Friday Stations

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Red-covered they were passed out
one by one like a Lenten communion
drawn out of the cavernous tabernacle
of Mercy sleeves,
and distributed by a pale virginal hand,
made whiter still by Friday’s dusting of chalk.

Little hands,
sweaty from an interval in the schoolyard,
fingered them,
those fragile little books,
a little faded and a little worn.
So many children had turned them this way and that
kneeling and rising and and saying in voices that knelt and rose:
“We adore Thee, O Christ and we bless Thee,
because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.”

The candle flames flickered their way around the Church,
and between them a crucifix held high by one of the big lads,
and veiled these last two weeks in a purple sadness
like the saints covered in their Passiontide shrouds.

The priest surpliced in a lacy whiteness
with a double stream of violet falling over his chest,
read Saint Alphonsus,
boring some, I fear,
and bringing one or two quiet boys to tears,
or at least to the pity that, like a flood,
rises in a child’s heart
and then returns like the receding tide.

At the Cross her station keeping,
the Mother of Sorrows watched as
children, tired and not a little restless,
learned the journey of suffering love;
and, now and then, a few were compelled to look
at the Face fourteen times depicted
and feel something,
just something of her pain.

In the hearts of a few
(there are always a few who listen)
that Face engraved itself
so that the passing years
should become a procession from one station to the next,
not without falls in dust and in mud,
more than three, I fear,
and not without thorns, blood, and tears.

The little red book,
forgotten by most,
became for some a prophecy
and the prayers of its finger-worn pages
the secret of joy.

M.D.K.

3 Comments

I do remember well the Fridays of Lent and the little red books. Thanks, sb

They inspired many of us to follow Christ in the same manner as they had done for generations...and sadly have chosen to do so no longer. They now prefer business suits on their best days and 'prayers' from Buddist and Hindu traditions to the Little Office of the B.V.M. and the time honored prayers of the Church. Like many 'once great congregations' in the Church they face a uncertain future with aging populations and without vocations...while communities who retain traditional monastic/religious consecration and a well-defined regular lifestyle have many mature vocations. Why they can't see the 'writing on the walls,' only God knows. SIGH! Traditional Sisterhoods recently wrote:

As a sign of our consecration to Christ, we wear the habit and veil.

(Together they are the sign for all who see us that:)

We know ourselves to be in the world, but not of it – that with Christ we can engage the world and not embrace it – our eyes are fixed intently on the Lord, and that after this life He will lead us to the place He has prepared.
The special gift of prayerful union with God is a source of many graces for ourselves and all God’s people – that as Religious in the Church we want to follow Christ to the solitude of the desert to grow in union with the Father and to bring others to Him.
That in union with Christ we choose and strive to serve others without counting personal cost so that they may be drawn to Him by a kind word or a gentle touch, by the many ways we express our faith in action.
As the Holy Spirit descended upon the Blessed Virgin when she expressed her fiat "Be it done unto me according to your word," the same Spirit descends on us when we profess our vows to bring us every grace needed to faithfully persevere.
The habit and veil witness to the world that we know ourselves at once both to have been chosen by the One and that we have chosen the One - that Jesus Christ is truly our spouse and that we know we are not alone in this consecration.

This I dare say is what the youth of today are looking for...not a prolonged adolescence or the 'best of both worlds.' Young people want a challenge and are more than willing to sacrifice for Christ and His service...to offer them less or an form of 'religious Peace Corps' sells them short.

May the Lord send such traditional communities the youth of our times.

May it be so!

Dear friend,

Thank you for sharing this little reflection again this year. I love it!

Did I ever tell you that I came across my little red Lenten book when I was packing my things from Dad's home 8 years ago, just prior to my marriage? It came with me to my new home and, yes, is very worn and loved.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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