Way of the Cross
The Tradition Lives on
In many cities in the United States, CL groups have promoted the tradition of the Way of the Cross. Beginning with New York, where for the fifth consecutive year hundreds of people walked in the rain on the Brooklyn Bridge, to San Diego; from Rochester to Milwaukee, the Cross was carried along the streets of the city. A novelty for the States, where a tradition forgotten by many in Europe lives again. Following are some of the stories
The Unexpected on the Brooklyn Bridge
The poorest and the most beautiful. We had worked harder on it than usual. The fifth year of the Way of the Cross on the Brooklyn Bridge promised great things. And it kept its promise, but not in the way we imagined. The posters put up in churches all over Brooklyn and Manhattan, schools, and workplaces; flyers distributed downtown, press releases, advertisements in the diocesan weekliesñalong with the five-year history of the eventñhad created great expectations. Last year there were more than 400 of us. This year, we murmured amongst ourselves, there could have been a whole lot more if only the weatherÖ but the weather reserved for us a day of torrential downpours. At the appointed time of 10:45 a.m. at St. James Cathedral, 200 of us showed up, armed with umbrellas and raincoats. We started out, but already at the first pier of the Bridge, which was our second station, H.E. Ignatius Catanello, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, who was leading us this year, looked at us and said, ìI think it would be more reasonable to turn back.î And so we did. We were already soaked to the skin. And in effect, the conditions for going forward did not exist. A loudspeaker had already ìflownî off the bridge in the wind that was blowing at more than 55 miles per hour, while another had simply crashed to the ground. And it was cold. On the other side of the bridge, six TV crews were waiting for us at the station in Manhattan, but we retraced our steps and took refuge in the Cathedral of Brooklyn where we finished what we had begun. The words of our Bishop, the readings from PÈguy and Giussani, and the presence of the choir filled the nave of the Cathedral with beauty and certainty, putting our apparent failure into its proper perspective. Thus, bit by bit, the feeling of disappointment that was pulling us down was replaced by awareness that it is the Lord who makes everything. The fact that the Lord makes of us and our attempts whatever He wants was vividly confirmed to us a few hours later. Someone, more out of scrupulousness than conviction, turned on the TV at 5 oíclock. And what did we see? That NBC, one of the most prestigious national networks, had (for the first time) almost five minutes on our Way of the Cross: three interviews, the choral singing, the little rain-soaked group carrying the Cross on the bridge, and a commentary on this ìinitiative promoted in the past five years by the Catholic Movement called Communion and LiberationÖî It was the first time that the CL Choir of New York was invited by Bishop Daily to sing during the Good Friday liturgy after the Way of the Cross. And Bishop Daily, the first to officially recognize the CL Fraternity in America and to have a Memores Domini house in his diocese, several times expressed his gratitude to Fr. Giussani during the liturgy, beginning with his use of the article published in la Repubblica on Ash Wednesday. Cross and resurrectionñit is truly all this way. We smiled on Friday evening, thinking how all our history, both personal and in the Movement, develops in unexpected ways, and how all our involvement, all our attempts have value only if they become a total offering. ìRain or shine,î it makes no difference.
Going Public in Rochester, Minnesota
We had a hundred people in the Procession of the Cross on Good Friday. We prepared songs, readings from the Passion, PÈguy, and Father Giussani. We started at the Rochester Civic Center and walked through the downtown area to the Galleria (a mall), and gathered for the second stop at the Peace Plaza, which is outside the Barnes & Noble Bookstore. We processed by the Mayo Clinic and arrived at the Church of St. John, where a group of 500 was waiting. People were amazed by the number of participants. There was a piece in the newspaper as well as on TV. We hope to take an even bigger step next year, for the whole city.
in San Francisco
On Good Friday, April 21st, the Northern California communities came together in San Francisco, on Telegraph Hill to walk the Way of the Cross. We walked for 20 minutes down to Washington Square for the second station, and then we walked the final 10 minutes to finish on the steps of the National Shrine of St. Francis. This area of the city has always been a predominately Italian, and therefore Catholic, district. The event took quite a bit of planning by everyone in our small community. It was something done out of memory and with the wish to be more united with the Movement and the Church everywhere on that most sacred of days. When we got underway I was approached by two young girls, who looked at the Cross I was holding and asked, ìWhatís that for?î I answered, ìItís Good Friday. The day Jesus died.î One of the girls replied, ìOh ya! We went to Catholic school. I donít remember much though.î At that moment I realized that what we propose is 2000 years old, but it is totally new. No one knows that Christ has anything to do with what really interests the person. The final part of the Way of the Cross was, for me, looking at and appreciating all those who were there, those people who are the Way for me.
Another in San Diego
The Way of the Cross in Southern California was truly an event! The procession began in front of the Star of India (a very old merchant boat located on the port of San Diego). The weather was good and many people were enjoying the spring day, walking or biking. There were 40 people from San Diego, Los Angeles, and Tijuana. One local TV station covered the event with a spot that was aired on the 11 oíclock news. Silence was maintained from station to station and bystanders even stopped and listened. The companionship, the water, the port, the sun, the sailboats, the rocks of the harbor were all present because of Another, and they enhanced the beauty of this gesture as a witness and a reminder.
at Notre Dame
On Monday of Holy Week, we gathered on the Notre Dame campus where there are some lovely Stations of the Cross erected. The stations follow the shore of St. Josephís Lake, and lead up a small hill in the adjacent woods to a large crucifix at the top. The somber and gray sky was perfect, as were the trees, which are still mostly bare here but are beginning to show signs of new life, reflected in the still waters of the lake. There were 34 of us all together: 15 adults (3 of whom drove all the way from Chicago to be with us) and 19 children (all of them 10 years old or younger!). We prayed the entire Way of the Cross through scripture, poetry, readings from the homilies of ancient Church fathers, and readings from additional reflections on the Passion by Fr. Giussani and from the children of Medjugorje. Meditative song took us from one station to the next. Some of the readings were read by the children, giving a great sense of hope and innocent beauty even in the face of the torture and death we were remembering.
Few But Attentive in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The Way of the Cross was held in the chapel of St. Josephís Church in Waukesha, near Milwaukee. There were six of us plus the children. This was a truly ìmicroî project compared to the numbers in New York. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I tried to sing some songs (the ones I knew), and we also sang some things together. We were all really happy. Next year weíll do even better.
The following is a letter from a priest in the Movement in New York to a friend, on the occasion of the passing of the great and well-loved James Cardinal OíConnor
Dear Riro: I am about to leave for the Cardinalís funeral and I wanted you to know that it is only thanks to you that I am facing his death in a human and adequate way. I have a real affection for the Cardinal which has come forward in my prayers for him and to him and in my preaching about his death to the parishioners. The only reason this is so is because you pushed me to meet him personally last fall, to bring Giussaniís Fraternity letter to him. If you had not been insistent with me, if you had not been interested in my destiny, like a friend, like a father, like Giussani, like Christ, I would not have met him and seen his fatherly love for me as his priest. I would have faced the death of the bishop who ordained me in a less human way. Today, I will be among those who will be at this funeral not as a formality, but as an affectionate son, and it is because of you. I have been thinking of you in these days that you have been in Italy and I have been thinking of you when I think of the Cardinal, because the humanity with which I lived this moment was given to me through you. I e-mailed instead of called you because I didnít know if you would have permitted me to be so ìsentimentalî over the phone. Last year, the Cardinal had had his operation; he was sick as well as busy and I was so sure that I was right about mailing that letter and you were wrong about insisting I make an appointment with him. Only in this friendship to which we belong, only in Christ can it be such a joy to be able to say that I was wrong and you were right.
A New Family
Dearest Fr. Giussani: A couple of years ago, 4 families began meeting to begin building something together. We have had to overcome many challenges, but we have come through them all together. The result of this work is a place where I can sincerely begin to judge my life. At a recent gathering I was looking at my friends sitting around the table, and watching my young children moving so freely among them. What struck me was their belonging to this companionship. I began to see my own desire for a ìplaceî through the experience and actions of my children. They belonged. They didnít have a great understanding or thorough justification for what they did, they simply belonged to this group of people, as they belonged to Juanita and I. The Fraternity of families recently decided to take a vacation together and rented a cabin for the weekend. I have been told that other Fraternities vacation together and I was anxious to experience this for myself. On Saturday we drove through the mountains to Squaw Valley. Riding above the majesty of the mountains, my brother commented to me, ìHow can anybody dispute the presence of God?î We ate together, prayed, played, sang songs, and worked like we were one big happy family, and in fact over the last 2 years that is exactly what we have become.
Everything started about a year and a half ago when Luisa and I became very good friends. We started to seek each otherís company more often. We went to playgroups together, met on playgrounds or at the beach, etc. Luisa asked one day if I wanted to get together one morning a week to prepare for School of Community and to have a cup of coffee. This developed quickly into a regular thing we enjoyed and gave me a more realistic understanding of what Iím doing. Very soon we started inviting many other women from playgroups, church, or CL just to come for a cup of coffee and cake and see how we live our friendship together. We now meet every Tuesday, and sometimes we hang out for lunch. Many different native languages are represented here (English, Italian, German, Slovak). We talk about whatís going on in life or anything coming up. Then we usually read all or some of the upcoming School of Community and just try to understand it. We also find questions or formulate examples for our School of Community to help others to understand better. After Luisa left, about a month ago, I was very worried that this would end, but it kept going as it had before. We have about four women who come, and it changes every time. But just the offer to share this friendship with us, which includes, not excludes, all of our life, seems to be the most attractive way to propose true friendship. Sharon, who had been in CL and then had left, has come back to School of Community. One thing she said to me explains the whole reality of it: ìFor you to offer me your friendship is a way to make this experience more real.î As an inspiration to others, I would like to stress that this was not a project, it was simply a desire to live the experience of this friendship completely in all of my life, nothing less.
Marion, San Diego
A letter addressed to his son Pietro and found, by chance, on his computer after his death
I donít know if I have managed to make you understand how much I love you. I have always been proud of you. I have one piece of advice for you: live always, completely, everything the Lord gives you, always respond to what He asks of you, ask to be able to understand its meaning, together with your friends, following the people who are older than you and are an example for you on this path. Everything is for you, everything helps you to know the road the Lord is calling you to travel, in everything you can experience His companionship, if you ask for it. During this time when I have been sick, I have realized that the Lord has molded my life; He has made me recognize this thing that has happened to me as ìmine,î as His plan for me, for our family. I would not be ìIî if all this had not happened. I have been able to offer all this for you, for our family, for the Movement, for our friends, and for some people who are in need, and I am sure that this will produce its fruits. I look back and thank the Lord for the miracle that He has made of my life; you werenít here before and now you are, for always. He put us together forever. Youíre the oldest; there will be some hard times for the family, face them always from this starting point: we were put together forever by Another. I will always be close to you, now more than ever, in all the most important moments, of hardship and of joy; I will never miss another of your soccer games, or your exams, or any other important event in your life. You will see that I will manage to make you feel me always near and to help you.
in the Church
ìAnd I will accept life as a gift and I too will have the courage to die.î With these words, heard for the first time in 1987 at the Grotto of Lourdes, I was brought back to the Church by the good Mystery which makes all things. I, thirty years old, unmarried, felt the fascination of those words. This was because death is not the culmination of a biological process, but is stuff for real men; it takes courage to die, and to die as a real man takes a lot of courage. About a year ago I was struck by a tumor: cross and resurrection. Exactly halfway through the rough chemotherapy treatments, I met my wife (the illness was in regression). After nine months, we were married. We knew it would be very difficult for us to have children, but we hoped. Some friends proposed that we take in a foster child. Why not one of our own? Why not adopt? My hesitations disappeared the first time I met Henry, who threw himself into my arms. Over time, I understood that he was for me. Now, seven years later, Henry is still with us. For the past two years another child has become part of our household: Filippo, who is Chinese. The friendship that has grown up between us and his parents is incredible; we have in a way adopted them too. In that Grotto, Christ regenerated me. And only those who are aware of having been generated can generate. The Church is the only word of truth about life, and we are continually regenerated by her. So we, the Church, cannot forget that we are the children of the Church and the parents of every child. May all that we do be for the human glory of Christ.
On a Pilgrimage
Dear friends: I have just returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, during which I had the opportunity to visit that corner of the world where God became definitively involved with men. The Easter season made this experience even more meaningful, an experience that had one of its most intense moments in the Way of the Cross to Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre on the evening of Good Friday. Being present on that spot at that time seemed to me an unexpected grace; in that brief instant when I was able to kneel on the site where the Cross was lifted up, I felt like I was at the center of the universe. But I did not feel alone, because I laid at the foot of the Cross all of myself and the persons to whom I am attachedñmy family, my community, Fr. Giussani, the priests, and all the friends in the Movement. It was the most intense moment of a pilgrimage that was profoundly suggestive and fascinating, for those places that have always been ñbecause of the education received in the Movementñare now charged with a particular significance. How could you not feel moved, for example, on the shore where Christ made Peter the first among His followers, and asked him three times, ìDo you love me?î Before leaving this Land of God, I went to meet our Memores friends who were also visiting Nazareth, Gualtiero, Ettore, and Daniele (and I take this opportunity to greet them), and who work at the Fatebenefratelli Hospital. This visit to them, too, was an important thing that I felt the need to do: after seeing ìplacesî that were so meaningful for our faith, I wanted to meet ìfacesî that are just as meaningful for recognizing Christ.