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Growing up with seven siblings was nothing short of an adventure, especially when I think back to our daily prayer time as a family. Each night was an ordeal to get each of us together and ready to pray. To sum up our family prayer nights I would describe them as strict and orderly. My father is from Kerala, India, and as we grew up, he would teach us the standards of prayer from his homeland. Saint Thomas, the apostle, brought the faith to this region and the tradition of prayer and sacrifice has carried on for thousands of years. When my father was young, his family held the practice of praying together as a family each night. He set forth some of those same expectations for us. With the crucifix hanging on the wall in front of us, he would pray sitting on the floor with his whole family, and he taught us to do the same. He had clear rules when it came to how we oriented ourselves to show reverence as we prayed.

At all times, the number one rule my father presented during prayer was to face the crucifix. Secondly, to kneel up or sit with stillness. Any time someone would complain about how they were sitting or any other prayer etiquette, my father would talk about how the family prayed back in India each night with the rosary, numerous litanies, and depending on the month, a devotional prayer. After hearing about the rigor of his prayers, none of us could complain about our shorter and less precise family prayer time. The repetition and respect taught me to see prayer as something that must have order and precedence. I couldn’t understand it then but my father was teaching us something beyond ourselves in these lessons. These expectations created a concentration and order within me as I grew up. The number one priority of our life is to keep ourselves oriented and focused on the Cross. Not only because of a “rule,” but because of something much larger – to learn to have true freedom and begin to experience the full magnificence of God’s love.

Contemplating my own spiritual life, I initially looked at the cross out of the desire to follow my own father’s rules. As time went on, I recognized the comfort and awe I experienced from being in front of the cross and gazing at it. This comfort and awe of being by Christ’s side during his passion never went away and only grew. I find that I discover something new each time I am contemplating the Cross of our Lord. It is such a gift that as Catholics we see the crucifix constantly throughout our day. At times I have had to ask myself, when was the last time I went beyond simply facing the cross and tried to connect to and contemplate it? In his book, Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverance, Neal Lozano writes, “Christ crucified is the picture of the justice and mercy of God. There can be no mercy apart from truth…Only through the cross can we grasp the greatness of God’s love; the power of the cross is the power of forgiveness”. In the Imitation of Christ, Thomas A. Kempis recounts from the Gospel of Luke, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments. If you want to know the truth, believe in Me. If you want to be perfect, sell all you have. If you want to be My disciple, deny yourself. If you wish to possess beatitude, despise the present life. If you want to be honored in heaven, humble yourself in the world. If you want to reign with Me, bear the cross with Me. For only servants of the cross find the way of blessedness and achieve true illumination.” We must be servants of the cross to prevail in eternal life with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reminiscing on my first experiences of being in front of the cross brought back fond memories and helped me see how the Lord has walked with me. I wonder what you will discover if you think back to those memories of your own. Being before the cross brings us to Calvary to be with the Lord in his suffering and sacrifice. In gazing at the cross, knowing that Christ suffered and died for us, we are reminded that the resurrection will also come. I pray this Lenten season that we all draw closer to the crucifix to continue discovering our true purpose and identity.

Most High, Glorious God
Enlighten the darkness of my heart.
Give me right faith,
Certain hope,
Perfect charity,
Sense and understanding,
Lord, so that I may carry out your holy
And true command.

– Saint Francis Assisi, Prayer Before the Cruicifix

AUTHOR: Teresa Thekaekara, Early Learning Program Assistant Teacher

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