Why ‘Death on a Friday Afternoon’ Is a Must-Read

It made me realize that as a Christian suffering is a way to peace on the other side of the cross.

 ‘Death on a Friday Afternoon’
‘Death on a Friday Afternoon’ (photo: Basic Books cover)

A few years ago I made the terrible mistake of traveling without a book. I was going to Ottawa to visit my daughter. But before I went to her home, I hit the nearest bookstore.

At the time I was leaning Catholic — almost there but not quite there yet — so I went to the religion section hoping to find added inspiration.

Most of the books were of the New Age persuasion, written by self-appointed gurus and others. Then one title caught my eye: Death on a Friday Afternoon by the late Father Richard Neuhaus. The cover drew me in too: a stark image of Christ crucified by 17th-century painter Francisco Goya. 

Father Neuhaus asks his readers to dwell on the “Seven Last Words From the Cross.” He notes this is perfect reading for Lent … and it truly is, though he explains that it can be read any time of the year because meditating on Christ on the cross is too important to be left only to Holy Week, to only one week of the year.

“Every day of the years is a good day to think more deeply about Good Friday, for Good Friday is the drama of the love by which our every day is sustained.”

Father Neuhaus, the founder of First Things magazine and a Catholic convert, died in 2009. He left behind a spiritual classic, a book so beautifully written that line after line fills the heart with love of the Lord and deep sorrow all at once: love for what Jesus did for us and sorrow for what he suffered.

As a person who has battled pain and illness for years, this book comforted me in a way no other book has. It made me realize that as a Christian suffering is a way to peace on the other side of the cross. 

“The Christian way is not one of avoidance but of participation in the suffering of Christ, which encompasses not only our own suffering, but the suffering of the whole world.”

It comforted me, indeed, but thrilled me deep into my soul.