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Fifth Station of the Cross
Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross

with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
Good Friday 2005, at the Colosseum in Rome

From the Gospel according to Matthew (27:32; 16:24)
As they went out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry his cross. Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Simon of Cyrene is on his way home, returning from work, when he comes upon the sad procession of those condemned – for him, perhaps, it was a common sight. The soldiers force this rugged man from the country to carry the Cross on his own shoulders. How annoying he must have thought it to be suddenly caught up in the fate of those condemned men! He does what he must do, but reluctantly. Significantly, the Evangelist Mark does not only name him, but also his children, who were evidently known as Christians and as members of that community. From this chance encounter, faith was born. The Cyrenian, walking beside Jesus and sharing the burden of the Cross, came to see that it was a grace to be able to accompany him to his crucifixion and to help him. The mystery of Jesus, silent and suffering, touched his heart. Jesus, whose divine love alone can redeem all humanity, wants us to share his Cross so that we can complete what is still lacking in his suffering. Whenever we show kindness to the suffering, the persecuted and defenceless, and share in their sufferings, we help to carry that same Cross of Jesus. In this way we obtain salvation, and help contribute to the salvation of the world.

Lord, you opened the eyes and heart of Simon of Cyrene, and you gave him, by his share in your Cross, the grace of faith. Help us to aid our neighbours in need, even when this interferes with our own plans and desires. Help us to realize that it is a grace to be able to share the cross of others and, in this way, know that we are walking with you along the way. Help us to appreciate with joy that, when we share in your suffering and the sufferings of this world, we become servants of salvation and are able to help build up your Body, the Church.

Our Father ... Is there one who would not weep, whelmed in miseries so deep, Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

5ª estación - El Cireneo ayuda a Jesús a llevar la cruz       
Meditaciones y Oraciones del Cardenal Joseph Ratzinger (Papa Benedicto XVI)

5ème station - Jésus est aidé par le Cyrénéen à porter sa croix       
Méditations et prières du Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pape Benoît XVI) au Colisée

Music: from 'Triduum - Contemporary Sacred Music' by David Bevan & Neil Wright.
To download the free mp3 audio recordings individually, right/double click on the blue play buttons.
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with Julian of Norwich      

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. (Luke 23: 26)

And all his disciples and all his true lovers then suffered anguish more than in their own bodily dying. For I am sure by my own feelings that the least of them loved him so far above himself, that it passes beyond the power of my telling. Here I saw a great oneness between Christ and us, to my understanding, for when he is in pain we are in pain. (Julian of Norwich - VIII Revelation, Ch 18)

I love you Jesus, my love, above all things; I repent with my whole heart for having offended you.
Never permit me to separate myself from you again.
Grant that I may love you always, then do with me as you will.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory be.

with Pope St John Paul in the Jubilee Year
Good Friday, 21 April 2000, at the Colosseum in Rome
- also in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

They compelled Simon.
The Roman soldiers did this because they feared that in his exhaustion the Condemned Man would not be able to carry the Cross as far as Golgotha. Then they would not be able to carry out the sentence of crucifixion.
They were looking for someone to help carry the Cross.
Their eyes fell on Simon. They compelled him to take the weight upon his shoulders. We can imagine that Simon did not want to do this and objected. Carrying the cross together with a convict could be considered an act offensive to the dignity of a free man. Although unwilling, Simon took up the Cross to help Jesus.

In a Lenten hymn we hear the words: “Under the weight of the Cross Jesus welcomes the Cyrenean”. These words allow us to discern a total change of perspective: the divine Condemned One is someone who, in a certain sense, “makes a gift” of his Cross. Was it not he who said: “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:38)?
Simon receives a gift.
He has become “worthy” of it.
What the crowd might see as an offence to his dignity has, from the perspective of redemption, given him a new dignity.
In a unique way, the Son of God has made him a sharer in his work of salvation.
Is Simon aware of this?
The evangelist Mark identifies Simon of Cyrene as the “father of Alexander and Rufus” (15:21).

If the sons of Simon of Cyrene were known to the first Christian community, it can be presumed that Simon too, while carrying the Cross, came to believe in Christ. From being forced, he freely accepted, as though deeply touched by the words: “Whoever does not carry his cross with me is not worthy of me.”
By his carrying of the Cross, Simon was brought to the knowledge of the gospel of the Cross.
Since then, this gospel has spoken to many, countless Cyreneans, called in the course of history to carry the cross with Jesus.

O Mary, who walked the way of the Cross with your Son,
your mother’s heart torn by grief, but mindful always of your fiat
and fully confident that He to whom nothing is impossible
would be able to fulfil his promises,
implore for us and for the generations yet to come
the grace of surrender to God’s love.
Help us, in the face of suffering, rejection, and trial,
however prolonged and severe, never to doubt his love.
To Jesus, your Son, honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

with Papa San Giovanni Paolo in 2003
- also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

From the Gospel according to Mark (15, 21-22)
They compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his Cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.

Simon of Cyrene, called upon to carry the Cross, doubtless had no wish to do so. He was forced to. He walked beside Christ, bearing the same burden. When the condemned man's shoulders became too weak, he lent him his. He was very close to Jesus, closer than Mary, closer than John who - though he too was a man - was not called upon to help. They called on him, Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as we learn from the Gospel of Mark (Mk 15, 21). They summoned him, they compelled him.
How long did he continue to resent being forced into this? How long did he continue to walk beside this condemned man, all the while making it clear that he had nothing in common with him, nothing to do with his crime, nothing to do with his punishment? How long did he go on like that, torn within himself, a barrier of indifference standing between him and the Man who was suffering? "I was naked, I was thirsty, I was in prison", I carried the Cross. "Did you carry it with me?" "Did you really carry it with me to the very end?"
We do not know. St Mark simply records the names of the Cyrenian's sons, and tradition has it that they were members of the Christian community close to Saint Peter.

Christ, Good Samaritan, neighbour to the poor, the sick, the lowly.
Christe, eleison.
Christ, Servant of the Eternal Father, you consider done to you every act of love towards the exile, the outcast, the stranger.
Christe, eleison.

with Blessed John Henry Newman

V. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R. Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

At length His strength fails utterly, and He is unable to proceed. The executioners stand perplexed. What are they to do? How is He to get to Calvary? Soon they see a stranger who seems strong and active — Simon of Cyrene. They seize on him, and compel him to carry the Cross with Jesus. The sight of the Sufferer pierces the man s heart. Oh, what a privilege! O happy soul, elect of God! he takes the part assigned to him with joy.

This came of Mary's intercession. He prayed, not for Himself, except that He might drink the full chalice of suffering and do His Father's will; but she showed herself a mother by following Him with her prayers, since she could help Him in no other way. She then sent this stranger to help Him. It was she who led the soldiers to see that they might be too fierce with Him. Sweet Mother, even do the like to us. Pray for us ever, Holy Mother of God, pray for us, whatever be our cross, as we pass along on our way. Pray for us, and we shall rise again, though we have fallen. Pray for us when sorrow, anxiety, or sickness comes upon us. Pray for us when we are prostrate under the power of temptation, and send some faithful servant of thine to succour us. And in the world to come, if found worthy to expiate our sins in the fiery prison, send some good Angel to give us a season of refreshment. Pray for us, Holy Mother of God.

Pater, Ave, Gloria ...
V. Have mercy on us, O Lord.
R. Have mercy on us.

May the souls of the faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.