Sunday, September 30, 2012

Shouldering Art

Devotion to the Shoulder Wound of Christ
It seems odd to isolate a part of the body of Christ and pay allegiance to it. More understandable would be Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but his shoulder? When we consider His five wounds, Jesus’ hands, feet, and sacred side are the most significant.
In my stumbling, I tend to look for the obscure points of topic. In my search for the secret places, I want that off the beaten path idea. I want the prized pearl.
Choosing a name for our first daughter is a prime example. I didn’t want her name counted among the popular top ten. I wanted my baby girl to define her name, not for the name to define her.
In music, I tire of the same top forty. Many songs that aren’t hits, have more evocative lyrics, more contemplative melodies.
In movies, it’s the sleepers that often wake me up.
I have thought that the reason names, songs, books, movies, etc. are popular is because they are loveable. If one finds truth and beauty in a masterpiece, many will.
Yet, it is in my suffering and in my longing to know him personally, that I seek that very numbered hair on my head. I pine for his view of me. Does he really see? Do I matter?
Not that it’s all about me. The suffering that matters originates from without, not within. It branches out on vines that are my children. My olive plants around the table that is my husband and me. I suffer in proxy for my sons and daughters.
I ponder Mary, our Blessed Mother. She and Joseph approached the temple with their baby, forty days old. In obedience the Holy family stepped up between pillars in presenting Baby God. I picture them as they aim towards Simeon, and also Anna, the prophetess. Mary knows there is no better place to dwell but in the very heart of God. Swaddled Jesus is but the seed that grows into that tree that birds will nest, flourish and fly. And with all things of beauty and truth, there will be grief and pain rooting that art. Simeon says to Mary, “A sword will pierce your heart.”
I have known well- meaning souls who think in black and white and subscribe to the name it and claim it theology. In sickness and disorder, they rely on gifts of healing for the answer to the world’s problems. In their finite realms, God has healed us of all our diseases, already. They mean, literally, right now. Not in heaven, but in the here and now. We just have to exercise our faith. Their implication is that there is something lacking in our belief system if things don’t turn out the way we want. A young man lives with autism. A son fights Lupus. A mother dies from cancer, leaving her husband, and two small children behind. It all seems cruel and unjust. What possible glory can God bring to his name? I wail and beat my fists on God’s chest.

Resigning peace, I know Jesus can handle my frustration, my anger.

I walk along a beach. Waves, some of them gentler and kinder than others, tumble endless onto the shore, washing my sore feet. Therein contains promise. “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world. I am with you always.”

A book of prayer, ancient and precious is the Pieta. I can’t remember how I acquired this little blue booklet with Michelangelo’s famed sculpture on the front cover. Mine is now brushed soft from flipping and thumbing.  

As I meditate upon this masterpiece, I feel the presence of God.  I think   Mary may as well be cradling each one of us as she is Jesus. Each one called. Each one in dying flesh.

I have favorite prayers. Arcane and Holy Spirit infused, I lean on them before Mass on Sunday. I recite them while running with the X-Country team. I sing them in my car on the way to piano lessons.

As a regular Rosary goer, I glean from the morbid Sorrowful Mysteries. I identify with Christ’s suffering, his passion.

The fourth decade of beads reflects upon Jesus carrying the cross up the Via Dolorosa (in Latin, “The way of grief”.)

It is during my walk on the beach that I further pray and dissect the brutal beams.

We are encouraged to carry our own crosses. It is a condition that Jesus places on our shoulders as disciples. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

This is where the path churns muddy and mire like. We run crying and screaming to Jesus when we’re in peril. He saves us. Then he asks us to be his feet and hands. Oh, four wounds. Then number five, a sword piercing the heart.

The cross chooses me. It’s heavy. It splinters, abrades. The hill climbs ahead of me. My cross isn’t Jesus’ cross though. It’s his mother’s. My enabling, my prayers, and witness of my son’s suffering is almost too much to bear. I think I’d suffer less if I were taking Paul’s place.
I keep going. What choice do I have? I see no good end to this load. I am called to obedience.

I’m not promised a romantic happy ending. I’m promised God’s will, not my own. I choose to love when it doesn’t feel good. I struggle with that hard truth, “Be thankful in all things.”

So here it is. This prayer doesn’t console. Sometimes when you’re hauling that tree up that hill, a prayer of empathy is what it takes to accept your unique reality. Your crosses, my crosses are sanctified through the original.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

It is related in the annals of Clairvaux that St. Bernard asked Our Lord which was His greatest unrecorded suffering, and He answered: "I had on My Shoulder while I bore My Cross on the Way of Sorrows, a grievous Wound which was more painful than the others, and which is not recorded by men. Honor this Wound with thy devotion, and I will grant thee whatsoever thou does ask through its virtue and merit. And in regard to all those who shall venerate this wound, I will remit to them all their venial sins, and will no longer remember their mortal sins"

Prayer to the Shoulder Wound of Christ:

Most loving Jesus, meek Lamb of God, I, a miserable sinner, salute and worship the most Sacred Wound of Thy Shoulder on which Thou didst bear Thy heavy Cross which so tore Thy flesh and laid bare Thy Bones as to inflict on Thee an anguish greater than any other wound of Thy Most Blessed Body. I adore Thee, O Jesus most sorrowful; I praise and glorify Thee, and give The thanks for this most sacred and painful Wound, beseeching Thee by that exceeding pain, and by the crushing burden of Thy heavy Cross to be merciful to me, a sinner, to forgive me all my mortal and venial sins, and to lead me on towards Heaven along the Way of Thy Cross.






  1. This is a very touching posting, Susan. You know God loves us very much and cares when we hurt. Jesus suffered and died on the cross for us. I truly believe that no matter what we go through, He is with us and will give us the grace to make it through. He will never leave or forsake us. He's a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
    I'm reading a wonderful book by Rev. Joel Osteen. Today I read that we may not understand some things in life. We wonder why we suffer, why we go through hardships, but one day we will understand everything.
    You know the poem, "Footprints in the Sand"? There was only one set of footprints. Why? It was while we were suffering that Jesus carried us in His loving arms. Everything will work out fine.

  2. I take comfort in your kind words, Brenda Kay. I agree. For now we see through a glass, darkly. The footprints poem goes with my walk on the beach, don't you think?
    I know no one gets through this life without suffering for good. It is really when we grow. Growing pains...

  3. God has worked some really beautiful maturity in you, Susan. Thanks for being transparent in your struggles. You boast his strength.