The Way of the Cross on Good Friday, chaired by Pope Francis, this year will feature children. The authors of the texts and drawings of the 14 stations are children, girls and boys from the Roman parish of the Holy Martyrs of Uganda, the Scouts group Agesci “Foligno I” and guests from two family houses in Rome. They will accompany the Pope during the rite in St. Peter’s Square
Adriana Masotti – Vatican News
In their simplicity and concreteness, the meditations written by children and young people for the Via Sacra this year chaired by Pope Francis have the power to deeply touch the heart, to move and make people think, to wish a fairer and happier world for all , to question, to convert.
The many crosses of the boys and girls of the world
Children’s suffering is often underestimated. In the introduction to the booklet (published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana) the children, addressing Jesus, emphasize the following: “Dear Jesus! You know that we children also have crosses, which are neither lighter nor heavier than those of the big, but they are true crosses, that we feel heavy even at night. And only You know it, taking them seriously. Only You “. Crosses are the fear of the dark, loneliness and abandonment, also because of the pandemic, the experience of one’s own limits, the provocation of others, the feeling of being poorer than colleagues, of sadness over family fights between parents . But there are children in the world who also suffer because “they don’t have food, they don’t have school education, they are exploited and forced to fight”. You, Jesus, are always close to us and never abandon us, conclude the children, “Help us day by day to carry our crosses as you took yours”.
The accusation of an innocent and the lack of courage
The first Station: Pontius Pilate condemns Jesus to death. Our thoughts turn to an episode that happened in a first grade classroom: a child, Mark, is accused of stealing a classmate’s lunch. Someone knows that he is innocent, but does not intervene to defend him. The narrator is ashamed of this lack of courage; he acted like Pilate and now regrets having chosen the most comfortable path. “Sometimes we only hear the voice of those who do and who want evil, while justice is a steep path, with obstacles and difficulties; but we have Jesus by our side, ready to support us and help us”.
Our actions can harm
Jesus carries the cross: II Station. The passage from the evangelist Luke describes Jesus being scorned and beaten by those who held him in custody. Among children, it is not uncommon to make fun of one of the members of the group, even to the point of being intimidated, as in the case of Martina, who has difficulty reading aloud in class. “Perhaps it was not our intention to ridicule her, but how much anguish we provoke with those laughs of ours! (…) Persecution is not a distant memory from two thousand years ago: sometimes, some of our actions can condemn, injure and step on a brother or sister.
The experience of failure
In the third season, Jesus falls for the first time, the Lord is burdened with our sins, he seems beaten and humiliated. The experience that accompanies this stage is that of a child who is always good at school and who, for once, receives an insufficient grade: “I saw myself as a nullity – tell me – I felt the weight of an unexpected bankruptcy, I was alone and no one comforted me. But that moment made me grow (…) Today, I know that every day we falter and we can fall, but, there, Jesus is always reaching out to us ”.
The love of mothers
IV station: Jesus meets his Mother. The chosen reading is that of the wedding in Cana centered on the relationship between the Son and his mother. It is a cue for children to think about their mother and the love that accompanies them at all times. Also specifically “football training, English classes and catechesis on Sunday morning”. Meditation speaks of the need for love for the little ones and perhaps helps parents to be better. “If I have a problem, a doubt, or just some strange thought, she is always, with her smile, available to listen to me.”
A welcoming gesture: seeing Jesus on the other person’s face
5th station: The Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the cross. There are many opportunities to help someone, but the testimony described here is the gesture of attention given to a foreigner of the same age. Having just arrived in the neighborhood, he watches the other children playing football, but does not have the courage to introduce himself. A child in the group saw him and was the first to approach him and invite him to join them. “Walid has been one of my best friends ever since,” he says, “as well as our team’s goalkeeper.” Only when we recognize a brother in a person “are we opening our hearts to Jesus”.
Sometimes little is needed to feel less alone
“Truly I say to you: Whenever you did this to one of these little brothers of mine, you did it to me”, the words of Jesus taken from the Gospel of Matthew present us to the 6th station: A woman wipes Jesus’ face. Even children in their daily activities go through difficult or sad times and need someone to comfort them. Like after missing an important football match where you wanted to show all your skills. “While taking a shower, I was sad and discouraged, but when I left the locker room, I found my friend: he was waiting for me with an orange in his hand”. In his company, the defeat he suffered “became a less bitter memory”.
Lose something thinking about the most needy
Jesus falls the second time: 7th station. Meditation reports on the experience of a fourth grader. The end of year representation is being prepared and he wants to be the protagonist at all costs. Instead, the teacher decided to give the role to João, a colleague who was always alone. After some initial anger, the child understands and is happy. João, in fact, has since become more integrated into the class. He comments: “My disillusionment served to help another person, the choice of the teacher gave an opportunity to those who really needed it”.
Helping the Brother Who Wrong
8th station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem. In the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus sees them, he says: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children”. It is the starting point for saying that “Correcting a brother is a difficult but necessary gesture”. This was experienced by two brothers who had lied to their mother, assuring her that they had done their homework that afternoon, when in fact they had played it all the time. The next day, one of them says that he does not feel well for not going to school. The other one goes, but when he gets home he talks to his brother: “We had been wrong in lying to the mother and he was in pretending to have a stomach ache. I proposed to him to do his homework immediately, and I helped him even to recover those from the previous day. Once completed, we spent the rest of the afternoon playing games ”.
The loneliness caused by the pandemic
Jesus falls the third time, we are in the ninth station. The Gospel passage is that of the grain of wheat that dies and thus produces many fruits. The Covid-19 pandemic comes on the scene with all its consequences, even for the little ones. The prevailing feeling is one of loneliness: they no longer visit their grandparents, the school is closed, their friends and companions are missing. “Sometimes the sadness of loneliness becomes unbearable, we feel ‘abandoned’ by everyone, unable to continue to smile. Like Jesus, we are lying on the ground ”.
The joy that comes from giving
10th station: Jesus is stripped of his garments. Here, too, is a girl who narrates: she has in her room a collection of dolls that she keeps as her treasure. One day she learned that the parish was collecting toys for refugee children in Kosovo. She chooses among the dolls some of the older ones she likes least and prepares a box. Then she says: “At night, however, I had the feeling that I hadn’t done enough. Before going to sleep, the box was full of dolls and the shelves were empty ”. Discarding the superfluous makes the soul lighter and frees us from selfishness. It makes us happier to give than to receive.
A Christmas at the service of the poor
“On Christmas Day, we went with the Boy Scouts to Rome, to the Missionary Sisters of Charity, to serve lunch to the needy, renouncing the family feast day”. What was described in the 11th station meditation is not a sacrifice: Jesus is nailed to the cross. But one of the young people confides: “On the way back, I thought about the faces of the people I had served, their smiles and their stories … The idea of taking those people a moment of serenity had made that Christmas unforgettable”. Serving others with love “is the teaching that Jesus gives us on the cross”.
Jesus forgives the sinner who is converted
12th station: Jesus dies on the cross. The example of Jesus forgiving the evil received makes children reflect on the evil present in the world, for example, on the mafias that kill even children. How is it possible to forgive similar situations? They write: “Jesus, give us the strength to forgive, You who said: ‘There will be more joy in Heaven for one sinner who is converted, than for ninety-nine righteous who do not need conversion'”.
They took the grandfather and I never saw him again
Everything is done, 13th season: Jesus’ body is taken from the cross. During this time, many children suffered the sudden disappearance of their grandparents. One of them narrates: “Men came out of the ambulance, who looked like astronauts in caps, gloves, masks and visors, and took their grandfather who, for some days, had difficulty breathing. It was the last time I saw the grandfather. Suffering is also born out of the impossibility of being physically close and giving him comfort: “I prayed for him every day; so I was able to accompany him on his last earthly journey ”.
Thank you, Jesus, for teaching me to love
Fourteenth station, the last: The body of Jesus is deposited in the tomb. The proposed meditation is the thanksgiving of Sarah, twelve years old, to Jesus. I want to thank you, she writes, because “today you have taught me to overcome all suffering, entrusting myself to You; to love the other as my brother; to get up after the falls; (…) Thanks to your gesture of infinite love, today I know that death is not the end of everything ”.
Help us to become little
In the final prayer on the Way of the Cross, adults again speak. Jesus appointed children as an example when he described the characteristics needed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The first request, then, is to help to be able to “Help us to become small, in need of everything, open to life. (…)” We ask You to bless and protect all the children of the world, so that they may grow up in age, wisdom and grace. ”Finally, they thank their parents:“ Bless also the parents and all those who collaborate with them in the education of your children, so that, giving life and love, they may always be united with You ”.
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