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Good Friday Catholicism

Want to listen to this post instead? Check out our audio recording of this essay. Musical accompaniment by Frank LaRocca, “Miserere,” taken from the album “In This Place:

The sky was overcast, steel-gray clouds admitting only a few rays of light as I ascended the hill. It looked like rain, but none had yet broken loose. I walked slowly, uncertain of my destination, but somehow compelled to move forward.

It was then that I saw them: three crosses, aligned in silhouette at the crest of my path. As I approached, my focus narrowed to the center of the spectacle, the crucifix of Christ. His sacred body hung there, limp, apparently already dead. There was nobody else in sight. There wasn’t a breeze or the sound of a bird. Total stillness. Death hung heavy on that place.

As I drew close to the foot of the cross, looking up at my Lord, He pitched forward somehow, coming loose from the nails that bound Him there. As He fell, I rushed to catch Him, thinking only of preserving His precious body from touching the ground. I made it in time, and as I held Him cradled in my arms, He awoke, looking up into my eyes.

“You have to put me back.” He said.

And then I woke up.

I had this dream over twenty years ago. I was just a teenager then, but I still remember it in fairly vivid detail, and even now while committing it to writing, I find that my eyes have filled with tears. It was a profound and moving experience. And it was the only dream I’ve ever had of its kind. I’ve always suspected that it was more than just a normal dream. That it was a prompting. I’ve spent a good portion of my life trying to understand what it means, and the only thing I can tell you for certain is this:

Christ without the cross is meaningless. So is the cross without Christ. Only together do they signify the true meaning — and cost — of our salvation.

As we processed around the parish yesterday, palms in hand, I realized I should make an explanation to my eight-year-old son why we have Palm Sunday. I whispered to him about Christ entering Jerusalem while the people threw down palms like a red carpet, welcoming Him to the city as a king. And how, less than a week later, they all called for Him to be crucified.

“But why?” He asked, a look of puzzlement on his face.

“I don’t know. Why do we commit the same sins right after we leave confession?” I asked him. People are sinful. Fickle. Ungrateful. Undeserving. All of us are Palm Sunday Catholics. We praise and welcome our Divine King. We celebrate Him and tell others of His glory.

And then we betray Him. Again. And again. And again.

We like being Palm Sunday Catholics. We like being Easter Catholics. We have, in many of our churches, replaced Christ on the cross with something strange and unnerving: the “resurrectifix” – an idol — for it is a graven image of something other than the true God — of a risen Christ coming forth from the wood of the cross as though we can skip through His Passion and Death on Good Friday and fast forward to Easter Sunday.

But Easter without Good Friday is a non sequitur. A God who did not suffer torments and endure a cruel execution has not conquered sin and death and has no reason to emerge, victorious, from the tomb. So we, too, cannot expect the glorious resurrection of our own bodies and our entry into eternal beatitude if we do not first embrace the painful wood of the cross. To conquer death, we must first endure it. First, death to self and to sin. Then, death to the world and even many of its legitimate pleasures. Finally, physical death, with all of its pains, temptations, and griefs. This tri-fold immersion in death is easy to write about, but far more difficult to bear. For those who take on suffering willingly, however, there is available a consolation – a deep and profound joy.

I enter Holy Week looking back on my Lent with shame. I have failed to keep my commitments. I have failed to accomplish the spiritual growth I set out to achieve. I had grand ideas of what I would do and how it would benefit me and please God, and instead I have nothing to offer Him but a handful of broken promises, like so much ash slipping through my fingers. The stresses and difficulties of every day life broke me down. The ideals of virtue and fasting and spiritual reading and prayer gave way instead to vices and hunger and distraction and acedia. Even in the disciplines of Lent, I have failed my Lord. In the preparation of His resurrection, I have balked at the carrying of my cross. It was too hard. I had other things to do. Life was difficult enough – why should I have to take on more?

In my excuses and failings, I have demonstrated an even greater need for His death and resurrection. In my aborted attempts to be a good Christian, I have demonstrated my need for the true goodness of Christ. In my exercise of Palm Sunday Catholicism, I have displayed my need to be a Good Friday Catholic.

I believe that the dream I had when I was sixteen was a divine imperative of some kind. I’ve long believed that it was a calling, a mission, to help the world remember that Christ without the cross is meaningless. But it’s possible, I must now concede, that it was meant mostly for me. It’s conceivable that it wasn’t a command to go out and teach others to remember the crucified Christ.

Maybe it was something else. Maybe it was a warning for the sake of my own salvation: “You – YOU! – have to put me back. In your own heart. In your own life. In your own difficulties. Do not run from the cross.”

Christ knew what He had to do to fulfill His mission and accomplish our salvation. Do we? Do we believe in Good Friday Catholicism?

If Christ without the cross is meaningless, we have no choice but to say the same about a crossless Christianity.

Originally published on March 30, 2015. 

63 thoughts on “Good Friday Catholicism”

  1. Amen! There must come a time in every Christians life that we say to our Lord, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.” (Mark 14:29) It’s only a matter of time before we hear the rooster crow.

    Nothing humbles like humiliation.

    • As I went through Holy Week, particularly Good Friday, I couldn’t help but think about those Christians who resolutely accepted death rather than betray their faith. I prayed that during the time of persecution ahead that I may have half as much faith as them. This year kissing the cross (the bruised body of Christ) was especially meaningful particularly because of all the deception and smoke of Satan within the Church).

  2. I enter Holy Week looking back on my Lent with shame. I have failed to keep my commitments. I have failed to accomplish the spiritual growth I set out to achieve. I had grand ideas of what I would do and how it would benefit me and please God, and instead I have nothing to offer Him but a handful of broken promises, like so much ash slipping through my fingers. The stresses and difficulties of every day life broke me down. The ideals of virtue and fasting and spiritual reading and prayer gave way instead to vices and hunger and distraction and acedia. Even in the disciplines of Lent, I have failed my Lord. In the preparation of His resurrection, I have balked at the carrying of my cross. It was too hard. I had other things to do. Life was difficult enough – why should I have to take on more?

    You have described my Lent, as well. Beautifully, I will add. I allowed a particularly difficult work situation to dominate my Lent and it knocked me off course for almost its entirety. We are in the same boat, brother, and I’ve got the other oar. Keep rowing.

  3. We embrace and love the wood of the cross and adore the Perfect Corpus upon it. The reality of this instrument of our salvation makes us tremble in awe. That Pope Bergoglio routinely hides it in front of men, that Georgetown obscured it for the worldly and evil Obama, that the weird cult of Mormonism haughtily eschews it, and that Protestantism strips the wood of the corpus are ongoing reasons to make reparation.

  4. What’s up with the Stations of the Cross from Rome this year? Watching on EWTN, the Stations are not correlated to the Way of the Cross, it seems to be more along the lines of the pre-Way of the Cross. Very strange, and with a political sense, focusing repeatedly on how God wishes for all to be saved. I find it disorienting and a distraction from meditating on the Way in which Jesus carried His Cross for us.

    • With this pontificate its best not to watch anything from Rome it’s no longer good for one’s faith

        • Sadly I stopped watching and supporting them since some years ago, after Cardinal Dolan banned pro lifers from the St Patrick’s parade but allowed homosexual groups to march…all the while he was presenting a Lenten program on EWTN…

          • Hi Eugene – It turns out that Mother Angelica should have blown the whole place up before it was taken over by the current management.

          • I think they have gone mainstream especially now with the appointment of their president to the Vatican communication office along with that great defender of church moral teaching Jesuit Father Martin

          • Hi Eugene – It is very discouraging to see the way the Captain’s of EWTN programming are steering the ship built with such love and devotion to Christ by Mother Angelica. Heal them of their faithlessness, and forgive those who regret following the currents that lead away from your Sacred Heart, Lord Jesus.

          • I have started occasionally watching “The World Over Live” with Raymond Arroyo.

            From what I have seen, he, and his guests, seem to have not been caught up in the PF fan club.

            Is that reasonable ?

          • Hi James – Raymond Arroyo does occasionally address PF, with good guests, especially Father Gerald Murray. He makes it clear when Francis has veered into the theological ditch. Otherwise, the show has become pretty mundane, and annoying when Arroyo starts pushing his books. Worth recording and zipping through at a later time.

          • Hi. I agree with you about the books.

            One of the guests that I saw a few weeks ago, was Cardinal Zen who was very good about PFs “collaboration” with the Chinese Government.

          • Hi James – It is like panning for gold. When you find a valuable insight or two it keeps you coming back. This website is an awesome source of Catholic News. It is amazing how much good info there is these days, and how quickly it reaches us.

  5. I told my clients yesterday that they could not reach me today because I would be in church repenting, and of course one great thing to repent of is my failure to keep a good Great Lent. But at today’s reading of the 12 Passion Gospels in the Byzantine Catholic Church that I have attached my self to for this Lent, we heard again of the Good Thief, and I was reminded that this episode shows how much Christ loves us, and also that I had better be truly repentant and relying only on Him when I ask Him to remember me when He comes into His kingdom. A blessed Easter/Pascha to you all.

    • And here is Bishop Alexander (Mileant)’s meditation on the Good Thief, from a longer homily for Great Friday that can be found at “The robber did not ask for reward or glory, only prayed for mercy in that world, into which he was preparing to go. From that time the repentance of the robber became an example for all believers in Christ. His faith must have been great. The One suffering, worn out, dying, he recognized as a King returning to His Heavenly Kingdom. This was an espousal, which was not possible even for the nearest disciples of the Lord, who could not accept the idea of a suffering Messiah. Undoubtedly this was a special act of God’s grace enlightening the robber to make him an example for all sinners. This confession earned him a great reward, greater than the robber dared expect. Today shalt thou be with me in paradise — said the Lord to him. Thus, the wise robber became the first to be saved.”

      Oh, and what, no purgatory for the wise robber?

        • Father can you assist me with this one. Yesterday’s NO Good Friday liturgy (I’m in NZ and it’s Saturday afternoon here at the moment) featured no communion after the Veneration of The Cross. None for the congregation and the priest did not partake of it either.

          Many people looked perplexed – it’s never happened here before since 1956 when Pope Pius XII reinstated the early Church’s custom re communion for all on Good Friday. Is this some kind of option a priest can take? Seems odd when you consider the words in Our Lord’s Prayer: “Give us today our daily bread.”

          • I have never heard of such a thing. Was it the usual Good Friday missing the Communion Rite or was it just the Veneration of the Cross?

          • Thanks for replying Father. It was meant to be a full Good Friday liturgy, scheduled at 3.00p.m. as usual, with 450+ people in the church building – we’ve never seen it before either. Somebody told me this (Sunday morning at Easter Mass – it’s 10.40 am Sunday in NZ at the moment) that it was now ‘an option’ (announced by the diocese) to omit communion after the Veneration of the Cross – I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to the parish priest yet. I can’t see that this is right or correct – will be investigating.

          • I used the term ‘they’, not ‘him’. It was the parish liturgy committee which pressured the priest to omit communion from the service – specifically some very pushy women. A contingent of the parish will be approaching them – and the bishop – for answers.

    • In my Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish, we had Passion Matins with the 12 Gospels last night.

      I tried to keep the traditional fast this year and made it up to the 5th Sunday of the Great Fast. After that, I started to go downhill.

      Did I really keep the fast though?

      Come, O faithful, let us fulfil the works of God in the light;
      and let us walk with dignity as in the light of day;
      let us tear up every unjust contract,
      and let us cast aside every object of scandal for our neighbour.
      Let us turn away from the pleasures of the flesh,
      so that we may grow in our spiritual gifts.
      Let us give food to the poor;
      let us draw near to Christ, and in repentance, let us say:
      O our God, have mercy on us.

      First Friday of the Great Fast, Sticheron

      How many times did I scandalize my neighbors during the Great Fast? Did I really change?

      This is how I feel now:

      Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord;* O Lord, hear my voice!

      My slothful soul has fallen into sleep, O Christ, my Spouse,
      and I do not have a lamp shining with the fire of virtues
      I have become like the foolish virgins;
      for, instead of labouring, I have wasted my time.
      Do not close off Your love and Your heart to me, O Master;
      but dispel my dark slumber;
      awaken me that I may enter Your palace with the wise virgins.
      There the choir of the just shall resound as they sing to You:
      O Lord, glory to You.

      Great Tuesday, Sticheron

      Lord, have mercy!

        • Христос воскресe!

          Let the heavens rejoice!
          Let the earth be glad!
          Let all visible and invisible creation
          Have its own celebration,
          For Christ is risen – our everlasting joy!

          Christ is risen from the dead, conquering death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life!

          Resurrection Matins, Ode 1 Sticheron and Festal Troparion

          Z nami Boh! God is with us!

        • Happy Easter to you, Great Stalin. Miss you from The Remnant. God bless and keep you and your family.

          • Spasibo, Comrade Lynda. I can’t say I miss The Remnant: its leadership has become rather frantic and paranoid in recent times. Too ‘small mid-West town America’ for me.

  6. “I enter Holy Week looking back on my Lent with shame ……. etc” Steve, you have perfectly articulated my own situation. But what is most terrifying is that ……. I am probably thirty years older than you. Don’t you think that I should have leaned by now! Ah well! As I always say at this time; “It will be different next year!” If, God willing, for me there will be a “next year”. Thank you sincerely for this, Steve. It has given me much to reflect upon. May I not just “file it away” in the dark recesses of my memory and forget it.

  7. “The Church, then, must have her passion days even as Christ, and must be condemned in three languages, in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, in the cultures of Jerusalem, Rome, and Athens, in the name of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Now as then the representatives of these three cultures pass beneath the cross and ask that the Church give up and come down.”

  8. Only in this spiritual poverty can we experience The Father’s unconditional love. Sure, we do what we can…But our only support is the infinite Mercy of God and leaning on Christ Crucified. This is a sure foundation.

    We adore You O Christ and we bless You: because by your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.

  9. Don’t be so downhearted Steve. Recognition of our own failures is a kind of success. Hope you and your family have a blessed and happy Easter as we look forward to living the Easter message day by day.

  10. Here’s a random thought I got while praying the Rosary: After Jesus ascended into Heaven, did the Apostles sin? They had the privilege of seeing “the whole nine yards,” to put is prosaically, but my suspicion is they still sinned in some ways. THAT’S how weak human nature is. That is also why Jesus knew the demand by some that he please perform a miracle or two to make them believe would have no lasting effect; he knew exactly how weak we all really are.

    It’s a sobering thought that only Mary among all mere mortals – billions and billions of human beings –
    successfully resisted sin because of her special privilege. And here’s a somewhat disjointed anecdote to finish this reflection. Many years ago I talked to a convert from Anglicanism shortly after his entrance into the Church. His comment that sticks in my head today? “My hope is I at least make it into Purgatory before the door slams shut!”

    • “….make it into Purgatory before the door slams shut!”

      Well ‘Amen!’ to that! When thinking about those last moments, I like to recall Buonconte da Montefeltro from Dante’s Purgatorio (Canto V). Mortally wounded while leading the forces opposed to the pope at the battle of Campaldino in 1289, he is given a place among the Late Repentant, those who sinned right up to the moment before they died, only to repent and forgive, leaving the world at peace with God as a result of dying with Our Lady’s name on his lips.

      Or even more strikingly, there’s the story of the widow who visited the Curé d’Ars, almost in despair after her alcoholic husband had committed suicide and was singled out by the saint in a crowd of people surrounding him and told “He is saved!” When her face betrayed her astonishment, he repeated, “I tell you he is saved! When you were saying your prayers at the shrine in your room, he sometimes joined his heart to yours. Between the parapet of the bridge and the water, he repented. It was Our Lady who obtained this grace for him.”

      While on this topic, I’ll mention that St. Alphonsus composed two apposite prayers for the Feasts of Our Lady’s Birthday and Assumption respectively:

      ‘Your birth, O Blessed Virgin, was holy; may my death be holy’.


      ‘Most Holy Virgin who died out of pure love, may I at least die with contrition’.

      Even if the doors of Purgatory have been slammed shut, Our Lady may still usher us in via the back way!

      Regina cæli, ora pro nobis Deum, Alleluia!

  11. A Blessed Easter to all. Remember that Christ is truly risen, and that as long as we are faithful to Him, we have nothing to fear. Not even an errant Pope. Amen. Alleluia forever, Amen.

  12. Христóсъ воскрéсе! Воистину воскресе! Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

    Comrades, let us remember the words of the Revd. Father of the SSPX’s local party cell at the Easter Vigil last night.

    None of the Apostles saw the Resurrection, not least because of their lack of faith. As for us, we often act and speak (and write) as if the enemies of the Church, inside and out, are more powerful than the Almighty God Who made the heavens and the earth and us, and this shows a lack of faith too.

    Let this not be true of us here at 1P5. As we track and comment on the doings of the kulaks, Argentinian spies, wreckers and leftist deviationists in the Party, let us never succumb to doubt or lack of confidence that the Catholic Church will emerge victorious from the great assault being made upon it.

    Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen! Who can stand against Him?

  13. This is simply beautiful and profound.

    Pretty much what I always say to people who wants the feel good religion – Easter could only be had through Good Friday.

  14. Right on.

    One of the best things about being a convert from Catholicism is I am used to living without a Pope.


    But the point of it all is that if we are trusting in a man, we are lost indeed.

    Our faith is in our Blessed Lord.

    And He will use these times, this Church and even this Pope to bring glory to him.

    Praise God, happy Easter and…

    Christ is Risen!!

  15. Great Article! The Church teaches that when one has dreams of Christ, Our Lady, Angels and Saints who give us a message they come from heaven. This is one of those dreams. I’m going to print this out for my own spiritual good. Nothing more can be added to the truth of this Article.

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