Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.”
For over 1,000 years, Catholics have a special devotion during Lent called the Stations of the Cross which focus on pivotal moments in the life of Jesus Christ as He went from judgment to the tomb. Praying through each station helps us reflect on the depth of God’s love for us in the sacrifice of Christ.
This season of Lent (March 2 – April 22) is especially significant in Ukraine, a nation that that is mostly Christian (a 2018 Razumkov Center survey found 72% of Ukrainians call themselves believers). With the Russian invasion in its 5th week, Lent is being observed as families are torn apart and children are dying.
Writing for the Jesuit Review, Jim McDermott has put together a special Stations of the Cross devotional using stories of Ukraine’s people amid their suffering. As you read these, pray for the Lord’s favor on the people of Ukraine and the end of this war. Also reflect on what Christ endured for all our sakes.
Station 1: Jesus is Condemned to Death. Kateryna, Lugansk: “Early in the morning, I awoke to the sound of a fighter jet. My husband said that it had begun. We heard a terrible explosion and the house shook. I ran to the nursery. What I saw will be for me the main illustration of this war. My 10-year-old son – in his underpants, still sleepy – was lying by the bed on the rug, curled up, covering his head with his hands. He was calm. He did just as I taught him. Two days before I was indignant that he still did not know how to tie his shoelaces.”
Station 2: Jesus Takes up His Cross. Natalia, Kyiv: “On the morning of Feb. 25, I did not plan to go anywhere. My parents and eldest daughter and their friends came to our house in Kyiv. By lunchtime, everything changed. My parents did not leave. I will never forgive the occupiers for my mother’s words: ‘We have already lived our lives. You save the children.’ We understood for eight years that the attack on us was a matter of time. We were taught the Jewish wisdom of the Holocaust: ‘Believe those who say I want to kill you.’ And still it is impossible to be ready for this. When it happens, the brain denies it.”
Station 3: Jesus Falls for the First Time. Anna, Kyiv: “On that day, around our house, was a bunch of Russian military equipment. For a long time they just stood there. Then they began to move. Along the way, they fired at residential buildings. The children and I hid in some corner under the stairs, away from the windows, crouched on the floor, trying to contain our panic.”
Station 4: Jesus Meets his Mother. Kateryna, Lugansk: “As the shelling began, a frail young woman with a tiny baby in a pouch was given two packets of milk and offered more. She said that she still had an older child at home and that would be handy, but others might not have enough. She took the third carton of milk only after she was convinced that there would be enough for everyone. At a time when Russian soldiers are deliberately shooting at children’s hospitals, kindergartens, cars with people, crushing civilians with tanks, a tiny mother of two children, under the roar of shots, is worried that someone else nearby will have enough food. It was the first time in all my days that I cried.”
Station 5: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross. Natalia, Kyiv: “I could not sleep. I was shivering as soon as I closed my eyes. I saw my parents saying goodbye to me and my grandchildren. Every sound seemed suspicious. In the morning I had to take a quick walk with the dog, but the sirens sounded. We just sat on the floor in the bathroom. My eldest son climbed into the cast-iron bath, lay in it, and sang. The youngest, sitting on the dog mat, asked curiously why we were sitting in the dark on the floor. The Russians are shelling the houses. A terrible horror. Two things flew into the yard with a whistle and explosions. My son Kirill raises his head and says, ‘This is just fireworks in my honor!’ Happy birthday, son!”
Station 6: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus. Natalia, Kyiv: “At the Polish border, you cannot sleep. You need to be ready to move the car every few minutes. If you miss your spot, others will pass you by. The situation is tense, but volunteers are coming and going, persuading you to take hot food, sweets and fruit for the children. The Poles are incredible people. They carry food, clothing, children’s things, household chemicals, medicines. Both municipal transport and railway tickets are now free for Ukrainians. The day after we arrived, we went to the station to help Polish volunteers meet our refugees. When you are at the train station feeding someone, calming them down, it is therapy. As Ukrainian poet Lina Kostenko once said: ‘Someone in the world is worse off than you.’”
The Evidence of Faith’s Substance _ Article #493