Saturday, April 4, 2020

Love in the Time of Corona (or Praying the Stations of the Cross in a Time of Isolation)

Okay, so I really just wanted to use that first part as a title. I'm sure it's been done. But now I've done it, too ;)

I've come to the end of Week 3 of isolation and I have finally settled into a routine. I believe I mentioned this in my last post, but Week 1 of isolation was kind of my jam. I was excited about the novelty of working from home and trying new resources online. It was cute to learn how to play games virtually through Zoom and have Happy Hours on Google Hangouts.

Week 2 was less cute and the reality of doing this for a very long time set in. I began to grieve for this year, for my students, my travels, our economy, our livelihoods.

Week 3 has seen the putting into practice of this new normal. I get up and sometimes even shower! I wear clothes other than just pajamas. I pray. I work for a few hours, take a walk, come back to work and end the day with an activity or a phone call or Netflix. I've gotten into somewhat of a rhythm, but it doesn't make all of this any less strange or challenging.

But I have talked about all of that and how this time certainly doesn't compare in the scheme of history. I've talked about what it means that this has happened during Lent. I want to return to that as we now enter the heart of our Lenten journey with the beginning of Holy Week.

On some of my walks, I've wandered into the two Catholic Churches that are within walking distance to my apartment. Today, I went in and found myself praying the Stations of the Cross, one of our most sacred devotions as Catholics, especially during Lent.

I saw recently an article online about the origins of the Stations of the Cross and how this devotion is perfect for us in this time. The Stations were a prayer created so that when people couldn't travel to the Holy Land, they still had a way to connect with where Jesus walked on his way to the Cross. We certainly cannot make any journeys or travel right now. But our Churches are open (to 10 or less people at a time) and we can always pray this timely devotion from the comfort of our homes.

The Stations of the Cross have always been a fascinating and sacred practice for me. I love that they combine art and reflection. I love that they show both the human and divine side of Jesus, but mostly His human side. He falls. He weeps. He speaks. He allows people to help Him. And ultimately He shows us what it is to be humble and to love. He shows us how to sacrifice.

And isn't this time right now that we are in all about sacrifice? A friend whom I have kept in touch with since we volunteered together in Guatemala back in 2002, recently suggested that we do a virtual Stations of the Cross and have our friends and family members come up with the reflections. I immediately loved this idea. To have people from all different walks of life, yet united in this time of sacrifice during this time of Lent to come and "walk" together in this way, seemed perfectly fitting.

 Above is an olllld pic from that time in Guatemala back in 2002. Maggie's in the front in the blue headscarf on the left. I'm in the middle with red bandanna and rare sighting of me in jeans and baseball tee!
Maggie and I in LA in 2012...we clean up nicely when having access to warm showers and beds that don't have bed bugs!

When I was praying the Stations today, I thought of specific moments when the Stations meant a lot to me. I prayed the Stations, for example, A LOT when I was in the convent. That was a year very much spent in isolation for me. I was in a unique situation and it wasn't ending up being the best fit for me. I found myself uniting my suffering and questioning with the person of Jesus carrying that cross. Wasn't he also suffering and sacrificing? Wasn't he giving of Himself but stumbling along the way?

The time we are in right now is a time of isolation. We are doing it as a sacrifice for others. It hit me when I was in the Church today that this is what Jesus did for us: He isolated Himself by His Incarnation and Paschal Mystery. He became human but was God and what an isolating experience that must've been. And He suffered the ultimate isolation and humiliation by putting Himself on the Cross for all of us.

How can we unite our sacrifice, suffering and isolation with Christ and one another now? I think going on this remote journey that the Church has had in place for us for centuries is a good start.

Here are some of my favorite images from important times when I prayed the Stations in my life:

 Station #5 from a monastery in Indianapolis, the year I was living in the convent. 
 Station #9 from yet another convent, this time while on a retreat here in Richmond.
 Station #15- an optional station from same convent, different retreat, here in Richmond. 
 The actual 5th Station in Jerusalem from my trip last year to the Holy Land. 
Our group last year carrying a cross through the streets of Jerusalem.
My parents carrying the cross past Station #6 in Jerusalem. 

"We adore You O Lord and we praise You, because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world." - prayer said during Stations of the Cross.


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