A Social Justice Stations of the Cross

As we approach Holy Week, I’ve put together a Stations of the Cross. Each Station is paired with a contemporary social justice issue, along with quotations, newspaper articles, and reflections on these urgent and heartbreaking matters. We used this during our evening liturgy here at Holy Name College.

STATION I: Jesus Is Condemned To Death
For our brothers and sisters who are unjustly imprisoned and on death row:

“‘In 1975, I – along with my two childhood friends and co-defendants Wiley Bridgeman and Kwame Ajamu – was wrongfully convicted and sent to death row for the murder of a white businessman that occurred in our predominantly poor and black neighborhood in Cleveland. We spent more than two years on death row before having our sentences reduced to life in prison. I came within two months of my execution date but was saved by a lucky technicality – the court made a mistake filling out the death penalty sentencing paperwork. Bridgeman and Ajamu later escaped death only because the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Ohio’s death penalty statute as unconstitutional. They both came even closer to death – one of them came within a week of his execution date. If not for pure luck and chance, none of us would have been alive to see our exoneration nearly 40 years later.'” (Ricky Jackson, exonerated after 40 years in jail)

O my Jesus, Pontius Pilate sentenced You to death without any proof of Your guilt. So too, many of our brothers and sisters languish in a broken legal system, where they are treated as society’s refuse, discarded and kept in inhumane conditions.

Give us the grace, O Jesus, to treat our brothers and sisters in prison with the respect and dignity fundamental to all human life, so that we do not become like those who condemned You to death long ago.

For this we pray: God among us, hear our prayer.

STATION II: Jesus Carries His Cross
For our refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters:

“Migration movements are now a structural reality, and our primary issue must be to deal with the present emergency phase by providing programmes which address the causes of migration and the changes it entails, including its effect on the makeup of societies and peoples. The tragic stories of millions of men and women daily confront the international community as a result of the outbreak of unacceptable humanitarian crises in different parts of the world. Indifference and silence lead to complicity whenever we stand by as people are dying of suffocation, starvation, violence and shipwreck. Whether large or small in scale, these are always tragedies, even when a single human life is lost. Migrants are our brothers and sisters in search of a better life, far away from poverty, hunger, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources which are meant to be equitably shared by all. Don’t we all want a better, more decent and prosperous life to share with our loved ones?” (Pope Francis, Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us)

O my Jesus, You carry Your cross out of love for humanity. You bear it willingly, openly, lovingly so that we may know Your love and salvation. Today, our brothers and sisters must also carry their cross. They travel thousands of miles seeking a better life, free from persecution, oppression, and violence.

Give us the grace, O Jesus, of openness and hospitality to welcome our refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters, who like You and Your Holy Family, have travelled far seeking shelter and rest in a foreign land.

For this we pray: God among us, hear our prayer.

STATION III: Jesus Falls For The First Time
For our little brothers and sisters who hunger:

“‘I wasn’t able to focus on my schoolwork and that kind of affected my report card grades. And it was very frustrating, because it’s all I could think of, food, when I went to school, because I wasn’t able to eat breakfast at home… I told one of my teachers, teacher Kathy. She did something about it. When I told her, I didn’t ask her to do it, but she did it out of kindness. What she did is, every morning, she would bring in like snacks and chips for the whole class, not just me. It was important to me, because it felt like that she didn’t just care about me, she cared about the whole entire class, because she didn’t know how many students in the class were going to school hungry.'” (Jahzaire Sutton, 12 years old)

O my Jesus, Your weakened body fell under the weight of the cross as You made Your way to Calvary. Far too often today, our little brothers and sisters, true children of God, go hungry because their parents do not have the resources to put enough food on the table. Help us to work to build social structures that lovingly provide families with the necessary resources for the nourishment of Your little ones.

Give us the grace, O Jesus, of solicitude for the health and wellbeing of those who are most vulnerable in our society.

For this we pray: God among us, hear our prayer.

STATION IV: Jesus Meets His Mother
For our sisters and mothers who do not get the support and care to adequately provide for their children:

“On July 1, Debra Harrell had a choice: She could either bring her 9-year-old daughter to work at McDonald’s with her, or she could bring her to a nearby park. The single mom decided to drop her daughter off at a busy park with a cell phone in case anything went wrong. A few hours later, Harrell was in handcuffs for unlawful conduct towards a child after parents at the park alerted police. Harrell is still in jail, and her daughter is about to enter South Carolina’s foster care system… ‘The fact that the mother is a black woman with probably a low-income job at McDonald’s probably made her and her child less sympathetic and less familiar, less understandable to the middle class and more white community around them. Which presented them as being criminals as opposed to a working family trying to make its way through a tough situation.'” (Chris Branch on Debra Harrell)

O my Jesus, You met Your mother as You carried Your cross to Calvary. With a heavy heart, Mary walked with You and stayed with You, carrying with her all of Your suffering and pain. Today, so many mothers carry heavy burdens in their hearts as they have to choose between vital necessities for their children. We yearn for a world filled with love and compassion, where all mothers and their families can get the basic human rights of healthcare and social support.

Give us the grace, O Jesus, of generosity so that we can provide all mothers with the support they need to foster healthy, happy children.

For this we pray: God among us, hear our prayer.

STATION V: Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross
For our brothers and sisters who are victims of human trafficking and slave labor:

“It was his chance to start over. But when he arrived, Mr. Long was kept for days by armed men in a room near the port at Samut Prakan, more than a dozen miles southeast of Bangkok. He was then herded with six other migrants up a gangway onto a shoddy wooden ship. It was the start of three brutal years in captivity at sea. ‘I cried,’ said Mr. Long, 30, recounting how he was resold twice between fishing boats. After repeated escape attempts, one captain shackled him by the neck whenever other boats neared. Mr. Long’s crews trawled primarily for forage fish, which are small and cheaply priced. Much of this catch comes from the waters off Thailand, where Mr. Long was held, and is sold to the United States, typically for canned cat and dog food or feed for poultry, pigs and farm-raised fish that Americans consume.” (Ian Urbina, 7/27/2015)

O my Jesus, the soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to carry Your cross when You no longer had the physical strength to bear it. Today, many of our brothers and sisters are also trapped under the heavy burden of forced labor, caught in the nets of slavery and human trafficking. As we are all members of the one body of Christ, we pray for an end to modern day slavery, so that all who are oppressed under its burden may experience the promised liberation of Your Love.

Give us the grace, O Jesus, to be concerned for our brothers and sisters who are trapped in human trafficking and slave labor.

For this we pray: God among us, hear our prayer.

STATION VI: Veronica Wipes The Face Of Jesus
For our sisters and brothers who give their lives to care for the poor:

“One of the martyred sisters, Sister Anselm, was from India; the other three were from Africa: Sisters Margherite and Reginette from Rwanda and Sister Judith from Kenya. ‘Their names do not appear on the front page of the newspapers, but they gave their blood for the church,’ Pope Francis stated. ‘I pray for them and for the other persons killed in the attack, and for their family members,’ he added. He prayed that Mother Teresa ‘may accompany into paradise these here daughters, martyrs of charity, and intercede for peace and the sacred respect of human life.'” (Gerard O’Connell, 3/6/2016)

O my Jesus, St. Veronica bravely made her way past the crowd to rush to Your aid. By wiping Your face and comforting You in your distress, she risked her safety and her life. Today, many of our sisters and brothers, risk their lives to help the poor and the oppressed, in whom they see Your Holy Face.

Give us the grace, O Jesus, to imitate these holy men and women, so that we may be as brave and as resolute as St. Veronica in wiping Your face and in comforting Your suffering among the poor.

For this we pray: God among us, hear our prayer.

 STATION VII: Jesus Falls The Second Time
For our brothers and sisters who suffer from epidemics and disease:

“Poverty, inadequate water supplies and weak public health systems are major factors in the spread of other mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue, which tend to cluster in low-income communities. Epidemiologists believe the same is likely to be true of Zika, which has so far been concentrated in the northeast, traditionally one of the poorest regions in Brazil. ‘Because Zika is carried by the same mosquitoes [as dengue] and influenced by the same sanitary conditions that are more common in poor neighborhoods, I would predict that the same relationship between poverty and disease will be found to exist,’ said Wilson Savino, director of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute, Brazil’s leading center of health studies. Many other factors are involved, including climate change and increased global mobility… But senior government officials say anecdotal evidence so far suggests the virus is hitting the economically weak members of society hardest.” (Jonathan Watts, 2/6/2016)

O my Jesus, when You fell for the second time, it was because of the burden of the cross on Your shoulders, made heavier by the weight of our sins. In our world today, our brothers and sisters often bear the heavy burden of caring for loved ones suffering or dying from disease. Zika, AIDS, and other epidemics ravage entire communities and leave behind a wake of sorrow, grief, and despair that disproportionately affect the poorest of the poor.

Give us the grace, O Jesus, to ensure that all of our brothers and sisters have access to proper sanitation, medicine, and healthcare, so that they may not feel anymore the burden of disease and affliction.

For this we pray: God among us, hear our prayer.

STATION VIII: Jesus Meets The Women Of Jerusalem
For our sisters who are victims of inequality and discrimination:

“This anti-female attitude — they don’t want to call it that, they’ll never call it that. ‘We respect you, we love you. Look at how we put you on a pedestal,’ meaning as long as you’re on a pedestal, you yourself can’t move any place. This is very, very ingrained in churches in general and in the Catholic Church certainly. Now this pope has said ‘feminism is about allowing every member of the human race to become a fully functioning human adult.’ He has made those statements and he has talked about the fact that until we really look at the feminist issue, he says we have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. You have to remember too that as much as we don’t want to admit it, churches also taught racism, anti-Semitism and slavery just as well as they teach sexism yet today. If this pope with what I see as a powerful, and graced openness to the questions in our society, really pursues this questions then we will all have a new consciousness of what it means to be human, to be female as well as male, and to be a Church that’s really a Church.” (Sr. Joan Chittister)

O my Jesus, on Your way to Calvary, You stopped on the streets of Jerusalem to talk to women who weep for You. They know Your pain and Your sorrow, and yet You take time to comfort them. Today, You still speak to our sisters who suffer discrimination, inequality, and oppression. All over the world, women bear these burdens because of their gender: they are kept hidden, they are abused, and they are excluded in our societies, places of work, and churches.

Give us the grace, O Jesus, to bring about Your kingdom, where all of us will be united in equality and love, as true brothers and sisters.

For this we pray: God among us, hear our prayer.

STATION IX: Jesus Falls The Third Time
For our brothers and sisters who are affected by climate change:

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. For example, changes in climate, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, 25)

O my Jesus, exhausted and in pain, You fell for a third time on Your way to Calvary. Already disadvantaged, it is the poorest of the poor who are most susceptible to the weight and impact of the climate change that results from our misuse and abuse of Mother Earth.

Give us the grace, O Jesus, to be concerned for the natural resources You have given us, so that we may be better stewards of Your Creation and protect it for future generations.

For this we pray: God among us, hear our prayer.

STATION X: Jesus Is Stripped Of His Garments
For our brothers and sisters who are victims of sexual violence:

“A female student called police in October and said she was attacked in her dorm room. She says she now regrets that decision. ‘They made me believe – they even said we’re going to be your heroes through all this,’ she said. ‘I think they were his hero more than mine. What really made me upset was I felt like (the university) is not taking my case seriously. I feel like no one knows… I have post traumatic stress disorder and I’m always thinking about this,’ the student said. ‘It’s day to day, it’s every day, it’s all I think about… I just wish they would recognize this stuff happens, you know? That this did happen. You can’t hide it, but I feel like they are.'” (Nick Ochsner and a Rape Victim at Old Dominion University)

O my Jesus, the Roman soldiers stripped You of Your clothes. They jeered at You and cast lots for Your garments, as You stood there naked, powerless, and alone. Today, many of our brothers and sisters are similarly stripped of their dignity in instances of rape, child sexual abuse, and other forms of sexual violence.

Give us the grace, O Jesus, for the courage to speak up for those whose humanity has been violated and objectified by these vicious attacks. Give us compassion to treat them with loving sensitivity and profound respect for the sanctity of their dignity.

For this we pray: God among us, hear our prayer.

STATION XI: Jesus Is Nailed To The Cross
For our brothers and sisters who are tortured:

“By using torture we also handed our enemies a gift. We alienated millions of Muslims whose support is critical to success in the war on terror. From Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib to the present, we enabled the Taliban, Al Qaeda and now Islamic State to use the theme of American cruelty against Muslims as a recruiting tool – and that message remains potent because it was true.

The fevered talk of torture in the Republican primary reveals how thoroughly the allure of torture has infected our nation, how shallow our understanding of the cost and consequences of torture remains, how lacking our leadership is on this critical issue, and how close we are again to picking up the weapon whose use would destroy what we seek to protect.” (Alberto Mora, 3/13/2016)

O my Jesus, You suffered humiliating torture and excruciating pain at the hands of Your persecutors. By nailing Your hands and feet to the cross, they degrade You and treat Your body as no more than a scrap of meat. Today, too many of our brothers and sisters are tortured at the hands of their captors. They are treated as less than human, and their bodies burned, beaten, and battered for the sake of information and humiliation.

Give us the grace, O Jesus, to treat all who are imprisoned with care and respect, so that we may grow in compassion and love for our brothers and sisters.

For this we pray: God among us, hear our prayer.

STATION XII: Jesus Dies On The Cross
For our brothers and sisters who are victims of capital punishment:

“I was trying not to look at my watch but I knew it was just a question of time. Then when I did look at my watch actually it was five to 12 and I knew by then they had him all strapped and ready to go. I knew what was happening on the inside you know from having been through it. So eerie. Because you’re outside and you know what’s going on inside and that a man’s being killed in the middle of the night. I never get used to it. It’s like I was saying oh God not again. Not again, we’re doing it again. And this family is grieving and can’t be consoled. And some of the older ones like Antonio’s mother was very strong and she’s trying to like help the younger ones. And then to drive down that road when it’s all over, a man’s dead then. The guard comes out, the guard says at 12:27 Antonio James died. I’ve been through it so many times. I couldn’t believe it was happening again.” (Sr. Helen Prejean on the execution of Antonio James)

O my Jesus, You died for us on the cross, an innocent victim of the death penalty. How often do we overlook the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters whom we’ve condemned to death in state-sanctioned executions. By choosing the fate of our brothers and sisters on death row, You remind us that life is a gift from God and that all life is sacred.

Give us the grace, O Jesus, to always choose mercy, compassion, and life.

For this we pray: God among us, hear our prayer.

STATION XIII: Jesus Is Taken Down From The Cross
For our brothers and sisters who are victims of religious persecution:

“Religious persecution is on the rise in Africa and the Middle East, forcing millions of Christians to flee their homes for overcrowded refugee camps and the risks of smuggling routes to Europe, according to a report. The targeting of Christians has worsened over the past year, says Open Doors, a charity that monitors religiously motivated violence and discrimination… “The headlines focus on the Middle East, but there were more recorded killings of Christians due to their faith in northern Nigeria in 2015 than in the rest of the world put together; 4,028 out of a worldwide total of 7,100 reported deaths,” the report said… Deep-rooted religious hatred, a hatred of difference, is driving on a systematic campaign of deportation and exodus, degrading treatment, including sexual violence, enslavement, and barbaric executions.” (Harriet Sherwood, 1/12/2016)  

O my Jesus, after You died on the cross, Your loved ones took down your body and prepared it for burial in a donated tomb. Today, so many of our brothers and sisters are harassed, deported, and even killed for their love of You. They leave their homes, their possessions, and everything they know to arrive in a place where they can worship You as You call them to.

Give us the grace, O Jesus, to work for peace and an end to religious persecution, so that we may transcend ignorance, hatred, and fear of our religious differences, and so that we may see the Divine dignity inherent in all of our brothers and sisters.

For this we pray: God among us, hear our prayer.

STATION XIV: Jesus Is Placed In The Tomb
For brothers and sisters, who suffer racial violence:

“The Emanuel A.M.E. Church has survived antebellum laws barring black worship, an angry white mob that burned down its original edifice, and the execution of its founder and dozens of others planning a slave revolt. So when a white gunman fatally shot nine of its members, including the head pastor, during Bible study last week, there was only one way, church leaders said, to respond: by pressing forward… ‘I want you to know, because the doors of Mother Emanuel’ are open, the Rev. Norvel Goff Sr., a presiding elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, said in a rousing sermon there on Sunday, ‘it sends a message to every demon in hell and on earth.’ Later, with his voice roaring, Mr. Goff added, ‘Some wanted to divide the race – black and white and brown – but no weapon formed against us shall prosper… Holy City… Let us be the example of love that conquers evil.'” (John Eligon and Richard Fausset, 6/22/2015)

O my Jesus, You were hastily placed in a tomb hewn from rough rock. After the stone was rolled over its entrance, your mother and Your loved ones depart, grieving the loss of their beloved Son, friend, and brother. Today we grieve the loss of so many of our brothers and sisters whose lives are cut short, targeted by violence because of the color of their skin. They leave behind families and communities in despair and grief, heartbroken by the lives taken too soon, too quickly, too often.

Give us the grace, O Jesus, to help heal this pain, so that we can build bridges of reconciliation and put and end to the racism and discrimination that prevents us from seeing Your Holy Face in each other.

For this we pray: God among us, hear our prayer.

We Adore You,
Most holy Lord Jesus Christ,
Here and in all Your churches throughout all the world;
And we bless You,
Because by Your holy cross,
You have redeemed the world.

3 thoughts on “A Social Justice Stations of the Cross

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