As the rains threatened and the wind whirled, over 600+ people gathered at Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center on Friday, March 2, 2012 to witness and experience the Living Way of the Cross – a Passionate Walk with Jesus. As always, the Lord blessed us by holding off the rain until the next day. He wanted His people to understand how we live His walk to Calvary throughout our lives and in understanding our crosses, we better understand His mercy and love for each of us.
We, at Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center are truly blest to have witnesses for Christ, people who are undeterred in telling the story of their “cross”. We heard stories of triumph, stories of struggle and stories of hope.
The music for this event was provided by David Aguillard. He began the evening by singing, Thy Will Be Done which was very appropriate since all of the participants have come to the realization that the Lord’s Will is what they pray for in their lives.
Here are the testimonies of the 14 Stations:
1. Jesus is Condemned to Death – Jimmy Gary shared the story of his 8 year old daughter, Grace’s death at the hands of a drunk driver and how he felt, after being led by the Lord to do something about her death – to change the drunk driving laws in our state, he felt abandoned when trying to move this process along on his own. It was in waiting for the Lord, waiting for the Lord’s direction that Jimmy began to see progress in his efforts. Today, we all witness the outcome of that effort, when we see the guardrails along I-10 on the way to New Orleans.
2. Jesus Takes Up His Cross – Frank Caruso told those present about receiving his diagnosis of Mantle Cell Lymphoma, a form of cancer. As a police officer, who had never really stopped to think about or even fully participate in his faith life, he was suddenly faced with his untimely diagnosis and the realization of his mortality. During the course of his treatment, he visited Sister Dulce who taught him about trusting in the Lord. Frank now looks at his diagnosis as a gift, a gift that allowed him to take an inventory of his life and allowed him the privilege of a “do – over.” A chance to begin again, to live his life with Christ as its’ center.
3. Jesus Falls the First Time – Linda Risponse spoke of her late husband, Bill Lemoine, and his journey with cancer. Although Linda shared how Bill did not routinely attend mass with her and their children, she told us how he loved the Lord and spoke with his children often about the importance of loving the Lord and making Him a part of their life. She loved her husband dearly. Linda understood what falling under the weight of the cross meant to Our Lord. After Bill’s death, Linda accepted her life as a widow but had no idea that the Lord had other plans for her future. Our Lord sent Linda another life partner, one who shared her faith and her love for the Lord. One who not only accepted her family as his own, but shared his family as well. Both Linda and her husband Eddie lost their spouses to cancer and know the importance of not taking each other for granted and living every day to the fullest.
4. Jesus Meets His Mother – Jake Alford, after losing his mother Marsha at the young age of 42 to cancer, still struggles with his understanding of why his mother? Why his mother, when she lived her life leading others to the Lord. After reflecting on this station and what it meant when our Lord saw His mother as He continued His walk to Calvary, Jake was reminded that if he were able to look into his mother’s eyes, he would see her support and love for him just as Mary had for Jesus. Marsha would want him to remember what he was taught and to look at her life as a life of example. During her journey with her cross of cancer, Marsha began to see her purpose on this life and it was to bring others to Our Lord. Jake knows that by living his mother’s example, he will also become an example of Christ’s love to others.
5. Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry His Cross – Paul Dykes relayed his struggle of helping others carry their cross. In his past, he feels that he sometimes neglected to see others in need. When he was asked to help someone, he would help them without hesitancy; however, he did not always recognize people in need. He went through struggles in his life that has now opened his eyes and his heart to others. He lives each day looking for ways to be Christ-like to everyone he meets. He also wants others to see by his example, how important it is to help others carry their cross. He prayers that the Lord will continue to show him how to be an example to others and to always look for the needy and be their answer for help.
6. Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus – Rita Wallace spoke of Veronica’s fierce strength, her strength to walk along with Jesus and offer to wipe His face while others were screaming and mocking Him. Although many may have been tempted to help Jesus, they didn’t for fear of retribution from the crowd. Not Veronica, she stood steadfast in her conviction to help Jesus and to let Him know that she was there for Him. Rita asked the Lord to guide her in being Veronica to others. She prayed that she may always have the ability to stand up for the Lord and for His teachings. She also prayed that He would stamp His face upon her heart as a constant reminder of His love for us all.
7. Jesus Falls the Second Time – Kelli Beckman, courageously and honestly remembered her actions when she was diagnosed with cancer for a second time. Having fought breast cancer and won, Kelli felt that she had just experienced a “bump in the road” in life’s journey. Little did she know or expect, that she would hear those words again, “you have cancer.” This time, she was consumed with how to tell her small children that they would again be watching her struggle for her life. She wanted to take her husband, her family and run – run as far away as she could. After meeting with her doctors she began radiation. She was told that she would lose all of her hair permanently on the right side of her head. She was devastated because as she shared, even though one should not be thinking about their outward appearance, she couldn’t help but think of her husband and what he must endure as well. On the day she was given this news by her doctor, Kelli visited with Sister Dulce. Before their session really started Sister told Kelli, “he’s not going anywhere.” Kelli was surprised and ask what she meant by that and Sister told her “your husband, he’s not going anywhere.” It was at that point that Kelli was reassured that the Lord did hear her and He did listen to her plea and her prayers. Kelli now knew how she must carry her cross. She accepts the “gift” of her cross and shares her faith and her story every chance she gets.
8. Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem – Dene’ Mathies, a volunteer with a support suicide group spoke of the correlation of her ministry and the ministry of the Women of Jerusalem. As a Prayer Partner at the Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center, Dene listens and offers comfort to many who visit; however, she also volunteers giving support to families of suicide victims. In this latter role, she compares the Women of Jerusalem and how they bounded together to offer Our Lord comfort on His road to Calvary. They showed their love and belief in Him, as the Savior while others did not. Not only did the others not believe, they ridiculed and offered nothing but cursing and disdain for Our Lord. Dene shared that when she visits with the families of the suicide victims, she too tries to bring comfort in a time of hardship. She shares the love of our Lord and gently reminds the family of the salvation and love of Our Lord.
9. Jesus Falls the Third Time – Linda Blanchard, a gastric bypass patient, told everyone about her journey after deciding on gastric bypass surgery. She relayed how three times she fell, three times she fought for her life and three times she experienced life saving surgeries. As she fell, she admitted that it was easy to lose faith, but, as soon as she felt herself giving into the temptation of giving up, she was reminded of how much God loved her. A visit with Sister Dulce confirmed how important she was to the Lord. Sister told her that Papa was not ready for her; she still had things to do in this life. Today, after having the gastric bypass reversed, she is doing well. She is healing both physically and spiritually. She tries to remember to thank the Lord every day for her life and she asks that she recognize what the Lord wants from her now.
10. Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments - Jordan Frantz suffered from addiction at a very young age, an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Even though Jordan knew his addictions were wrong and that they were taking him further and further from the love of the Lord that he knew as a child, he didn’t stop. He was confused with the fact that he could still feel like he loved the Lord but continued giving in to his addictions. After several attempts at AA and through counseling, Jason finally began to beat his addictions. He has learned that he has to “strip” himself of those things that keep him from the Lord before he can begin to fully accept the gifts the Lord has for him – namely His mercy and love. Jason says that he still tempted at times, but, with Christ at the center of his being, he has many, many more successes than failures.
11. Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross – the people in attendance heard the nails being driven into the cross which beared Our Lord.
12. Jesus Dies on the Cross – a reflective song, was sung a cappella by David Aguillard.
13. Jesus Is Taken Down from the Cross – Melanie Wall, a mother whose daughter, Missy died last year, shared her sorrow and relief in understanding that by her death, Missy was no longer suffering the cross of her depression. As Melanie reflected on Our Mother Mary holding her son in her arms as He was taken down from the cross, she understood how Mary could feel both sadness and relief. The sadness of losing her Son, especially the death He endured, was soon replaced with relief - relief that His suffering was over. Melanie shared those feelings with Mary. Missy, after many doctor’s visits could not find the solace and relief she desired so she remained locked in her world. How often, as her mother, did she want to take her down from her cross but it wasn’t up to Melanie. On April 1, 2011, the Lord took Missy home. Her sadness of Missy not being with her was also replaced after time with relief. Relief that she no longer suffered. The Lord had seen fit to take her home to His comforting and longing arms.
14. Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb – Jeannine Lemoine who lost both of her parents, reflected on the teaching that the tomb is not our final resting place. We have the rewards of heaven to look forward to and Jeannine learned this first and foremost through her parents. Not only did they teach her this lesson, they lived it. Owning a grocery store in a small, rural community, Jeannine’s parents saw everyone as equal – from the poorest of the poor to the wealthiest. Everyone was treated with dignity and respect. Her mother died when Jeannine was in her 20’s but her father remained with her until last year, dying in his 80’s. Everyone in the community could attest for her father’s generosity and giving heart and it was in his living, that he taught Jeannine the most about our life after death. Jeannine shared that she knew without a doubt that the “tomb” was not the end – it was truly the beginning. And, that after living our life on this earth, we should welcome the invitation of our Lord, “Welcome, my good and faithful servant.”