Stations of the Cross during a Pandemic
Teresa McCaffery, a retired doctor, reflects on the Stations of the Cross in light of the frightening days and weeks of the covid-19 pandemic.
In the month of June, the month devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Pope asks us to pray especially for those who suffer. It seems good to me to relate this to the Passion of Jesus which is traditionally celebrated in the devotion called the Stations of the Cross. The fourteen moments in this journey, some described in Scripture, others inferred from the narrative, enable us to link both our suffering and the response to it in charity to this ultimate expression of the saving work of Jesus Christ.
The first station - Jesus is condemned to death.
A new virus has entered our world and is spreading rapidly. Many people will hardly notice its effect, but others will die. There is no known cure.
Original sin has spread through the whole world, some people live reasonably moral lives, but others will commit mortal sin and spread the moral problem.
The second station – The cross is laid on Jesus.
The need to protect the vulnerable is recognised. We learn a new word – Lockdown. Human freedoms are severely restricted and much hardship results.
God gave us the ten commandments to protect the vulnerable from the worst moral excesses. We do not like keeping them.
The third station – Jesus falls the first time.
Lockdown happened too late and the death toll rose rapidly.
It is so hard to admit that what you do is morally wrong especially when you have been doing it for a long time. We need to know we will be forgiven before admitting our guilt.
The fourth station – Jesus greets His mother
Every key worker puts him or herself in harm’s way for the sake of others. They have family which will miss them sorely if the worst happens. Loved ones who stay at home and hope are also part of the mission.
The Fifth Station – Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross
Simon’s name and those of his sons are recorded in the gospel although he is otherwise unknown. An army of ‘Simons’ has come to the aid of the sick and those affected by lockdown. They too will become part of the Gospel message.
The sixth station – Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Sick people in hospital with Covid 19 are cared for by staff wearing full personal protective equipment which hides their faces. Internet technology is used by staff to enable patients and their loved ones to see each other’s faces.
The seventh station – Jesus falls a second time.
The incidence of domestic abuse rises sharply. Filled with people who cannot get out because of lockdown the family home is no longer, for some, a place of safety and love. Our homes are often too small, and the family stressed by the need to pay rent or mortgage. The family should be a private sanctuary, but it also needs the help of the community.
The eighth station – the women of Jerusalem weep for Jesus
Media coverage ensures that we are all kept aware of the suffering of those who are ill, and those who love, and care for them
The ninth station – Jesus falls the third time
Images of a police officer in America suffocating an unarmed man of African descent flood the internet. The international outrage displaces the danger of Covid for many. Large numbers gather in open space to cry ‘ENOUGH’. We know how all this started and we need to seek forgiveness and repair our social structures.
The tenth station – Jesus is stripped of his garments
Sedated and on a ventilator the sickest patients are totally in the hands of those who care for them. Great credit must go to staff who continue to respect the dignity of the patient who has nothing of his own to help.
The eleventh station – Jesus is nailed to the cross
When it becomes obvious that the patient cannot benefit from being on a ventilator, or even from going on one in the first place, it becomes sensible to place him or her in palliative care so that appropriate care of the dying can be observed.
The twelfth station – Jesus dies on the cross
Jesus willingly gave up his life when the time was right. Most of us are more reluctant, but some Covid patients were able to accept the outcome with tranquillity.
The thirteenth station – Jesus is taken down from the cross
Criminals executed on Golgotha could expect to be dumped in unmarked graves or left to rot. Amazingly the friends of Jesus got permission to take him down tenderly from the cross. The journey to the morgue on a trolley, tactfully covered in a sheet, offers little consolation to the relatives, but it is better than what happens to so many innocent people who die during war, pestilence and famine.
The fourteenth station – Jesus is laid in the tomb
Jesus was laid tenderly in the tomb and the women expected to properly dress the body when the sabbath was over. We had so many deaths to start with that bodies piled up. Mortuaries in hospitals filled and ways had to be found to store the bodies until there was time to bury them. The sight of a funeral director staring helplessly at a car park filled with refrigerated lorries he has bought to store the bodies tells me where we have got to. It is not ideal, but the carefully labelled bodies treated with all possible dignity bear witness to our efforts to do the best we can under the circumstances.
May the mercy of God preserve our society until we are able to do what is right.