As I explain, I feel so many emotions. I'm once again proud of my own brave son who never did anything wrong and suffered so much so he could stay with me. I feel not only my own deep sorrow because he is gone, but I feel a connection to Mary who must have felt so much like me but more - more pride, more pain, more horror. After all Jesus died a public and most horrific death. My darling boy died peacefully, surrounded by love.
And I feel anger because he is gone and my life is so emptied that there is almost nothing left of my life. He was my occupation and obsession every moment. The soldiers divided Jesus' few possessions among them. I'm stuck with a mountainous pile of medical supplies, toys and clothes that must be divided up and I am the one deciding who gets what. So much that was precious became junk in the instant of death. I know much of it is precious to someone else struggling to care for her child. If I could only find that mom! I am angry that I have to deal with this.
And I am angry because in the four months since he died, we have lost two beloved pets! Why am I surrounded by death? It's not fair, why me? These are questions I thought I had left behind long ago. They are still and always unanswerable but I am asking them. Again. Sigh. I am angry with myself for needing to torture myself with these pointless questions again.
But my two friends, ages 5 and 7 are looking at me expectantly. I pull myself together and go on. "When we look at this picture, we feel sad because we know that Jesus chose to let this terrible thing happen because he loved us. And we are sorry for all the times we have made him sad. He loves us and wants us to be kind and loving and thoughtful. When we are not, he is sad and we must tell him we are sorry."
Movement to my right catches my attention and I turn to see an angry face. Old, bent almost in half and furious, a woman clutching her pink plastic rosary is glaring at me like a cartoon witch. Charley moves to speak to her. She gestures furiously and he nods politely and comes back to us. "We need to be more quiet."
Okay. We were trying to be quiet, but we can try harder.
I continue in a lower voice. "Next is Station 13. When they were sure Jesus was dead, the Roman guards let Mary and the others take him down from the cross and get him ready for burial. They washed his body and dressed him in clean clothes."
Suddenly I remember doing the same for Sam. He turned green so quickly once he stopped breathing. Was that because of the infection or does everyone turn green? His body was cold on top, but when we turned him to get his clean clothes on, it was still very hot underneath. We put him in a sweatshirt that said "This is what AWESOME looks like" and tucked his favorite toy in his pocket.
Did Mary stick something special in with Jesus before they rolled the stone closed? I bet she did. I wonder what it was?
The angry woman circles around glaring at us again and approaches from my left this time. She is simply furious. "We have finished with the Stations of the Cross! I don't know where you were when we were doing it, but you are too late. People are trying to pray and you must leave!"
There are so many things wrong with this that I am momentarily stunned. It seems so ridiculous! I wanted to say:
We were there earlier and did the Stations with the congregation and the girls had a lot of questions.
I asked Father if I could take the girls around again to explain it to them and he was delighted. He gave us a special blessing and prayer before he left.
It's Good Friday, the church is open and people are encouraged to do their own private Stations of the Cross. They have been announcing this all through Lent.
It's a big church and we are talking quietly and there are at most five other people in the church and they are no where near us.
We are already at Station 13, we won't be much longer. You need to sit down and pray for patience.
Jesus said "Let the children come, for the Kingdom of Heaven is made of such as these."
Instead, I pick one of the worst replies possible. I say "I am sorry you are feeling cranky." That did not go over well, naturally.
"I'M NOT CRANKY!" She loudly insists, glaring up at me with a twist of her neck that was probably painful.
Now I am getting embarrassed. We are becoming a spectacle and this is pretty much exactly NOT what I wanted to teach the girls. I try to placate the angry woman, I try to feel pity, but she keeps interrupting me and talking louder and louder.
Already emotional because of my own personal connection with the death of precious sons, I lose my temper and whisper through gritted teeth "I am TEACHING them to PRAY!" We are now two Harpies staring each other down across a battlefield littered with the scraps of my ruined Spiritual Exercise.
"Well you are teaching them WRONG!" She shouts over her shoulder as she retreats across the altar and out, slamming the door.
Aghast at my lack of self-control, I turn back to my youthful charges, whose eyes and mouths are gaping wide, and pull myself together. "So. Whenever we do something that makes Jesus sad, we should tell him. For example I had no business getting mad at that lady and so I need to tell him right now that I am sorry and ask him to forgive me."
Later, Charley summed up the experience: "It was a God Moment. The whole point of Lent is to be confronted with our sinfulness. You certainly were confronted by yours!"
I have no regrets about taking the girls through the Stations a second time. But I do feel very sorry for losing my temper and being disrespectful towards the angry woman. I made her carry the burden of all my anger, although she was most unwilling to do so. She stormed out of the church bearing whatever her own pain is along with the extra burden of my anger. In that horrible moment, before the crucified Christ, she bore my sin. I'm sorry for this. And I'm pretty sure Jesus forgives me, but she probably does not. I'm sorry about that, too.