Rev. Reginald Walsh, O.P.
Burns Oates & Washbourne LTD, London
with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1922


Our Blessed Lord did not carry His Cross alone; He was accompanied by many. Indeed, all who walked with the procession to the place of execution took part in the carrying of the Cross, each in his own way. We may distinguish three different groups among them: (1) Those who load our Lord with the Cross. (2) Those who literally carry the Cross with Him. (3) Those who participate in spirit in our Lord's carrying of the Cross.

First Group. - Those who load our Lord with the Cross. Those who lay the Cross upon our Lord's shoulders are the authors of His Passion - viz., the Jews, the Priests, the Pharisees, the soldiers, the executioners and their assistants. They are all guilty of His Passion, and increase it by their cruelty and mockery. They themselves carry a cross, too - the cross of their evil passions and sins. They are the tools of Satan, and it is his yoke that they drag along. This is an inglorious cross - a fatal cross, which leads not to redemption, but to eternal death. Whoever does not embrace the Cross of Jesus must bear that of Satan.

And in a wider sense we and all men belong to those who load our Lord with the Cross. They are our sins that He is painfully carrying - our sins, that are pressing upon Him with such cruel weight - which of us has not contributed a share to weight the Cross laid on our dear Lord? How just and fitting, then, that we should accompany our Lord, and now at least make reparation to Him for the hardships and cruelties of this journey by the relief our compassion and gratitude can afford Him! As Jesus allowed Himself to be loaded with the Cross through love of me, so shall I accept each cross that is laid on me, through love for Him. When nature is ready to sink beneath the burden of the cross I shall look confidently to Jesus for grace to carry it patiently and meritoriously.

Many, says St. Alphonsus Liguori, love Jesus, as long as the breeze of heavenly consolation refreshes them; but if the clouds of diversity lower, if for their trial, Christ, our dear Lord, withdraws His sensible presence from them, they are sorely tempted to give up prayer, neglect self-denial, sink into despondency and tepidity, and finally turn for comfort to creatures and perishable things. Such souls love themselves more than Jesus Christ. Those who truly love our Lord are faithful in darkness and trial. Faith tells us that Jesus is as sovereignly amiable and good when He afflicts as when He consoles. [Emphasis here and below added.] Oh, how dear to the Heart of Jesus is the soul who suffers with loving submission! Precious, beyond all graces, is the grace to suffer and to love!

COLLOQUY. - O most sweet Jesus, draw me close to Thy Heart and help me to love the Cross, for without the Cross I know there can be no close union with Thee. "Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou shalt go." I do want to be wholly Thine; take me, and dispose of me ever and always, according to the good pleasure of Thy Heart. May I at last, by likeness to Thee, and union with Thee, become a true disciple of Thy Heart. "Thou art my God and my Eternal King!"

Second Group. - Those who literally carry the Cross with Jesus. The two malefactors are the first in this group. They go with Jesus and carry their crosses to the place of execution. But they do not carry them for Jesus, for faith and virtue, but on account of their crimes and misdeeds. Nor do they carry them as Jesus did His, but only under compulsion, raging and gnashing their teeth, and - one of them at all events, the thief on the left side - with evil consequences. For him it may have been the instrument of eternal damnation. But in the heart of the good thief the first emotions of the contrition and penance that he so touchingly completed on the cross, may have just begun to stir during the carrying of the cross.

Another who literally carries the Cross with Jesus is Simon of Cyrene, who actually carried it part of the way to Calvary. How did this happen? Simon was returning from the country, and, as it appears, just entering by the city gate; for we are told that the soldiers found him as they were going out, laid hold on Him, and forced Him to take up our Lord's Cross. Why? Because the weakness and exhaustion of Jesus was so great that they feared He would succumb on the way under its weight. They laid the Cross on him to carry after Jesus.

It was for Simon's sake much more than for His Own that our Lord shared His Cross with him. The virtue that came from its contact with the Son of God went out to him who followed in His footsteps. Quickly Simon learned his lesson. From bearing the Cross reluctantly he came to bear it patiently, willingly, joyfully, reaching thus the highest perfection of which love is capable on earth. We may assume this in respect of Simon himself. And as regards Alexander and Rufus, his sons, the fact of their being mentioned by name in this place of St. Mark's gospel may show that they received extraordinary graces through Simon's good deed.

To carry after Jesus. - What blessed words! I shall do well to hear them, as they apply to me just as truly as to Simon. There is rarely a day that I have not the privilege of bearing some cross for and after Jesus, my dear Master. What a loss for eternity if I neglect my opportunities. Do I? They laid the Cross on him. True, but did Simon stop at the instrument? When, after years spent in his Master's service, he looked back to the meeting on the road to Calvary, did he so much as think of the hands that constrained him? Was not the design of God too plain? Was it not God Who planned that meeting, Who chose him for the honour of being the first to carry the Cross after Jesus.

Looking back on their lives, from the bed of death and from their place in Heaven, the servants of God see that what they could least spare out of their life would be its crosses. It is the Cross that has stamped them all with the mark special to the elect. For whom He foreknew He also predestined to be made conformable to the image of His Son (Rom. viii). How wonderful are God's dealings with us. How continually He turns our days of trouble into times of the richest blessing. Little did Simon of Cyrene think that Friday morning as he went forth to his daily toil, that grace was lying in wait for him on the road to Calvary - that hidden in the Cross of pain and shame was laid up for him the highest honour and never-ending joy. We rise in the morning and make our plans for the day. God has made His for us. Turning a corner, we find the Cross of Christ awaiting us, and with it the grace that with a little effort on our part will enable us to bear it bravely after our Master. How is it that whilst we have plenty of congratulations for Simon we have nothing but compassion for ourselves!

COLLOQUY. - Teach me, dear Lord, to bear my crosses with faith, and hope, and love.

"Nearer, my God to Thee, nearer to Thee;
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me."

With faith - to believe that every cross comes from Thy hand - to cry out when I see it in the distance: It is the Lord. With hope - because, dear Jesus, if I follow Thee to Calvary now, I shall follow Thee into Thy Kingdom by-and-by. With love - that will make me glad to bear something for Thee Who hast borne so much for me. Mother, imprint deeply on my heart the wounds of Thy Crucified Son;

"Make me feel as Thou hast felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ thy Son."

Third Group. - Those who participate in spirit in our Lord's carrying of the Cross.

In this group we find, first - the women of Jerusalem, and other good people who compassionated our Lord's fate. For a great multitude followed Him, says St. Luke. They commiserated Him, and gave vent to their pity and grief in loud lamentations. This expression of their grief was right, and required great courage, since it was made in the presence and the hearing of our Lord's triumphant foes. What was imperfect about it was that they regarded our Lord's Passion as a pure misfortune, and bewailed it as such. Jesus rewards them for their compassion. He speaks to them, and in His turn offers His pity for them and their children. These women and other compassionate people are a type of the souls who feel pity for the sufferings of our Lord, but do not follow up their pity by deeds. But Jesus, the loving Lord and Master, accepts even this token of love graciously, and returns it in His Own way.

According to tradition, our Lord was met on His way to Calvary by a woman named Veronica or Berenice. Veronica desired to give Jesus a proof of her attachment, love, and compassion at this moment of distress and abandonment. Her loving pity is practical, noble, and courageous. See her as she pushes her way through the crowd to Him, and hands Him her veil that He may wipe His Divine Face. This act was a slight service, but a courageous confession of her faith in Jesus, of her loyalty and fidelity to Him. It was all she could do at this moment, and she did it with a generous and loving heart; and oh, how magnificently Jesus rewards her for her faith and love! See how gratefully and tenderly Jesus looks on Veronica as He takes the veil, wipes the blood and perspiration from His Sacred Face, and gives it back to her. How her heart overflowed with love when, having reached her home, she unfolded the veil and beheld the adorable face of Jesus miraculously imprinted on its folds.

"Magnet of souls! - O holy Face!
Draw us to Thee by Thy sweet grace,
That all we do, and think, and say,
May be for Thee alone today.
And through Thy boundless power and grace,
Work wonders, O most holy Face!"

How sweetly our dear Lord rewards even the very smallest act of charity, and encourages us to give Him heartfelt proofs of our love, even though we can do so little.

Lastly. - We find in this group our Lord's Own Mother, who (as tradition says) also awaited Him on this painful journey. In the Via Dolorosa, or Way of the Cross, it is believed that there is a memorial of their sorrowful meeting. The new church of  "The Lady of the Spasm," which belongs to the Armenian Catholics, stands over the place marked by tradition as the Fourth Station of the Cross, and in a subterranean chapel belonging to this church the memorial may be seen. In the words of the learned Father Meistermann, O.S.F.: "In the crypt, level with the ancient street, some bits of the pavement of which have been found on the northern side, is a great piece of mosaic, which was discovered in digging the foundations for the new church. A square, framed in a rich border, bears in the centre two little shoes or sandals placed together, with their points turned to the northwest. This mosaic, which is prior to the seventh century, seems to mark the very spot where tradition states that the Blessed Virgin stood when she exchanged with her Son a look which pierced her maternal heart like a sword." These words will help us in making our composition of place. "In death they were not divided."

Jesus, our dear and Blessed Master, on the way to Calvary must teach us at every turn, for His time is short. His most Blessed Mother, too, the first and most faithful of His disciples, is to serve us for an example on that way. Let us watch the meeting and see the kind of consolation they bring to one another in this hour of bitter anguish for both. What fortitude! What self-forgetfulness! What oblation of the strongest, holiest affection earth has ever seen! Mary's heart beats in perfect unison with the Heart of her Son. Like His, it throws itself into the Divine Will for the redemption of the world with a strength of purpose that sanctifies the instincts of nature. There is no shrinking in their self-immolation at the sight of the anguish of the One dearer to each than life. The Son and the Mother meet, but it is as the Redeemer and the Co-Redemptrix of the world. The sacrifice that their mutual love increases occupies them entirely.

Contemplate the meeting of the Mother and Son. Their eyes meet. Dimly, through the tears and blood that obscure His sight, Jesus discerns His Mother's face, and His glance carries strength to her soul. He summons her, His well-beloved, to ratify the oblation made at Nazareth in the hour of the Incarnation, when she consented to become the Mother of the Man of Sorrows, the oblation made solemnly in the Temple on the day of His Presentation, and renewed again and again as the time of the Passion drew near: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord."

At every stage of His Redemption she has been, and is, His handmaid, waiting upon Him always, His solitary fellow-worker, on whose sympathy and absolute fidelity He can rely.

And now His hour has come, the hour of which He had so often spoken to her at Nazareth, the hour that was the subject of such earnest prayer put up together, as they knelt side by side; the hour for which He had promised to strengthen her, that, first in privilege as in dignity, she might drink deeper than any other of His chalice. His glance recalls all this to her now, and it is met by a response such as that handmaid alone could give. No cry escapes her. To bring Him the only comfort in her power, the assurance that she accepts with Him every jot and tittle of the Father's Will; that she does not grudge one pang, that she is ready for more, for the consummation of the sacrifice, for Calvary - this is her one thought. Mary cannot speak her Ecce Ancilla, her heart would break with a word to Him; but her eyes, her quivering lip, her clasped hands speak for her.

It is by studying prayerfully this meeting of Jesus and Mary on the road to Calvary that I shall learn how true friendship comports itself in the hour of trial. What kind of consolation do I bring to others in the path of daily life that is for so many of God's servants the Way of the Cross? Is it a help and spiritual support to meet me? Do I try to take the sting out of wounds, or are they the worse for my handling? Do I, by injudicious sympathy, accentuate vexations or misunderstandings? Do I try to put a favourable construction on painful words or acts, and abstain from repeating what would work further mischief l Are others moved by my words and example to bear up bravely and trust in God.

Mary's was the noblest and most sublime participation in our Lord's Cross, because nothing could equal the courage and love of His Mother, and her desire to suffer with her Divine Son. Is not our Blessed Mother here the highest model of all cross-bearing souls?
All have a cross to bear, the cross of sin and passion, the cross of misfortune permitted by God, or the cross of penance or of love. Thus the Way of the Cross is a living type of the Church and the whole human race. Whoever we are, willingly or unwillingly, we must form part of the escort of our Cross-bearing Saviour. All that is left to our choice is, to which division of the company we will belong, and surely the choice is not difficult. "Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth." How glad and proud I shall be on the last day to bear the Cross on my forehead, to hear the congratulations of the holy ones who surround the throne of God: "Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth." Why should I not feel at least the beginning of that gladness now?
COLLOQUY. - Thou wert glad, dear Lord, to suffer for me, not that Thou couldst desire suffering for its own sake, for Thou wert truly Man, and Thine exquisitely sensitive nature shrank as none other ever shrank from pain; but, my dear Jesus, my Lord and my God, Thou didst long to go through that pain which was to purchase my happiness, and to prove Thy love to me. If Thou, my Jesus, didst look forward with eagerness to Thy Passion, it was all for my sake. "He loved me, and delivered Himself for me." Ah, dear Lord, so must it be with me. I cannot desire suffering for itself, but, sweet Jesus, with the grace which Thou wilt give to me as to Thy Saints I may come to love what will bring me nearer to Thee - which will forward Thy designs for my sanctification and happiness, which will enable me to glorify Thee more, and be proof to Thee of my gratitude and my love.

Give me grace, dear Jesus, to understand the Mystery of the Cross, to value it, and when Thou dost give me the Cross here, to give me a right to bear its glorious sign on the last day, let me not turn away rebellious or disconsolate. Let me not sorrow as those that have no hope, bitterly, because unwillingly. My dear Master, with Thy Almighty Grace, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou shalt go. "In what place soever Thou shalt be, Lord, my King, either in life or in death, there will Thy servant be." O my Mother, help me to be true to Jesus at any cost.

"Make me feel as Thou halt felt.
Make my heart to glow and melt,
With the love of Christ, my Lord."

HOME ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ CHRIST THE KING