"There are so many people that daily walk the Stations of the Cross alongside Our Lord, trying to survive every hour, and every day of their existence. They, like us, are nourished by the promise of Easter."
Our Universal Catholic Church
by Deacon Bill Koniers
As I concluded the 14th Station of the Cross with a prayer and a blessing, I proceeded to thank our parishioners for their dedication and attendance, especially in such poor weather. And then something wonderful happened. A middle-aged woman approached me in the center aisle and sincerely thanked me for praying the Stations reverently and slowly. She explained that it really helped her in her own prayer.
I wondered why she made that statement. Seconds later I was provided an explanation.
Earlier in the week, her sister and the woman took the St. Alphonsus Liguori version of the Stations that our parish prays and carefully translated the 14 steps into the Arabic language. She then proudly showed me her handwritten prayer-book that she had carefully assembled. I suppose that I was stunned that someone would go through that kind of effort. Anyway, she explained that praying in Arabic gave her great comfort in meditating on each Station in her native Arabic language. She also felt good and secure that her translations were in sync with our English version prayer pamphlets. She said that the words would take on more of spiritual meaning.
How wonderfully beautiful was her story and, more importantly, her great faith. But there’s more.
This woman proceeded to tell me that she is an immigrant from Syria who happens to be a Middle-Eastern Maronite Catholic. (The Maronite Catholic Church is a Rite of the Eastern Catholic Church. The origin of this rite dates back to the fourth century, when a group of disciples gathered around the charismatic figure of the monk St. Maron. They later founded a monastery located midway between Aleppo and Antioch, and this Eastern rite developed from there.) Our visitor escaped the bloodshed in Syria three years ago, came to America, and is trying to begin her life over.
She claims that she is still in the process of learning the English language. I told her that her English was good. She hugged me and said that she is "blessed" to be in America and now she frequently attends our beautiful parish liturgies.
What a beautiful story of building bridges of faith!
My encounter also made me realize directly that the Syrian war isn’t "someone else’s problem" in a far-away nation. This woman brought to life for me the suffering of millions of people. I haven’t stopped thinking about our conversation since that evening.
In the bigger picture, I suspect that many, if not most, parishes dedicate during the Prayers of the Faithful an intercession for the war-torn areas of the Middle East. In fact, during the following Sunday’s Mass, we were reminded to "Pray for persecuted Christians everywhere, that they may be free to worship the one true God in Spirit and in truth."
We must remember to sincerely pray for the people of Syria and everywhere else in the Middle East where suffering and injustices can be found. The most recent chemical weapons tragedy killed dozens of people in Syria including little children. Events like these are stark reminders that our prayers are needed more and more for the people who suffer and die from these barbaric tragedies in Syria and elsewhere in our world.
There are so many helpless people that daily walk the Stations of the Cross alongside Our Lord, trying to survive every hour, and every day of their existence. They, like us, are nourished by the promise of Easter.
May the commemoration of Our Lord's Resurrection fill all of the suffering people around the world with renewed faith, hope, and love this upcoming Easter Sunday and always.
Deacon Bill Koniers serves at The Cathedral Parish in Bridgeport. Ordained to the permanent diaconate in 2004, he is also a part-time Chaplain at St. Vincent's Medical Center. He is the President of CathoNet, a cloud technology organization serving the U.S. Catholic Church.