June 6, 2008

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Summer series offers preparation for archdiocesan anniversary

2009 marks the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Vincennes, the official beginning of the Catholic Church in Indiana.

In 1898, the diocese was moved to Indianapolis and, in 1945, became the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

While our observance of the anniversary will not be overly elaborate, it is appropriate that we observe a communal pause of intentional reflection and prayer about what this anniversary means.

First and foremost, we need to thank God for 175 years of awesome blessings for our Church in Indiana. We need to pause and remember our forebears: our bishops, priests and religious and, yes, also the “salt of the earth” folks, our ancestors in the faith, on whose shoulders we stand today.

Our local Church didn’t just happen. With the help of God’s grace, these people built our Church here in Indiana. The Lord built the house, but real people who made real sacrifices were his instruments.

We receive and we hand on the fruit of the faith, hope and charity of unsung people. We owe it to ourselves as well as our posterity to pause and think about our own responsibility in faith.

Now it is our turn to continue to build God’s holy Church and to invite others to come and join us. With this thought in mind, we have chosen the 2009 jubilee motto: “We have seen the Lord; come and see.”

I propose a year of intentional recall and a spiritual “looking ahead” in prayer. An archdiocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land is scheduled on Sept. 17-27, 2008, as an inaugural event for the year of grace. It seems to me that a virtual return to our Christian roots is an appropriate place to begin our anniversary observance.

A representative group of pilgrims from our archdiocese will follow in the footsteps of Jesus as a visible reminder that it is from Christ that we received our salvation, our identity and the Church through which we continue to carry on Christ’s mission. (More information about the pilgrimage is found on page 3 in this issue of The Criterion.)

One of the favored devotions on the pilgrimage to the Holy Land is for pilgrims to carry a cross along the Via Dolorosa that marks Christ’s way, winding through the still busy streets of Jerusalem to Calvary.

Dating back to the oppressive years of the late Middle Ages, when pilgrims were prevented from visiting the sacred sites of the Holy Land, the custom arose of making replicas of those holy places where pilgrims might come and pray.

One of the most popular devotions to evolve was the “Stations of the Way of the Cross.”

These “stations” replicated the stopping places of prayer on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. St. Alphonsus Ligouri is credited with composing the first known prayers for the Way of the Cross in 1761.

He wrote: “The pious exercise of the Way of the Cross represents the sorrowful journey that Jesus Christ made with the cross on his shoulders, to die on Calvary for love of us. We should therefore practice this devotion with the greatest possible fervor, placing ourselves in spirit beside our Savior as he walked the sorrowful way, uniting our tears with his, and offering to him both our compassion and our gratitude” (The Way of the Cross as composed by St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Barton-Cotton, 1977).

As a way of preparing for the Holy Land pilgrimage and as a way of inviting as many folks as possible at home to participate along the way of Jesus, I hope to provide a weekly reflection on each of the 14 stations. These reflections will comprise my summer series of columns and lead us to the inaugural 2009 Jubilee pilgrimage.

My reflections will be just that—my own personal thoughts at each station. Hopefully, this will provide another way of “coming and seeing Jesus.”

It should be noted that while this devotion takes place on the Via Dolorosa, the way to Calvary, it does not stop there.

In a Good Friday reflection, the mystic Catherine de Hueck Doherty wrote: “Even as the cross stands there, alone and naked, dominating the scene on Good Friday, it sings its triumphant song of resurrection. If we listen well while we look at this lonely cross, we shall hear its song of alleluias. They are faint, but every moment that passes brings them closer and their joyous melody should already begin to fill us with a delirious gladness and make us repeat, again and again: ‘We are redeemed, we are saved … we can again be one with God’ ” (The Stations of the Cross, in the footsteps of the Passion with Catherine Doherty, Madonna House Publications, 2004).

Our archdiocesan story winds along the Way of the Cross and on to Easter joy. †

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