This Friday, many of us will begin the Lenten tradition of praying the Way of the Cross. There are countless versions to consider. One of the most popular is Everyone’s Way of the Cross by Deacon Clarence Enzler. The other day, my friend Msgr. Eric Barr alerted me to his version, The Way of the Cross with St. John the Apostle. At my parish, for the last several years, we have been walking Mary’s Way of the Cross by Richard Furey, with my wife reading Mary’s reflections as I lead the faithful around the church, station to station.

And then there’s this version in A Deacon Prays. 

My brother and classmate Deacon Vincenzo LaGamba said to me years ago, before we were even ordained, “Gregory, you should write a Way of the Cross for deacons!” I shrugged it off. But I never forgot his words. And I finally got around to it two years ago. Thank you, Vincenzo, for the inspiration!  I’m posting the first three stations below.

This year, we can’t help but think of the suffering people of Ukraine, who are walking their own way to Calvary.

The widely-circulated photo below by Evgeniy Maloletka, showing a father grieving over the body of his teenage son in a Ukrainian medical ward, says it all. It is a Pieta for our time.

May this Lent draw us closer to the Christ who suffered for us, died for us, and then rose to teach us that death isn’t the end of the story.

Station 1: Jesus is Condemned to Die

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

To most, he was just another common criminal, the kind who deserved the fate that awaited him. He looked awful: weak, bloody, filthy. If you saw him on the street, you’d go out of your way to avoid him.

And yet: this was the man who had mesmerized thousands with teachings and healings and miraculous signs that had transfixed all of Galilee. How could something like this have happened to someone like that?

The figure in the ragged robes, crowned with thorns, bleeding and in pain, helpless before the judgment of the state, is a reminder to us that the world is unjust, spiteful, callous, cruel. This world will condemn the innocent, mock the righteous, hate the good. It will break your heart. Given the chance, it will sentence the source of all life to death.

Jesus, I weep for the injustices committed against you, and against so many in our world.

Let us pray …

I see you begin your walk to Calvary
And see the savior of the world
Humbled beyond recognition.
You told us you came not to be served,
But to serve,
And in this moment of surrender and obedience,
You serve all of humanity.

Lord, how often have I as a deacon
Hungered for recognition, praise, or a place of privilege?
How often have I wanted people to look up at me,
To consider me someone special?
How often have I forgotten this moment of humiliation and heartbreak,
When you showed what it truly means to serve?
Jesus, teach me to give more by claiming less,
And to live my life in service to the Father and those around me.

Station 2: Jesus Takes Up his Cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

How will he do it?
How will this battered figure be able to carry that massive piece of wood all the way up that hill? He once worked as a carpenter, but he’s spent the last few years roaming the hills, preaching. Will he even make it to the end?

Perhaps the soldiers have a bet going: how long will he last?

The answer will probably surprise many in the crowd. He knows he has work to do, a place to go, a mission to fulfill. He knows they are watching him — not only the people there in the crowded streets of Jerusalem, but also generations of people, billions not yet born. He is making this last walk for history and for the human race — for women washing clothes in Nigeria, for children going to class in the Bronx, for families gathered around dinner tables in Bangkok and Beirut. He needs to make it all the way, to show how it is done and to live out what it means to “take up your cross.”

Ultimately, this journey is not one of defeat, but of victory.

And so he goes on.

Let us pray…

How much weight can one person bear?
How far will you go?
The journey you are beginning seems impossible,
And yet: you do it anyway.
You accept what seems unacceptable,
Literally, the weight of the world,
And take it on your shoulders for all of us.

Lord, there are days
When the weight of my world seems too much:
Ministry, work, family, parish life —
Those times when the pressures are too heavy, the obligations too many,
The responsibilities too numerous to count.
And there are times, too,
When those around me seem to add more weight,
And the cross of daily life, with all its challenges and stresses,
Crushes me.
Jesus, help me as a deacon
To carry whatever you need me to bear,
As a disciple, as a husband, as a father, as a friend,
And may I never forget that you are by my side.

Station 3: Jesus Falls the First Time

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

He stumbles, falls, strikes the ground, and you hear the hard wood crash on the street. The crowd stirs. Could he not even make it the first few steps?
A pause. A breath. A groan, and he scrambles to his feet. Once again, he picks up the beam and begins dragging it further, wood scraping on stone.

He won’t stop. Not yet.

A sob is heard and some in the crowd turn to find a small woman straining to see — but clearly, worried of what she will find. She is instantly recognizable. It is his mother.

The crowd parts and she inches forward and she catches sight of him as he staggers up the street. She closes her eyes and whispers a silent prayer and no one knows what to say or do.

Some decide to move on, to see just how far he can make it.

For years, he showed them The Way, and many followed.

And now they follow still.

Let us pray…

It takes so much out of you.
Yet, you never paused, never stopped, never gave up.
You did what was asked of you,
And then did even more.
You walked, fell, got up, moved on.
You showed us The Way of the Cross — and then the way of living.

Lord, some days I just want to give in
And give up.
I am overwhelmed.
I make mistakes.
I try. I stumble. I fall.
I feel like I fail.
But my burdens, my crosses, are so small
When considered beside yours,
And I realize as I follow you on your journey,
That so much of life is not measured in how we succeed,
But in how we get up when we fall.
Jesus, show me as a deacon
How to keep walking
Even though the path is hard and the burden is heavy
And I sometimes stumble along The Way.