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Daughters of Jerusalem

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March 2021

They tell us stories. They teach us about the past. They remind us of the struggles people overcame. “They” are historical markers and exhibits, and they come in all shapes and sizes. They can be tiny exhibits found in small glass cabinets tucked away in museum corners. Or they can be long trails spread across miles of real estate.

Like the Freedom Trail, covering 2.5 miles of downtown Boston. It connects walkers to 16 sites important to the early years of our country. Places like Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church—the signal point warning of the British invasion. The Common Grounds—the oldest public park in the U.S.—is on the trail.  So are the sites of the Boston Massacre and the battle of Bunker Hill, the first major battleground of the Revolutionary War. The Boston Latin School, our first public school, is there, as is the battleship “Old Ironsides”—the USS Constitution. It takes more than a day to soak in all the history.

The Catholic Church has it own trail, a symbolic one. It’s usually no longer than the inside perimeter of a church. It’s not scenic. But it’s hugely important. It symbolizes the Via Dolorosa (Sorrowful Way)—Jesus’s path from condemnation to crucifixion. Catholic tradition teaches that our Blessed Mother walked the steps of her Son’s Passion daily. After Christianity was legalized in the fourth century, pilgrims followed the same path. “Stations” memorialized specific events. When the seventh century Moslem conquest of Palestine made travel dangerous, shrines were erected in Europe to commemorate events on the Way.

Devotions to the Way of the Cross started in earnest in the 14th century, when the pope entrusted the Franciscans with custody of the religious sites in the Holy Lands. By the 17th century, stations were established in Franciscan churches. By the 18th century, the privilege was extended to and encouraged for use in all churches. In 1787, St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote the version of the Stations most used in the U.S. over the last two centuries. But the fourteen stations in his version are not all found in the Bible. In 1991, Pope John Paul II introduced a fully biblical version that Pope Benedict approved for public meditation and celebration.

Although differently sequenced in the two versions, a common station in both is from St. Luke’s gospel: Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem. We know what was happening to Jesus: He was arrested, beaten to a pulp, made to wear a crown of thorns, spat on, ridiculed, and forced to carry a heavy cross, all without sleep or any treatment of His wounds, all while being whipped to keep Him walking uphill. It’s hard to imagine He fell only three times en route to Calvary. Seeing His suffering, the women weep. Jesus’s response? He tells them to “weep for yourselves and your children.” One day men will call barren women “blessed.” They’ll shout out to the mountains to “fall on us,” the hills to “cover us.”

It’s a pretty ominous message: our fate will be worse than His. We can weep at what He suffered, but weeping will do us no good if we don’t amend our lives. We cannot ignore our sins, small at first but growing worse as we become comfortable and complacent about how we live. Someday, He says, we’ll beg for cover, hoping to not be found.

Every day, we can see this station re-lived in our country. Every day, more and more unborn suffer the indignity of being literally torn apart. Under the new presidential administration, it’s only getting worse. We are funding the killings. We are funding the killers. And we’ve grown complacent about it all. We can be thankful that those aborted babies are probably in Heaven. Having been treated so badly in life, where else can they be?

But for every winner there is a loser. So who are the losers? For one, women are. Some women claim that their abortions have been liberating. But as long as they breathe, they can never be sure. For they have memories and consciences, which means they will have regrets. It’s part of life, and there is no escaping it. Regrets can suddenly appear out of nowhere. They fester as we fight to deny them. Then they devour us. Post-abortive women must live with the fact that they sold out their birthright for things that ultimately prove unimportant. The regret can be, and often is, devastatingly brutal.

But post-abortive women are not the only ones who lose. In fact, they are in the minority. Everyone loses. Each human life is story of a person’s journey through time. It can be short or long. It can have many plots and subplots, all reaching a crescendo in the development of the person’s character and destiny. Every person changes the world, like a single drop that moves the whole ocean or a single flutter of a butterfly’s wing that moves the air currents. A person’s life is filled hopes and dreams, starts and stops, twists and turns, success and failure, loss and redemption. No human life is worthless. So we can learn from everyone, even when a person has gone wrong—especially when a person has gone wrong. After all, there are teaching moments to be had in every situation. Every life can change us for the better. It’s why abortion makes us all the big losers. With abortion, we’re deprived of the real stories of real people. They weren’t allowed to be written.

Who are the daughters of Jerusalem? We are. And we should be weeping. Hard.

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics.  He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.
© Paul V. Esposito 2021.  Culture of Life.  Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted.  Visit us at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/ and on Facebook.

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