Years ago, when I returned to the Catholic Church after having been away for many years, one of the first things that impressed me… inspired awe in my soul, was the First Friday Eucharistic Devotion when it was combined with the agony of the Stations of the Cross during the season of Lent. Back then, I was attending a Church that was still in the process of collecting money to build a permanent structure, so the Masses were celebrated in a ‘parish-hall’ type building.
Having been away from the Catholic Church for over fifteen years, I wasn’t really sure of all the ‘propers’‘ of the Mass. Many things had changed…things had relaxed… and to me, most of those first Masses I attended after coming back, were rather ordinary. They were not like the ones I had remembered from my childhood. For one thing, we sat in chairs instead of pews, and since there were no kneelers, many of the parishioners had long refrained from the posture of kneeling, and even though the Masses were ‘properly’ done, and in fact valid, they didn’t really feel like the Traditional Catholic Church I remembered from my youth.
Soon after we started attending Mass, Ash Wednesday came and Lent followed. That first smudge of black on my forehead reminded me of where I came from. It was a stark reminder of why we had come back in the first place… I was a sinner in need of God’s guidance. It was a somber realization that, yes, there was something far bigger in control of my life than just fate. And it was during this first Lenten season that I realized that there were Masses celebrated outside of the usual Saturday vigil and Sunday Liturgies. (Yes, I was quite ignorant, and never had heard of First Friday.)
Anyway, to make a rather long story short, the priest used incense during both the Mass and the Eucharistic Adoration. Then bells were rung for the Benediction and by the time we got through the Stations of the Cross, I was in love. The combination of the prayers on my lips, mixed with the fragrant smoke wafting about my head, ringing with the ancient sounds of the bells, stirred the memories that were buried in my soul. There was an intense depth to the devotions and I could actually feel myself being drawn into the suffering and agony of Christ as we meditated on each station. For the first time in a long time, I realized how Christ had suffered for me. I felt a bit of His love pour over me… even though I had done nothing to deserve It.
As Lent moved on, we continued to pray the Way of the Cross every Friday … Allowing ourselves to be led each week to that painful spot on Calvary. It was heart wrenching, yet very profound. And I honestly believe that doing this devotion… uniting myself with Christ’s suffering, was actually the start of my reconnecting with a Faith that stretches all the way back to Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary.
If you are looking for a way to live this Lenten season and haven’t yet had a chance to make a First Friday Holy Hour, or to participate in the Stations of the Cross, why not start now? Many parishes offer a First Friday Mass and a Eucharistic Holy Hour devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as well as the Stations. Remember, the First Friday and First Saturday are special devotions which are celebrated every month, but during Lent they give us an opportunity to go deeper into our journey. They allow for us to leave the ordinary of the day behind, and to walk the path with Christ as He carried His Cross to Calvary. It is a very moving devotion, especially if you watch Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion… it adds an extra dose of intense. But even without that, if it is done with reverence and focus on Christ’s suffering … it can be a very moving experience, allowing us to unite ourselves more fully with Christ’s suffering. Through the great mystery of God and His goodness, when we travel the Way of the Cross with Jesus, He gives us the grace that we need to embrace our own crosses.
Since Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence and penance… adding these traditional devotions can help us set the mood for seeking God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance, thus allowing us to yet again turn away from our sins and the distractions of the world and make room in our hearts for what truly matters in the end. These devotions … these Ways of the Cross, can actually help us to find our path to heaven. Stay holy my friends, let’s make this a great Lent. God bless.