erika_marie"Ready, Set…Bang!" My arms pumped with high energy, my feet pounded confidently across the field and my legs steadily pulled me forward. I started the race and felt so great and alive! This time would be different. I would run with endurance, control, and speed.

By the time I got to the halfway mark, however, my thoughts had turned sour.  My chest tightened as my lungs cried out in anguish with each erratic breath and I began to wonder if my feet were still attached to my burning legs.  The clear blue sky gave me no hope of a sudden tornado or lightning storm to whisk me away from my misery.  I pathetically kept trudging along, feeling like my shins would rip apart any minute.  I yearned to drop to the ground and crawl into a ditch somewhere until after the medals were passed out and everyone had packed up and gone home.

In much the same way, the Lenten journey starts off with a bang of grand resolutions and lively hopes. However, by this time many are ready to curl up in front of the tube with a bowl of triple-scooped chocolate ice cream and turn away from any type of soul-stretching activity. For those who suffer from seasonal mid-Lenten blues, a quick splash of water and a reflection on Jesus’ own trek to the Cross can offer a quick remedy. The Stations of the Cross presents us with a simple fourteen-step guide through Lent.

1. The first station: Jesus is condemned to death. Examine your conscience and recognize you are guilty of sin and in need of God’s grace and mercy.

2. Jesus carries his cross. Receive your cross and commit yourself to stay the course of purification.   If you haven’t even made it to the start line, Lent isn’t over yet!

3. Jesus falls the first time. Allow yourself to be humbled. "The beginning of pride is man’s stubbornness in withdrawing his heart from his Maker." (Sirach 10:12)

4. Jesus meets His Mother. Mary carried Jesus deep inside of her for nine months and then followed Him through His Passion.  Go to Mary to find Jesus.  Ask her to help you on your path of redemption.

5. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross. Partner up. Whether it is with your spouse, a close friend, or a spiritual director or confessor, find someone who can keep you accountable to your Lenten goals.

6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus. Review your goals and focus and then make any necessary adjustments. Are they pulling you deeper into God’s Love? What mark will this Lent leave on your soul?

7. Jesus falls the second time. Let yourself be thrown off your horse.  Are you giving your all or could you do more? "For pride is the reservoir of sin, a source which runs over with vice."  (Sirach 10:13)

8. Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem. Offer peace and seek fellowship.  How can you bring comfort to those around you who are in pain or affliction? Read about the lives of the women Saints and of the Women of the Bible.  Join a women’s bible study or prayer group to strengthen each other.  "For wherever two or three are gathered together, there I am in their midst." (Matthew 18:20)

9. Jesus falls the third time. Let God break you. Toss out feelings of self-righteousness. Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and keep moving.  You are almost there. "The roots of the proud God plucks up, to plant the humble in their place; He breaks down their stem to the level of the ground, then digs their roots from the earth." (Sirach 10:15,16)

10. Jesus is stripped of His garments. Strip yourself of unnecessary or harmful attachments or habits.

11. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross. Attach yourself to that which is Holy and pleasing to God.  Unite your heavy soul to the cross of Jesus.

12. Jesus dies on the cross. Give of yourself and your Lent completely into "His Hands".

13. Jesus' body is removed from the cross. Empty, go to confession and remove yourself from sin.

14. Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense. Let your body rest and be healed through your penance. Think about where you started and how far you’ve come.  Find strength and rest in Jesus through prayer and adoration.  Be peaceful and know that you have "Run the good race, and fought the good fight."

Copyright 2010 Erika Marie