Reflections on the Cross
WHAT THE CROSS MEANS TO ME
I have always had an attraction to the cross of Christ.
I can remember as a child attending Good Friday services with my older sister Marilyn. We would linger by the Stations of the Cross and look at each one so carefully. Growing up in a Catholic school, we used to attend Stations on the Fridays of Lent. They had a profound impact on me. All I can remember is thinking how much God must love us. I wanted to love Him in return.
Some years had passed from those younger days. I was now in my late teens and just getting involved in ministry. I had been reading in the Bible about the dangers of pride. People can often get caught up in dealing with others and begin to take credit for the good that may come. I was terrified that I could become ensnared in this quagmire. So many others had succumbed to that temptation.
One day in Confession I shared my concern with an elderly monsignor. He smiled as I told him how pervasive this problem seemed to be among those in ministry. I asked him what I could do to protect myself from this error. "Stay close to the suffering Christ" he whispered. I think the look on my face prompted him to say more. "Spend much of your time deeply meditating upon the passion of Jesus. Use the Stations of the Cross, the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, reflect upon the gospels, look at a picture, hold a crucifix find some way to stay close to the suffering Christ. You will discover His humility in your meditation. It will be His humility, His suffering that will save you from this temptation."
The cleric's counsel fit well with my inclination towards the cross. I have, since that day, spent a lot of time following that wise priest's advice. As he predicted, focusing on the cross of Christ has had a profound effect on my spirituality, my personality, and indeed my very life.
When I was 21 years old, I found myself in Colombia, South America. It was a time of great challenges and personal spiritual growth. I saw a crucifix in the window of a shop and felt drawn to buy it. I cut a cord off of my backpack, strung it through the cross and tied it around my neck. I have been wearing a crucifix ever since.
Years later, I helped lead a pilgrimage of 1,000 miles on foot, through my home state of Michigan. It was a 10 week journey carrying a cross. I was absolutely stunned by the effect the cross had on people who encountered it on the streets. Over those ten weeks, I saw a transformation in the men and women who carried it, including myself. I saw firsthand that there is a transforming power in the cross.
That experience with the cross led me to yet another encounter. Beginning in 1992, I embarked on a 4,200 mile journey, carrying a cross from the Atlantic to Pacific. It took nearly two years. In that time the cross became an even more significant part of my life. Like the previous pilgrimage, the cross absolutely transformed the lives of those who encountered it. I was able to mediate upon the cross for hours and days at a time. I do not have the words to describe all that took place in that time of meditation.
For me, the cross is personal…..deeply personal. It is more than a theological construct. It is the evidence and the experience of Christ's deep love for me. It is His invitation to love in kind.
When I see the Cross of the Renewal and the action of the Holy Spirit I am reminded yet again of all the graces and spiritual treasures that come from the cross of Christ. I thank God for that wise Monsignor's advice. The cross will change your life.
James Alan Murphy is the founder and president of Vera Cruz Communications.
While still a senior in high school, Jim made a decision to surrender the rest of his life to Christ. That decision has had a major impact on every aspect of Jim's life. In 1992, inspired by the American Bishops' letter Heritage and Hope, Jim undertook a 4200 mile journey on foot across America, carrying a 6 ft. cross in an effort of prayer and evangelization. The journey took 18 months...and 14 pairs of shoes!
Jim has worked in the Catholic Church in many capacities. He has been involved in youth ministry on parish, diocesan, national and international levels. He has served as a member of several parish pastoral teams. Murphy has also worked in Religious Education programs including adult formation programs. With the use of guitar, Jim often leads prayer and worship services. He gives parish missions, speaks at retreats, and consults for many parish and diocesan level groups in the Church
In addition to his work with Vera Cruz Communications, Jim is the former chairman of, and currently a consultant to The National Service Committee for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. He is a former producer of "The Choices We Face", a weekly television program of Renewal Ministries. He is past Chairman of the Youth Executive Committee for the North American Renewal Service Committee, an ecumenical organization. Jim is currently the director of the Leadership Formation for the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service (ICCRS), whose offices are located at the Vatican, in Rome.