The Messenger Publications has just released The Stations of the Cross, a moving booklet to help people pray and reflect during Lent. It includes images by Harry Clarke, arguably Ireland’s greatest stained glass artist, with the permission of Belvedere College SJ, in Dublin city, where the Harry Clarke prints are on display.
Author Fr Vincent Sherlock, Parish Priest of Kilmovee, County Mayo has produced reflections on each Station of the Cross through the eyes of the woman who was found in adultery (John 8:1-11). The Parish Priest imagines that the narrator is never too far away from Jesus, after he refuses to condemn her sin and saves her from being stoned to death. Readers are invited to imagine her watching Jesus on the way to Calvary, right to the end.
Fr Sherlock says, “It is faithful to the meaning of the event, and to the people we call on in imagination”. Imaginative contemplation, one form of what is known as kataphatic prayer (stressing positive knowledge of the divine) was popularised in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. The faithful are invited to experience a growing sense of oneness with God through seeking to know Jesus in the Gospels. Pope Francis words “the name of God is Mercy”, echo throughout the booklet.
We are invited to imagine how the woman’s heart sinks when she hears of Jesus being condemned to death; how her connection to Jesus must be genuine for such an emotional response. When Jesus carries his Cross, the woman ponders, “the best way for evil to triumph in the world is for good people to say nothing”. Here, our ideas of faith are challenged as we wonder if we too are silent at the cost of the innocent.
We are called also to reflect on the relationship between the woman caught in adultery and Jesus’ mother who is afflicted by the pain of her son, “…in some ways, I never felt more like her.” We see the woman wipe the broken and sweaty face of Jesus, and that she becomes mistakenly known as Veronica. We are moved by Jesus who continues to love along his Calvary journey, as he smiles on her in a most difficult situation.
The narrator finds consolation when some of the women of Jerusalem acknowledge her faithful actions. She looks to Jesus again as he reaches out to the good thief. Our heart strings are pulled very tightly when finally Jesus dies on the Cross: “I know my heart broke in two just at that moment, when he cried out ‘it is accomplished’”, she says. And she reaches a theological insight as Jesus is laid in the tomb, “Of course, had it not been for my ‘sin’, chances are I’d not have come to know him as well as I did.” These are only snippets from the Lenten booklet.