St. Thomas Aquinas Parish put a modern spin on an old tradition. Father Bill Quinlivan, the pastor of the South Buffalo parish, wrote a special set of the Stations of the Cross to address the priest abuse crisis that is currently affecting the Church.
The debut of Stations for a Suffering Church took place Friday, April 5, at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, where a small crowd prayed along with the author. Reflections on how Jesus' suffering mirrors today's suffering and a short musical verse accompanied each of the 14 Stations.
When Jesus fell for the first time, Father Quinlivan hopes His perseverance can be a model for the modern Church. "You found the strength to carry on - please grant us that grace," he said.
At the fourth station, when Jesus meets His mother, Father Quinlivan reflects how we instinctively call our mothers when we suffer.
"Tonight we ask her intercession for all the mothers of abuse victims as well of the mothers of those who committed such crimes. Each and every sinner has a mother, and that maternal bond endures through heart-breaking news. As a mother instinctively listens to her hurting children, help us to seek the face of Christ within our suffering church. Through the eyes of our Lady of Sorrows, may we be healed in her loving glance; the same eyes that met on your Way of the Cross," he said.
The idea to write a special set of Stations of the Cross," came to Father Quinlivan this past January when he realized the "unusual circumstances" the diocese is facing this Lent.
"Aware that people are looking for answers and solutions to the turmoil of our times regarding accusations of sexual abuse by clergy and Church members, I realized all I could say was (that) we have to keep turning it back to Jesus, we have to bring it to Him," Father Quinlivan explained, shortly before the premier. "I started to prepare for Lent and doing Stations of the Cross, I thought that maybe I could compose a set of Stations of the Cross for the Suffering Church to bring it to the cross, to bring it to Christ and His cross, and ask for His help as we pass through this time."
At the parish, a dozen of the faithful, led by three servers, moved through all 14 stations, while another 50 or so prayed in the pews. They reflected on Jesus falling and being entombed, while Father Quinlivan compared Jesus situation to the what the faithful of the Buffalo Diocese and dioceses across the world are experiencing 2,000 years later. Short musical verses for each station accompanied the reflections.
"Spoken word has a power, and sung words, lyrics, also seem to lend themselves to meditation, contemplation and prayer as well," Father Quinlivan said.
Father Quinlivan, who has written a book and recorded several of his own musical compositions, said it took about a month to write the new work, sitting down, pen in hand, a couple times each week.
"I tried to do it slowly and not hurry through," he said. "I gave it the time that I thought it needed to be thorough, recognizing what we need Christ to do for us in this time of scandal and the need for healing."
He has gone back to polish his words more than he usually does, understanding the sensitive subject matter he is dealing with.
"I didn't want to gloss over it. 'Let's pray for the suffering Church,' and not mention anything in particular," he said. "It's not graphic or offensive language, but the topic is a painful one for everyone to ponder."
In talking about the abuse crisis with priests as well as parishioners, Father Quinlivan has noticed the reactions mimic the stages of grief from denial to acceptance.
"It has certainly affected not only the Church in Buffalo, but through out the world. So, we're needing to turn to the Lord to assist us and guide us," he said.
Just as the Stations end with Jesus in the tomb waiting for resurrection, the Diocese of Buffalo is waiting for a renewal of the Church.
"I particularly feel a desire to be a part of the renewal of the priesthood as a result of this," Father Quinlivan said. "I think spreading the message of Divine Mercy for most of my priesthood has certainly colored or influenced my response to try and keep in mind that everybody needs God's mercy."
The debut seemed to be well received.
"Great. Wonderful," said Martin Kennedy who came with his wife, Mary, from St. Martin of Tours. "I thought it was very prayerful, very significant."
"The music was very moving. It was definitely very personal, spiritual," added Mary Kennedy.
Maureen English, who graduated from St. Thomas School and now attends St. Martin's Parish, said, "It's the most powerful I've ever seen. I've been to a lot of (station devotions), but this was the most powerful I have ever been to. It almost brings you to tears. The passion was just so real."