July 1, 2016

Serra Club vocations essay

Living Stations offer a powerful experience of God’s mercy

(Editor’s note: The following is the third in a series featuring the winners of the Indianapolis Serra Club’s 2016 John D. Kelley Vocations Essay Contest.)

By Ashley Freiburger (Special to The Criterion)

Ashley FreiburgerI’ve always been a strong believer in God. I know he sent his only Son to die for us so that we may one day join him at the gates of heaven.

But I never really applied this to my life. I always thought that, no matter what horrible thing I did, it wouldn’t matter because, in the end, our heavenly Father would forgive us.

But after I went to a Living Stations of the Cross, it changed everything I once believed in into something more powerful. I found the true meaning of mercy and forgiveness. I am about to share my experience with you.

When my mom told me we were going to the living Stations of the Cross—I am not going to lie—I didn’t want to go at all. I thought I had better things to do than go sit for an hour and watch what Jesus went through, when I thought I already knew what had happened.

As we arrived, I was surprised to see how many people had come. My whole family and I sat down in a pew toward the back and just waited. After waiting another 10 minutes, I was getting annoyed and just wanted this to be over.

But then the music started, and I knew right away that it was going to be a great experience. There was a priest playing Jesus, and he was awaiting Pontius Pilate.

They all started acting out the stations, and I was kind of disappointed. It wasn’t the “life-changing experience” I thought it would be. But little did I know, it was just getting started.

After waiting and waiting for something to catch my attention, one of the soldiers pulled a whip out and started whipping Jesus. He fell and made a loud scream. It was terrifying. After more and more whips, it was time for the crucifixion.

This brought tears to my eyes. It couldn’t have been more realistic. I was looking around to see if other people were as emotional as I was, and I noticed several people crying as well. Some even had to get up and leave the church.

When they brought Jesus up on the cross, it all went silent. I was praying to God at this point, asking him to forgive me for everything I have done, saying how sorry I was for not being more appreciative of what he went through for us.

Then, Jesus was looking around and made eye contact with me, and I was so nervous because it felt like he was staring straight into my soul, trying to find all of my sins.

This was the point where I knew it wasn’t just a priest playing Jesus looking at me. It was really Jesus in him, trying to get my attention and make me change my ways. I think it was a way for him to let me know he forgave me.

It definitely worked. I couldn’t handle it anymore, and I almost got up to leave. But then I realized there was something about this priest playing Jesus that just made me feel so calm and relaxed. My heart and soul felt cleansed, and I knew the exact reason why. I was looking at the real Jesus.

After the stations ended, I was a completely different person. I then looked at my life in a totally different way. The priest acting out Jesus made me really feel like it was Jesus forgiving me and made me want to forgive others. It was the most powerful life-changing experience I have ever been through.

If I hadn’t witnessed that, I would feel as if God has abandoned me and I would be a sinner. But after staring into the eyes of that priest, I saw Jesus. I saw kind eyes who wanted me to repent and wanted me to know I was forgiven.

That was all I needed to completely change my life around. The priest saved my life, and he didn’t know it. I will never forget this experience, and I am so thankful God thought of me and wanted me to see him.

If there’s one thing I can say about this experience, I would tell people Jesus is thinking about you no matter what you think. All you need to do is pray and ask for forgiveness. I wish I would have known you don’t need to experience something incredible to know that God is always here, but I’m glad it happened to me.

(Ashley and her parents, Andy and Amber Freiburger, are members of St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis. She completed the ninth grade at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis last spring, and is the ninth-grade division winner in the Indianapolis Serra Club’s 2016 John D. Kelley Vocations Essay Contest.)

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