On March 24, Awake Milwaukee hosted a Lenten prayer service that allowed Catholics to pray the Way of the Cross with and for survivors of sexual abuse in the Church. A recording of the virtual prayer service is available here.
The service is based on a Way of the Cross written by students at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Boston in 2002, around the time that articles about the sexual abuse crisis were first published in the Boston Globe. The text of the original 2002 Way of the Cross is available on the Voice of the Faithful website.
At the Awake event, traditional Stations of the Cross were integrated with reflections written specifically for this prayer service by survivors of sexual abuse. The survivors chose the stations that resonated most for them. In some cases, they read their own reflections during the service.
“The Stations of the Cross are a traditional Catholic devotion during the season of Lent, and we felt that praying both with and for survivors, while centering survivor reflections, would be a powerful way to pray as a community,” says Sara Knutson, a member of the Awake Leadership Team who led the prayer service with Elizabeth Brick, also on the leadership team.
“Many survivors experience comfort and reassurance knowing that they—and all of us—are infinitely loved by a God who knows and understands suffering, and relate elements of Jesus’ story to their own,” Knutson added. “As a result, the reflections are moving, and allow the wider church a glimpse of both Jesus’ suffering and that of survivors of abuse.”
We offer a sample of the Way of the Cross here, followed by a link to all 15 stations and a recording of our event to use in your personal prayer this Holy Week.
The Way of the Cross With Survivors: The Third Station—Jesus Falls The First Time
Psalm 69: 1-3, 19-20
Save me, O God, for the waters have risen to my neck. I have sunk into the mud of the deep and there is no foothold. I have entered the waters of the deep and the waves overwhelm me. I am wearied with all my crying, my throat is parched. My eyes are wasted away from looking for my God.
You know how they taunt and deride me; my oppressors are all before you. Taunts have broken my heart; I have reached the end of my strength. I looked in vain for compassion for consolers; not one could I find.
Reflection from Deborah
Where is God now? Where was He then? When all you once believed in—your family, your church, your faith—seems a lie, you wonder if there really is a caring God. When I found out that my abuser was a serial abuser, a priest that had been passed from parish to parish and no one stopped him, I had nothing to cling to. Who could I trust now? Even God seemed like a liar.
Let us pray: For all abuse victims suffering from taunts, disbelief, and being ignored, especially from church officials to whom they reported their story of abuse. We pray for the endurance and steadfastness that you provide, and for their ability to rise again each time they are brought down.
Jesus, hear us.
All: Jesus, be with us.
The text of the entire Way of the Cross prayer service, including all 15 stations, is available here.