My Lord and my God, under the loving eyes of our Mother, we make ready to accompany you along your path of sorrow, the price for our redemption. We wish to suffer all that you suffered, to offer you our poor, contrite hearts, because you are innocent, yet come to die for us, the truly guilty ones.
My Mother, Virgin of sorrow, help me to relive those bitter last hours your Son wished to spend on earth, so that we, a mere handful of clay, may finally live in libertatem gloriae filiorum Dei—in the freedom and glory of the children of God.
Agony and Arrest in the Garden (Meditations from Station 1)
1: In the garden Jesus prays: Pater mi (Mt 26:39), Abba, Pater! (Mk 14:36). God is my Father, even in sending me suffering; he loves me tenderly, even while wounding me. A sure sign of my sonship is when God treats me like his own Divine Son…
Jesus suffers to do the Father’s will… and as I want to follow the Master’s footsteps in fulfilling God’s most holy will, how can I complain if I too have to suffer?
I will groan and weep alone in my Gethsemane, as he did, lying prostrate on the ground to show my nothingness. Then from the depths of my soul a cry will rise up to the Lord: Pater mi, Abba, Pater… fiat!
2: The Arrest… venit hora: ecce Filius hominis tradetur in manus peccatorum —the hour has come: behold the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners (Mk 14:41). So, the sinner has his hour… but God, his eternity!
They bind him with chains and Jesus freely submits. Please bind me with your chains, Lord, that may I suffer with you; humble this body of death—there’s no other way; either reduce this body to nothing or it will degrade me; better a slave of my God than of my flesh.
First Station: Jesus is Condemned to Death
It’s ten in the morning. The trial has ended without conclusive evidence. The judge, aware that Jesus’ enemies have handed him over out of envy, makes a ludicrous move: a choice between Barabbas, a criminal accused of robbery and murder, and Jesus, who is called the Christ. The people choose Barabbas, and Pilate exclaims: And what about Jesus? (Mt 27:22).
They reply: Crucify him!
The judge insists: Why, what evil has he done?
Again they shout: Crucify him! Crucify him!
Terrified by the growing uproar, Pilate sends for water and washes his hands in their sight, saying: I am innocent of the blood of this just man; you will see (Mt 27:24). Then, having Jesus scourged, he hands him over to be crucified, silencing the frenzied and possessed crowd as if God has just been conquered.
Jesus is alone. Gone are the days when the words of the Man-God gave light and hope to men’s hearts, when he cured endless lines of the sick, or when he triumphantly rode into Jerusalem on a gentle donkey to the acclaim of all. If only men had responded differently to God’s love! If only you and I had recognized the day of the Lord!
Fr. John R. Waiss
*By St. Josemaría Escrivá, Fr. John’s revised translation
Thank you for your generous support of St. Mary of the Angels. Since October, we have raised over $162,000 for the emergency repairs. As those immediate repairs are finished, we should have 60-70,000 dollars left to begin the fund for the next phase, the definitive repairs of the north tower, entrance colonnade and parapet, and of the four cupolas.
Every year the Archdiocese of Chicago requests our participation in the Annual Catholic Appeal. Four years ago—thanks to your generosity—our parish raised more than $900,000! The Archdiocese matched that donation enabling us to pay off our debt of more than 1.8 million dollars for rebuilding the dome. That same year we got another generous donation that paid for most of the repairs of the south tower.
We want to take advantage of this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal to raise money for the next phase of restoration. We’d like to focus on the deteriorating north bell tower with the idea of also putting in much needed bathrooms on the church level.
The north bell tower is similar in design to the repaired south tower. As our engineer recently noted in his report:
In general, the north bell tower exhibits distress conditions similar, if not worse than, south tower conditions that existed prior to the 2013 repairs. The parapet walls are severely deteriorated. Bulging and displacement of walls, as well as severe freeze/thaw damaged mortar, was noticeable around the perimeter of the parapet wall… the interior side of the wall are severely deteriorated throughout… At the northeast corner of the parapet level, the corner parapet cap unit and corner cornice unit were repaired using concrete in the past… Additionally, a steel plate was installed on the bottom side of the corner cornice unit and… the plate is surface corroded…
The engineer recommended similar repairs to what was done on the south bell tower:
This included rebuilding of the battlement style parapet walls down to the cornice level, repair of embedded steel at the cornice level, installation of sheet metal flashings at two water table levels, replacement of the four center free-standing columns, grinding and pointing of 100% of mortar joints throughout the building, installation of sealant at skyward facing joints, and localized repairs at the limestone units at the base of the building. In addition, with regard to the south bell tower roofing and waterproofing, the main roof system was replaced along with the wood roof joists and the belfry level waterproofing.
With a bit of redesign, we could install additional restrooms on the church level in the new north tower, meeting a need we have all noted for some time: St. Mary of the Angels needs more bathrooms. This would also make them easily accessible at the main church level.
St. Mary of the Angels would like to set as a goal for this year to raise $300,000 toward this project. In the part of The Hands of God’s Mercy, we will tithe (set aside 10%) of this for works of mercy: supporting poorer parishes and schools in Chicago, the poor oversees, the Respect Life office, as well as the Kolbe House. Any amount above goal we will tithe to the Fr. Hilary Mahaney Scholarship Fund.
These are exciting times for St. Mary of the Angels. We appreciate the sacrifices that you all make on behalf of the parish. This is a church that is built on faith and generosity of hard-working Catholics over the past 116 years. We are counting on you to help us continue that legacy of faith.
Our relationship with God depends on his wonderful mercy, which enables us to understand the mystery of the Trinity and to enter into a relationship of love with each person. As Pope Francis notes:
“We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness” (Misericordiae Vultus, 2).
Blessedness is that “hope of being loved forever our sinfulness.” Besides the Eucharist, we have a wonderful sacrament of God’s mercy in Reconciliation, which enables us to return to God after we have broken our relationship with him by sinning. For Pope Francis, this sacrament is a “moment of intense prayer,” “source of true interior peace,” a way “to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands,” and of “finding meaning in their lives” (Misericordiae Vultus, 17).
The Pope sees the sacrament of Reconciliation as key to rebuilding our relationship with God:
“God’s forgiveness knows no bounds. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God makes even more evident his love and its power to destroy all human sin… Thus God is always ready to forgive, and he never tires of forgiving in ways that are continually new and surprising. Nevertheless, all of us know well the experience of sin. We know that we are called to perfection (cf. Matthew 5:48), yet we feel the heavy burden of sin. Though we feel the transforming power of grace, we also feel the effects of sin typical of our fallen state. Despite being forgiven, the conflicting consequences of our sins remain. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives our sins, which he truly blots out; and yet sin leaves a negative effect on the way we think and act. But the mercy of God is stronger even than this. It becomes indulgence on the part of the Father who, through the Bride of Christ, his Church, reaches the pardoned sinner and frees him from every residue left by the consequences of sin, enabling him to act with charity, to grow in love rather than to fall back into sin” (Misericordiae Vultus, 22).
So let us take full advantage of this wonderful sacrament of God’s merciful love so as to rebuild that loving relationship that will bring us true happiness. In addition, we will want to grow in love, build up the virtues (those habits of acting with charity and that prevent us from falling back into sin). The Compendium to the Catechism teaches us:
A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. ‘The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God’ (Saint Gregory of Nyssa)…” (CCCC, 377)
“The human virtues are habitual and stable perfections of the intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They are acquired and strengthened by the repetition of morally good acts and they are purified and elevated by divine grace” (CCC 378).
By building up virtues by the repetition of good acts, we will distance ourselves from those things that distance us from God. This is true freedom, the freedom of the children of God. Virtues strengthen our relationship with God, the source of true happiness.
Fr. John R. Waiss
Beatitude consists in a relationship with Jesus Christ, and one of the best ways to build up that relationship—so as to live an upright life—is to contemplate his Sacred Humanity.
It is easier to relate to a God who becomes a needy little child like you and I were. We can easily approach him, hug and kiss him, and respond to his needs. It is easier to relate to a person who is human like us, hungry and thirsty, and so tired that he slept through a storm in the boat. We can also relate to Jesus, who also was frustrated with his followers for their lack of faith (cf. Matthew 17:17) or for arguing about who was the greatest (Matthew 18:1-4). He also experienced the rejection of family (Luke 4:16-30) and betrayed by a close friend, Judas, whom he loved.
Contemplating these scenes of the Gospels helps us know that we are not alone in our suffering, that Jesus understands us and is suffering alongside us. We can also share his sufferings, comfort him, and let him know that he is not alone.
To develop a good relationship with Jesus, it also helps to strive to have the same sentiments as he did, to have compassion on the crowd, as Pope Francis reminds us:
“Jesus, seeing the crowds of people who followed him, realized that they were tired and exhausted, lost and without a guide, and he felt deep compassion for them (cf. Matthew 9:36). On the basis of this compassionate love he healed the sick who were presented to him (cf. Matthew 14:14), and with just a few loaves of bread and fish he satisfied the enormous crowd (cf. Matthew 15:37). What moved Jesus in all of these situations was nothing other than mercy, with which he read the hearts of those he encountered and responded to their deepest need. When he came upon the widow of Nain taking her son out for burial, he felt great compassion for the immense suffering of this grieving mother, and he gave back her son by raising him from the dead (cf. Luke 7:15). After freeing the demoniac in the country of the Gerasenes, Jesus entrusted him with this mission: ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you’ (Mark 5:19)” (Misericordiae Vultus, 8).
In this way we begin to become one heart and one mind with the love of our lives, and to become more united to our heavenly Father who calls us to be merciful and he is merciful (Luke 6:36). Like Jesus, we will acquire the face of mercy (Misericordiae Vultus, 1) by experiencing his merciful gaze:
With our eyes fixed on Jesus and his merciful gaze, we experience the love of the Most Holy Trinity. The mission Jesus received from the Father was that of revealing the mystery of divine love in its fullness. “God is love” (1 John 4:8,16), John affirms for the first and only time in all of Holy Scripture. This love has now been made visible and tangible in Jesus’ entire life. His person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously. The relationships he forms with the people who approach him manifest something entirely unique and unrepeatable. The signs he works, especially in favor of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in him speaks of mercy. Nothing in him is devoid of compassion” (Misericordiae Vultus, 8).
We also can turn to the examples and intercessions of the saints, who have lived out this identification with Christ’s humanity and make it even more real in our lives. They show us how to find and experience Christ in those needing mercy, thus bonding us to the ultimate source of all happiness
Fr. John R. Waiss
The goal of Christian morality is happiness, and true happiness comes from a loving and intimate relationship with God. So how do we build up this loving relationship so as to attain true happiness?
The first step is to recognize that our relationship with God begins with God and his mercy. For “God so loved the world…” and “Greater love has no man… than to lay down his life for his friends…” John summarizes God’s merciful love:
“In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins… By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world… So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him… We love, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:10-19).
We don’t do anything to deserve God’s merciful love: God loves us first. As Paul also says:
“Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man—though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
This is pure mercy and grace, for we “ are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). Yet for us to have a true relationship with God, we have to respond to his love by loving him. This response is called merit. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
“With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator” (CCC 2007).
“The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit” (CCC 2008).
God’s merciful grace and man’s response produces a wonderful dialogue of love. We respond to God through prayer, especially the Holy Mass (the re-presentation of Christ’s sacrificial love on the cross), reading the Bible (listening to God’s Word), praying the Holy Rosary (pondering with Mary the life of Christ), etc. This deepens our relationship with God and prepares us for the definitive dialogue with him in heaven.
If Christ shows us the totality of his love by suffering and dying on the cross, we also should do the same by denying ourselves through self-denial and mortification. As our Lord tells us: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). We can do this by fasting and by limiting our intake of sweets, alcohol, media, and the like. We can also do so by offering the little (and sometimes not so little) setbacks, trials, and difficulties of everyday life. In this way we respond with love to Christ’s love… In this way we achieve a happiness-producing relationship with God.
Fr. John R. Waiss