Dozing off to sleep on August 18, 2011
The date was August 18, 2011, and I was tucked away on the fourth floor in a little room in Christ Church, Oxford, England. After successfully defending my dissertation, I sat down to write my forward to the work. Upon doing so, I was made to consider the relevance of August 18, if any, to my dissertation topic on poverty and the new evangelization in the writings of Saint John Paul II. What I discovered about August 18th was the most fascinating connection to my topic.
On August 18th we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Helena. While some of us know her as the mother of Emperor Constantine who lifted the persecution of the Christians with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, she is more widely known as the courageous woman who traveled to Jerusalem to find the relics of the crucifixion, most notably the Cross…and this she did. Saint Helena will always be tied to the Cross, the icon of Christ’s poverty here on earth.
Keeping that in mind, it was on a hot summer day in Mogila, Poland when Saint John Paul II, while reflecting upon the meaning of the cross in Polish history, stated: “Where the cross is raised, there is the sign that evangelization has begun... A new evangelization has begun as if it were a new proclamation, even if in reality it is the same as ever. The Cross stands high over the revolving world.” Essentially, For Saint John Paul II the cross and the new evangelization go hand in hand.
As this link between Saint Helena and my dissertation topic was washing over me, I could not stop thinking about the relevance of the Cross in the life of the Church.
Over the centuries, and through the years, humanity bears testimony to that one beguiling truth: the power of the Cross. The life of each saint is one testimony after another to the power of the cross. Two thousand years later we must rediscover the power of the Cross in our own lives. We must rekindle…
1-The power of cognitively recognizing that Jesus’ excruciation will always be far worse than anything we have to endure…HE will always understand our misery.
2-The power of suffering (physical, emotional, relational) when conformed to the cross!
3-The power of forgiveness when united to our Lord’s words on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).
4-The power of unselfish love when contemplating the Via Dolorosa (“Way of Grief”).
During Holy Week we are encouraged to keep our eyes fixed on the Cross and the Corpus of Christ that is nailed to the cross, that, in the words of Saint John Paul II in Mogila Poland, “each human being may be aware of the strength that Christ has given him.” Strength to suffer, forgive, and live unselfishly.
As I think back to that night in Oxford, England, I remember so vividly my last few thoughts as I dozed off to sleep: the saving power of “the Cross stands high over the revolving world.”