We are all standing in front of a life-size image of Christ on the cross. For most of my life, the stations in churches I’ve visited have been small paintings or wall carvings placed at intervals, but at Xavier they’re much larger panels, and I find myself connecting with the scenes in a new way. In the spirit of St. Ignatius, I imagine all of us as extensions of the image before us, truly present at the foot of the cross, standing beside those depicted in the scene, wondering what it means and what is in store. We are all at different places in our journeys, but united somehow, true companions. The stations of the cross no longer seem like boring repetition but like something closer to a journey. Perhaps what’s always frustrated me about the stations is that they cut too close to some of the struggles in my own spiritual life: the desire to keep moving forward rather than be still; the desire to skip the process and try to jump straight to the end, to that resurrection moment, where we get to celebrate; the desire to ignore or avoid the suffering along the way.
At the fourteenth station, the image of Jesus being placed in the tomb, my eyes are drawn up, to a separate image high above the stations. It is one of dozens of people being crucified, stretched out along a road toward the horizon. It is the first time I’ve noticed it, as I rarely stand in this part of the church. The juxtaposition of these images is striking. As Christ is being taken down from the cross, below, in the image above, those who have chosen to follow him continue to suffer. They are taking up his work, taking on the cross. And as we stand there, our own group is included in that tradition, all of us part of a long line of people in love with, pained by, suffering for, and taking part in the church. There can be a strange beauty in suffering, but, more important, there is beauty in having a community that helps us overcome it, to move forward toward that resurrection.
—Excerpted from Mercy in the City by Kerry Weber