I wanted to really observe Good Friday today, so took it off with the hope of getting to one of those colorful “via crucis” walks that Hispanic Catholics observe as they walk the 14 stations of the cross through their neighborhoods. I wanted to show my 4-year-old some of the passion of the actual day of the crucifixion acted out. But first we spent the morning at the Tidal Basin, walking under a pink roof of cherry blossoms.
But the mobs of people there became oppressive, so we fled to church at mid-day, getting caught in traffic and so missing the event. The day was shaping up to be very much - in spirit at least - of what it must have been like that original Good Friday: lots of crowds in town for a festival, traffic, temps in the upper 70s, blaring radios, rude people and ambulance sirens. All the marks of a stressed-out, lost world.
About the time we were heading to church, the papal preacher, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, was likening the media’s treatment of the Catholic Church on the sex abuse scandals to what Jews endured during the Holocaust, a comparison that isn’t sitting well with some Jews. You can read about it here although they wrongly identified him as Franciscan. He is a Capuchin. Also, Cantalamessa is well-known among Catholic charismatics as being one of them and he’s spoken at their gatherings for years.
But this whole theme of persecution is not just his solo violin. My daughter and I ended up at the Franciscan monastery in the northeastern part of town, hoping to catch their 3 p.m. stations of the cross walk through those lovely gardens. And so- after avoiding an especially abusive parking attendant there - we did, luxuriating in hearing “The Old Rugged Cross” sung underneath the flowering trees. Will try to include a photo of the bystanders carting around a huge cross through the garden along with the brothers who were leading the devotion.
We walked inside the church next door for the first part of the service, sitting through a recitation of the lengthy Scripture read during Good Friday, only to hear one of the priests pray against the “unprecedented persecution by the news media” of the Catholic Church.
I so wish these clergy would not go this route, claiming persecution, linking their situation to the Holocaust and so on. If a few stories in the New York Times and other media constitute persecution, I hate to see what the reaction would be against the really serious stuff out there. Just ask Christians in Eygpt, Iraq and Pakistan what a typical day for them is like and whether they hope to even get through the year alive. Jesus’ passion is being lived out today on this earth, but not in New York, Rome or Washington. Try the plains of northern Nigeria, the prisons of China and the camps of North Korea. Father Cantalamessa didn’t compare the Vatican’s predicament to Christians in those places. He knows better not to.
- Julia Duin, religion editor