waiting for the breath of God to enliven the field he has sown us into in order to bring sustenance to the world. I so very much like the following quote which speaks to this:

    “In its gathered, visible form in the granary, seed is useless. To serve the purpose for which it exists, it must be scattered. It disappears into the soil and literally dies. When seed is doing the work for which it was intended, it is invisible.” — Gordon W. Lathrop

    • Liz Forest says:

      And Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Whoever loves his life will lose it, but whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. ”
      I like the idea of God broadcast us as seed. Thanks, Chris!

      • Chris Hoffman says:

        Henri Nouwen in his daily devotional “You are the Beloved” in the reading for March 28 discusses fruitful deaths. He talks about our own pending death but his message can speak to any “death” experience that God draws us towards. He states the following:

        “Jesus sees that the real fruits of life will mature after his death. That is why he adds, ‘It’s good for you that I go’. If that is true, then the real question for me as I consider my own death is not: how much can I still accomplish before I die, or will I be a burden for others? No, the real question is: how can I live so that my death will be fruitful for others? In other words, how can my death be a gift for my loved ones so that they can reap the fruits of my life after I have died? This question can be answered only if I am first willing to admit Jesus’ vision of death as a valid possibility for me.”

  5. Chris Hoffman says:

    We need a communion with God to sustain us from being overwhelmed by the onslaught of absense, disconnectedness, and isolation which is the experience of life in those that God allows us to meet and in the broader world beyond these that God brings to our door step. This communion is one that we need to thirst for, one we need to constantly search for, expectant and anticipating that hope will appear.

    On page 42, Henri Nouwen shows us that in the midst of deep pain that we do not need to remain entrapped in its presence:

    “I will always keep searching , always waiting, always hoping. His suffering face does not allow me to despair. My sorrow is a hunger my loneliness is a thirst. As we meet, we know that the love that causes us pain is the seed of a life where pain can not abide.”

    There is a reason that we are encouraged to thirst for communion as we are told to do so in Psalm 41:1. – “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” In the lack of searching, panting and hunger we are consumed with the magnitude of pain which surrounds us. But as we search we gain a strength, a life that is not our own which sustains us in all of life’s experiences. Rudyard Kipling, who wrote the Jungle Book, begins his poem ‘The Explorer” with these words:

    “There’s no sense in going further-it’s the edge of cultivation,
    So they said, and I believed it-broke my land and sowed my crop-
    Built my barns and strung my fences in the little border station
    Tucked away below the foothills where the trails run out and stop.

    Til a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes
    On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated-so:
    Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges-
    Something lost behind the Ranges . Lost and waiting for you. Go!”

    • Marge says:

      Thank you, Chris! Your words, coupled with Nouwen’s, Kipling’s brings me hope….something lost…”But as we search we gain a strength, a life that is not our own which sustains us in all life’s experiences.” This morning “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.” Psalm 28:7…sustained to sustain, helped to help…May it be so as I go….again, thank you.

      • Chris Hoffman says:

        You are welcome Marge. There is a thread throughout the Bible from cover of God being near and our searching hearts leading us into his embrace.

  6. Liz Forest says:

    Jesus Meets the Women -Station 8- Who mourns for today’s losses? Who weeps for injustices? On the Calvary Road there were official mourners who considered weeping a work of mercy. At funerals these mourners were hired to enhance the burial rites. Did these women expect such payment? I believe the tears they shed were done with compassion.They are unnamed but probably heard, even saw the good works of Jesus.
    Jesus says to weep for the generations to come. How relevant to the problems we face today that will impact on the next generations. Climate change is one example.
    Are tears beneficial? Henri suggests tears lead us to action. I think that depends on why we weep. If I’m crying due to my own pain, I may find a release of the tension in my body. If I’m teary due to hearing about another’s pain, I may feel a tension because I am helpless to alleviate the other’s pain. Once the tears are dried, I may be led to action on behalf of the pain I see elsewhere.
    There is a “Gift of Tears” different from normal tears, a biological release triggered by a strong emotional experience. They are the body’s way of providing relief. In church parlance, a strong experience of God can be so overwhelming that tears flow abundantly. This gift of tears differs from normal tears both in what triggers it (it is triggered by an experience of God, not by natural pain or sorrow or joy, for example), as well as in how it occurs physiologically – generally, these tears are abundant and are accompanied by the overflow of a spiritual experience in an emotional or physiological expression that creates deep comfort in one’s soul, and deep encouragement for the person who receives the gift, as well as (sometimes) for others who happen to witness it. Thinking how forgiveness received through the Sacrament of Reconciliation has often brought me to tears of gratitude.
    As I place myself at Station 8, I reflect on the ways I can include the pain of the world, the sadness of others in my compassion, even if just lifting the cross a little from someone’s shoulders.

    • Marge says:

      I’m reminded of Psalm 56:8, “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?”

      Also reminded me of a song….the chorus…..”And Jesus says come to the water, stand by My side…I know you are thirsty, you won’t be denied….I felt every teardrop when in darkness you cried, and I strove to remind you that for those tears I died.”

      All tears, for whatever reason, “can lead us to the heart of Jesus Who wept for our world” and causes me to draw nearer to the cross.

    • Marge says:

      I understand better “Gift of Tears”, Liz… daughter-in-law with MS, my son and my granddaughter experienced a meltdown together on Tuesday of this week. Their shared tears, shared pain, shared sorrow seemed to bring an empowering release, that enabled them to be renewed and strengthened in the days following, a fresh start…God’s gift for all of us….receiving “deep comfort” and “deep encouragement”….thank you!

  7. Sharon K. Hall says:

    My name is Sharon. I’ve participated in these blogs before. this time I had trouble getting a copy of the book but finally received one yesterday from amazon. I appreciated very much reading the chapter “Jesus meets Veronica.” Heartbreaking. The artwork is meaningful to me because of Veronica holding the picture, especially her husband’s face is towards us–the face facing us could symbolize presence, the back of the picture towards Veronica could symbolize absence. Henri’s own words, “Veronica’s pain is my pain too. I so crave for communion, for a deep sense of belonging, for intimacy, but wherever I go, whomever I meet, there is ever and again that experience of absence, disconnectedness, and isolation.” Christianity, through the life story of Jesus, the presence, the absence, and in our own lives we face the presence, the absence of father’s (whether through real death or else emotional/psychological detachment) involvement, presence, the absence of mothers, the presence, absence of lovers, spouses, children, age can cause absence through Alzheimers, the painful experiences and suffering which accompanies absences is something which unites us all in being able to empathize with each other. Henri captures this very well I believe. However, as much as I try, have a hard time going deep enough in myself to really unite myself with Veronica’s suffering as she contemplates whether or not her husband is being tortured. My spiritual path is now leading me deeper and deeper into Eucharistic Adoration, uniting myself more and more with Jesus and always praying and acting in some way in this world. With my weaknesses, fears and human limitations, this is something I can do, trusting in Jesus to prevail over the pain and suffering of Veronica’s husband, of Veronica and all God’s children and creation. Have also ordered “Clowning in Rome” for more wise and insightful spiritual direction from Henri Nouwen. All of the blog entries above have been very thought-provoking and I am appreciative of finally joining.

    • Liz Forest says:

      I recall when Henri Nouwen met Mother Teresa, he was in turmoil and hoped to get an answer from her. He says, “I was struggling with many things at the time and decided to use the occasion to ask Mother Teresa’s advice. As soon as we sat down I started explaining all my problems and difficulties — trying to convince her of how complicated it all was! When, after ten minutes of elaborate explanation, I finally became quiet, Mother Teresa looked at me and quietly said: “Well, when you spend one hour a day adoring your Lord and never do anything which you know is wrong . . . you will be fine!”
      Seems like you’re taking her advice! Henri said that at “first, her answer didn’t seem to fit my question, but then I began to see that her answer came from God’s place and not from the place of my complaints. Most of the time we respond to questions from below with answers from below. The result is often more confusion. Mother Teresa’s answer was like a flash of lightning in my darkness.”

      • Sharon K. Hall says:

        I very much appreciate your post, Liz, right now am struggling with some things and feeling lots of doubt and insecurity, though also hanging on to regular worship and much time spent in Eucharistic Adoration. The discipline of Eucharistic Adoration is new to me so I am kind of private about it except for a mention on this Lenten blog and also with the Priests but your post really also is impacting upon me that it is “coming from God’s place” and not “from down below” and seriously I am taking it as encouragement and hope that things will work out for me and for the community I am part of. God bless you for sharing Henri Nouwen’s experience with Mother Theresa and also your own affirmation and compassion!!!!!

      • Chris Hoffman says:


        Thank you for sharing these words of Mother Teresa: “Well, when you spend one hour a day adoring your Lord and never do anything which you know is wrong . . . you will be fine!”

        They remind me of some words in a hymn written by Helen M. Lemmel:

        “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will go strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”

  8. Marge says:

    As I look again at the pictures for each station, I realize that Veronica takes on the look of my 42 year old daughter-in-law who deals with the ravaging, destructiveness of disease. MS knows no bounds as lesions form and destroy. Last week as I was sharing with her my own forgetfulness, she looked at me with sad, weary eyes and said, “I share your pain”. My pain is not even comparable with her pain, yet is that not what Jesus came to say as well. The inflicted one ministers to me…..I cannot help but to “Go and do likewise”.

    The poor farmer in Brazil with hand over his face becomes my son, who’s many initial dreams have been scattered and shattered, as he finds ways to walk alongside his wife with MS, provide a living for his family, and be a father to his children.

    The Nicaraguan women are those women friends and neighbors who have come alongside my son and daughter-in-law, who for a year now have volunteered their time to help carry the load, the specific challenges that MS presents each and everyday.

    Whether close to home or far away, I cannot close my eyes, ears and heart to another’s suffering, pain, sorrow…truly, mourning with, “can make our soil rich with the fruits of compassion, forgiveness, gentleness, and healing action”. Humbly…..

    • Liz Forest says:

      Thanks, Marge, for reminding me of woman I know with MS who soldiers on after retiring from Parish Faith Formation Director and now teaches a religion class on Sundays. Her MS conditions took away her ability to drive, yet she finds ways to get around. May those who bear suffering find compassionate helpers during their struggle.

  9. Ann says:

    Veronica was wounded, broken, lost, helpless and hopeless. She was empty – her love, security and hope had been robbed from her. It reflects exactly my own spiritual condition before I was saved. The world could bring physical comfort and relief to Veronica but her life experience was purposeful for her to find sanctuary in God alone. How can a good God allowed suffering? God is God. His character is perfect and pure. Jesus went to Calvary to pay for my penalty of sin which is death. I have been rescued from slavery and bondage. Jesus sacrificial love and grace brought me hope. Jesus loves and promises brought me hope now and eternity. My reflections brought me back to the questions: where I placed my trust, love, security, hope and identity in? I have to remind myself daily: ‘denied yourself and take up the cross’

  10. Elaine M says:

    In his interpretation of Station VII, Henri speaks of “people who have become victims of great economic forces [and I might add ‘political forces’] over which they have no control.” He speaks of a “complete exhaustion” and “deep fatigue” which may leave them wondering if they can go on. I pray for the farmers in the US who worry one day about the financial impact of tariffs and the next about the devastating floods that have potentially wiped out their livelihood. I pray for DACA students who, through no fault of their own and despite their hard work in school, need to wonder if they will be able to live and work in the only country they have known. I pray for our neighbors who do not have equal access to safe drinking water, safe and affordable housing, appropriate educational support systems, and top-notch health care.

    In Sister Helen David’s painting for Station VIII, we see three women in the background, all in vague tones with faces slightly blurred, one obscuring her face, one with eyes closed or averted, and one wiping her tears. However, the woman with a red bandana has stepped forward—in sharper relief—with her eyes open, looking forward, and with her mouth open, perhaps taking a deep breath before she vocalizes her objections to injustice, perhaps just viscerally calling attention to the pain they all feel. We sorely need more people who will speak out against injustices in our economic and political systems, who will walk compassionately with the oppressed, who will literally hold their hands and listen. Many of our St. Vincent de Paul Society members work through Voice of the Poor to effect legislative changes on behalf of the poor and needy. Our pastor just recommended the Colorado Catholic Conference, which alerts us to pending social justice legislation and a record of how our legislators voted on previous measures. I know people who call members of Congress every day to advocate for such measures. At least in our community, direct volunteer service seems to be on the rise. If Jesus took the long, agonizing walk to Calvary on behalf of humankind, what small steps can I take on behalf of my neighbors in need?

    • Liz Forest says:

      Every small thing to alleviate suffering is not very small! At the metro train stations a number of needy folks are humbly asking for donations. One wanted a cup of coffee. That used to be a cry for a quarter; now it’s a dollar. If I have no small bills, I do make a point to look and make eye contact, saying I’m sorry but I will pray for you.” Most often the reply is “God bless you.”
      In our large city, there are numerous social services, yet some in need prefer to make an appearance where loads of people go by. They must feel humiliated or maybe they are glad to be able to be out and interact, rather than inside some crowded, noisy shelter?
      Organizations like Catholic Charities and St. Vincent DePaul are truly doing works of mercy. I know how much these groups need my prayers and monetary support.

  11. Patricia Hesse says:

    VIII -”Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem” –we read, “Our tears reveal to us the painful human condition of brokenness; they connect us deeply with the inevitability of human suffering; they offer the gentle context of compassionate action.”

    Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor said, “Therefore, it was necessary to face up to the full amount of suffering, trying to keep moments of weakness and furtive tears to a minimum. But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”

    Part of my teaching focus has been Holocaust education. I spent six weeks in Eastern Europe visiting sites and learning the history through the Fulbright Group Projects Abroad. The following year I participated in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Mandel Teacher Fellow Program. I am sharing this because during that time I heard survivors share their stories and learned the stories of those who did not survive –those stories revealed the magnification of suffering to a degree I could not and cannot imagine, but they also showed the power of suffering to make us more human than we ever were before. The following story is one I go back to again and again –it speaks of the sensitive beauty that can be found in brokenness and human suffering:

    “The First Hanukkah Light in Bergen Belson (based on a conversation of the Grand Rabbi of Bluzhov, Rabbi Israel Singer, with Aaron Frankel and Baruch Singer, June 22, 1975, about an event that happened while he was in Bergen Belson and is from the book, “Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust” by Yaffa Eliach) –

    In Bergen Belsen, on the eve of Hanukkah, a selection took place. Early in the morning, three German commandants, meticulously dressed in their festive black uniforms and in visibly high spirits, entered the men’s barracks. They ordered the men to stand at the foot of their three-tiered bunk beds.

    The selection began. No passports were required, no papers were checked, there was no roll call and no head count. One of the three commandants just lifted the index finger in his snow-white glove and pointed in the direction of a pale face, while his mouth pronounced the death sentence with one single word: “Come!”

    Like a barrage of machine-gun fire came the German commands: “Komme, komme, komme, komme, komme.” The men selected were marched outside. S.S. men with rubber truncheons and iron prods awaited them. They kicked, beat, and tortured the innocent victims. When the tortured body no longer responded, the revolver was used ….
    The random selection went on inside the barracks and the brutal massacre continued outside of the barracks until sundown. When the Nazi black angels of death departed, they left behind heaps of hundreds of tortured and twisted bodies.

    Then Hanukkah came to Bergen Belsen. It was time to kindle the Hanukkah lights. A jug of oil was not to be found, no candle was in sight, and a hanukkiah (candelabrum or oil lamp with eight branches) belonged to the distant past. Instead, a wooden clog, the shoe of one of the inmates, became a hanukkiah; strings pulled from a concentration-camp uniform, a wick; and the black camp shoe polish, pure oil.

    Not far from the heaps of the bodies, the living skeletons assembled to participate in the kindling of the Hanukkah lights.

    The Rabbi of Bluzhov lit the first light and chanted the first two blessings in his pleasant voice, and the festive melody was filled with sorrow and pain. When he was about to recite the third blessing, he stopped, turned his head, and looked around as if he were searching for something. But immediately, he turned his face back to the quivering small lights and in a strong, reassuring, comforting voice, chanted the third blessing: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive, and hast preserved us, and enabled us to reach this season.”

    Among the people present at the kindling of the lights was a Mr. Zamietchkowski, one of the leaders of the Warsaw Bund (Jewish secular labor movement). He was a clever, sincere person with a passion for discussing matters of religion, faith, and truth. Even here in camp at Bergen Belsen, his passion for discussion did not abate. He never missed an opportunity to engage in such a conversation.

    As soon as the Rabbi of Bluzhov had finished the ceremony of kindling the lights, Zamietchkowski elbowed his way to the rabbi and said, “Spira, you are a clever and honest person. I can understand your need to light Hanukkah candles in these wretched times. I can even understand the historical note of the second blessing, ‘Who wroughtest miracles for our fathers in days of old, at this season.’ But the fact that you recited the third blessing is beyond me. How could you thank God and say ‘Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive, and hast preserved us, and enabled us to reach this season’? How could you say it when hundreds of dead Jewish bodies are literally lying within the shadows of the Hanukkah lights, when thousands of living Jewish skeletons are walking around in camp, and millions more are being massacred? For this you are thankful to God? For this you praise the Lord? This you call ‘keeping us alive’?”

    “Zamietchkowski, you are a hundred percent right,” answered the rabbi. “When I reached the third blessing, I also hesitated and asked myself, what should I do with this blessing? I turned my head in order to ask the Rabbi of Zaner and other distinguished rabbis who were standing near me, if indeed I might recite the blessing. But just as I was turning my head, I noticed that behind me a throng was standing, a large crowd of living Jews, their faces expressing faith, devotion, and concentration as they were listening to the rite of the kindling of the Hanukkah lights. I said to myself, if God, blessed be He, has such a nation that at times like these, when during the lighting of the Hanukkah lights they see in front of them the heaps of bodies of their beloved fathers, brothers, and sons, and death is looking from every corner, if despite all that, they stand in throngs and with devotion listening to the Hanukkah blessing ‘Who wroughtest miracles for our fathers in days of old, at this season’; if, indeed, I was blessed to see such a people with so much faith and fervor, then I am under a special obligation to recite the third blessing.”


    • Liz Forest says:

      Thanks, Patricia, for sharing this poignant story. I met a woman who told me she survived the Holocaust because her mother was able to leave Germany, and take her to the U.S. Though she did not experience the horror directly, their urgent departure, long trip and resettling was a deeply felt event. They had ones who were left behind; not able to leave and then rounded up to go to the camps.
      Survivor’s guilt is real and can seriously impact one’s life.

    • Chris Hoffman says:

      At the extremity of human suffering hope still reigns. Life transcends all human experiences. In the daily devotion for March 25 in Henri Nouwen’s book titled “You are the Beloved’ we read the following:

      “It is central to the biblical tradition that God’s love for his people should not be forgotten, It should remain with us in the present. When everything is dark, when we are surrounded by despairing voices, when we do not see any exits, then we can find salvation in remembered love, a love that is not simply a wistful recollection of a bygone past, but a living force that sustains us in the present. Through memory, love transcends the limits of time and offers hope at any moment of our lives.”

      • Liz Forest says:

        Oh yes! That message from Henri was one I shared by email with several persons I know who were blessed by the hope he reminds us of.

  12. Joe says:

    As I glance outside at this beautiful Sunday afternoon in the first week of spring it is hard for me to understand how anyone could be sad and have any problems. I have work, a loving family and a home to call my own. It is easy to think “I have mine” when I realize everyday that is not the case for my brothers and sisters. I just finished reading the Sunday Times where I read about the people from Central America who have walked 3000 miles to get to the boarder for the chance to leave violence and destruction back at their home. The devil wishes that we read that and say, go back home, that is your problem to these poor people. But Christ is telling me that all people deserve to have a fair opportunity for a safe life. Sister Wendy made a comment in one of her videos and she said something like this. How can you watch TV without having compassion for the people who are suffering so much. Is it because there is so much suffering that we become desensitized to it or is it because we care only for our own comfort? Are we, or are we not our brothers keeper? Can I feast inside in my comfortable house while Lazarus is starving at my gate? Will God forgive me for all the times I turned my head on my brother? Is there a way to rediscover my compassion for humanity? Is there any hope for me?

    • Chris Hoffman says:

      Yes, there is always hope for “me”. We are on a journey now to the Cross. At the cross we nail our opinions, ideas, political and cultural sensibilities to it. We die to our expectations and rise to a renewed life of kindness, generosity, mercy and love. Why? Because Jesus in his generosity of subjecting himself to the Cross has gifted us with the same generosity.

    • Thank you Joe, for your honest heartfelt response. I resonnate with your reflection and your question: “Is there any hope for me.” I wonder about myself. On the surface I say all the right things, stand up for issues of justice and speak out for the oppressed. But to Henri Nouwen’s point in so many of his writings, intellectual awareness is not solidarity.

      It’s beginning to dawn on me that owning my suffering in a world that sees that as weak is a step in the right direction. Owning my own pain puts me on the floor pushing my feet out touching toes with the marginalized. Here, seeing one another eye to eye regardless of class, money, education, race or power we are equal in Jesus. That solidarity I think, becomes a collective crucible…a holding place…where we lift our sufferings into the Divine suffering captured in the stations of the cross. This holding and lifting becomes hopefilled healing.

      Thank you Joe, for your deep draw to see and sit with sufferers even when life about you looks good.


  13. Elaine M says:

    The woman depicted in Sister Helen David’s painting for Station VI could very well be the woman we sadly see too often in news footage: the one pleading for information about a loved one feared to be the victim of a kidnapping, tsunami, or house bombing. Still the picture she is holding very much resembles the woman herself. Is she crying out, “Please look at me. See my humanity, my individual worth. I am not persona non grata”? Might she represent the child who feels dislocated even in his own home, school, or neighborhood because of his sexual orientation, disability, untrendy dress, or lack of physical prowess. Might she represent an immigrant in America who may be subject to unfounded negative stereotypes that make her feel more than just a physical dislocation from her war-torn homeland? Is she the single mother who is trying to raise her family to eschew the frenzied success-driven lifestyle of the neighbors and who may feel adrift in a sea of materialism?

    Sometimes any step outside the door of one’s room can provoke a feeling of dislocation: Who am I? Where do I fit? How can I co-exist in a world I can’t accept—one that doesn’t seem to accept or really SEE me?

    In her preface to Krista Tippett’s recent interview of Irish poet Padraig O Tuama, ON BEING’s editor Kristin Lin quotes Rabbi Lawrence Kushner’s definition of a mystic: “anyone who has the gnawing suspicion that the apparent discord, brokenness, contradictions, and discontinuities that assault us every day might conceal a hidden unity.” When I feel out of sync with the world, can I ask the questions that Pádraig asks: “How might an experience of limitless belonging change how we are to be with one another — or even our duty to one another? How then might we be moved to show up for one another? And when we’re accompanied by the conviction that we belong and are one with the world, how might we be moved to act?” I pray that “we” and not “us/them” can be our orientation.

    • Patricia Hesse says:

      Elaine, I also noticed how the woman looks like the person in the photo she is holding. Your “Please look at me!” says so much.

    • Chris Hoffman says:

      When I think of the question “how might we be moved to act” I think of the Apostle Paul’s words:

      “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent, or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

      Philippians 4:8

  14. Liz Forest says:

    Jesus meets Veronica – There are numerous women who are abandoned by fathers of their children, living singly, raising children alone. What image of Christ can they hold?
    The idea of having an image of a loved one is important if we want to live in hope. A son or daughter gone away to be soldiers in a foreign country is sorely missed. How comforting a photo or even a Skype session is to the family.
    In a fiction book I’m reading, “I Know This Much is True” by Wally Lamb. two pre-school aged identical twins are rescued by their mother from a fire in their house. Then she runs back into the home to rescue her photo album. Later on when their mother is dying from cancer, each boy, now in late thirties, want to do something special for their mom. Thomas makes a collage of strange items, mostly nuts and bolts, yet his mom hangs the creation up at home. He has spent most of his life in a state hospital due to his schizophrenia. Dominick works in construction and decides to redo his mother’s kitchen. She doesn’t want the noise, etc but asks him to sit awhile and look with her through the photo album. A picture’s worth a thousand words! I wonder what Veronica did with Jesus’ image on her veil?

    • Kathy Harting says:

      Liz and all,
      I have been intermittently reading as able, these posts. I am so grateful for them and to everyone responding with such depth.

      I relate to this post and thank you for sharing it.

      Kathy H

  15. Phil Smith says:

    Another late response to the previous week!
    The picture in station V of the two men with the burden, but with a common purpose; engaged in a “dance” that sees a home created. The idea that Nouwen put forward that God needs us in this dance is one that lifts us up from a place we sometimes like to be in … wallowing in our own unworthiness. However, through His vulnerability in the Passion we are invited to share in His mission, (referring to the Cross on 34) “He was unable to carry it … and needed the help of a stranger to fulfil his mission … Jesus needs us to fulfil His mission …
    The hard, painful work of salvation is a work in which God becomes dependent on human beings”.
    Nouwen makes clear that this is a choice God has made. What does it say about the dignity and potential divinity of humanity that we share in this. I find this staggering … but exciting. We are in this dance of creating a kingdom of compassion … forged through shared suffering, bringing a common humanity that is woven through with divinity. What hope indeed!

    • Chris Hoffman says:

      We do live in exciting and hopeful times. The challenges of life though real are illussions distracting us from our dance with God. In the midst of these illusions God invites us to a table to feast with him. See Psalms 23:5. The message of hope you bring to us is that life can be found in the midst of death. A resurrection life.

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