Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Way of the Cross in Chicago

Easter greetings on this Wednesday of the Octave.

I posted yesterday about my different experience of Holy Thursday this year. Well, Good Friday was also different for me as well.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know about my frustration with the lack of attention paid here in Chicago to the rising violence and the unfathomable amount of murders that occur here nearly each day. The Archdiocese of Chicago, under the leadership of our shepherd, Cardinal Cupich, has launched an initiative to address this critical issue. Many of you know that I wrote a letter expressing my own frustration to Chicago's mayor a few months ago. I wrote the letter in late December and have yet to receive an acknowledgment or reply.

Part of Cardinal Cupich's initiative was the Archdiocese of Chicago's sponsorship of an interfaith, intercultural walk for peace on Good Friday throughout the streets of Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, an area where many murders occur. So, rather than heading to a physical church building on Good Friday, I headed to the Englewood neighborhood, where I joined thousands of others who made up my Good Friday "church" that day. We prayed the Stations of the Cross, stopping at different points along the way.

Each station began with the traditional "We adore you , O Christ . . ." Then, at each station, a litany of names was read. These were the names of people murdered in the City of Chicago since January 1 of this year. So many were men between the ages of 18 and 32. We heard the names of children, some as young as two months, kids who were caught in the crossfire of gang violence.

At different times, we heard testimony from those whose lives are directly related to the violence that engulfs our city: a mother of a victim, a police officer, an EMT.

I was so moved when residents of the neighborhood came out on their porches or front stoops and waved at us as we walked by, thanking us for our support. We sang as we walked: blacks, whites, Hispanics, Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Rev. Jesse Jackson walked the whole walk.

I walked with a prominent member of Chicago's Catholic community and I asked him why representatives from the city's leadership were not in attendance. "Where is the mayor?" I asked. He told me that Cardinal Cupich told him that he had invited the mayor, whose response was something like, "I don't think this whole thing is a good idea; it's just going to draw attention to the issue." This made my resolve to continue to do whatever I can to support the Cardinal's initiative all the stronger. Then I asked this prominent Chicago Catholic, himself a priest, if he was leading or attending a Good Friday service later in the day in a church in the city. He simply said, "No, this is my service for today."

Jesus falls three times. Jesus takes up his cross. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem. Jesus is nailed to the cross. Jesus dies on the cross. All of these things are happening in this neighborhood, across the country, and across our fragile world every single day.

The Way of the Cross last Friday moved me deeply.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

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