This Lent Carry Your Cross — Literally

The Crucifixion is the center of the universe, where love, death and suffering meet.

(photo: Photo by Matt D’Antuono)

A couple of years ago I came to a new understanding regarding the role of suffering in the spiritual life, its connection to the Cross, and the power of Christ’s love. I have already written about that experience here, so I won’t go into all of the details of that revelation. The basic message was this: the Cross is fullest revelation of the love of God in the world, and my own suffering can be embraced and united to the Cross to share in the merits of Jesus. The Crucifixion is the center of the universe, where love, death and suffering meet, and where love transforms death and suffering.

In the course of those days I imagined what it would be like to literally carry a crucifix with me all the time. I find myself to be very easily distracted, and I can go for hours without thinking about God or attempting to pray. It occurred to me that a crucifix in my hand would serve as a constant reminder not only to pray but also to meditate on the love of God and direct all of my affections to Him.

It occurred to me that Jesus does in fact tell us to take up our cross and follow Him. By carrying around a cross, I would be taking him at his word, something I know St. Francis did when he heeded the evangelical counsel to go and sell all that he had and give it to the poor. He followed that advice to the letter, and it changed the world. I know that I can’t carry the kind of cross that Jesus carried, but perhaps a small pendant crucifix, like those used on rosaries and necklaces, could work.

As is my wont, I imagined how inconvenient it would be to constantly have something in my hand. Practically, it would complicate so many daily tasks. The answer came to me: yes, the cross is inconvenient. It’s not about convenience.

I then wondered, in my immense pride and vanity, what people would think if they saw me holding in my hand a small cross. Most people would not understand, and even if I tried to explain to them the spiritual meaning of the cross, love and suffering, it might just be confusing for people. I realized, though, that my life does not consist of what other people think about me, and enduring misunderstanding would be yet another way to participate in the Passion, where Jesus was misunderstood.

So, I purchased for myself a 1.5 inch pendant cross, and I have been carrying it to this day. Has it transformed me into a saint? No. Have I committed sins while holding it? Yes. Has it been inconvenient? Yes. Have I lost it? Miraculously, no, but if I did I would just carry a new one. Have people asked about it? Yes.

To be completely honest, it spends most of its time tucked into my wedding ring, so I am not actively holding it. I don’t have it in my hands when I am sleeping. When I need to, I place it on the desk or counter where I am working or praying, and then it is at least in my line of sight. When exercising or doing manual labor, I keep it in my pocket.

I know that people look for something different to do for Lent each year, and many people have come up with many wonderful practices for Lent. Here is one practice that I have found beneficial, and I humbly submit it for your consideration.