A Reflection on St. Simon of Cyrene

Two crises in the past few weeks have made me reflect deeply on the current state of the Church and society.  First we had the confusing video of this month’s prayer intentions released by the Vatican, which seem to approach the sort of religious indifference that we were warned about in healthier times.  Such thinking comes easily to those who forget the “scandal of particularity” that is Christ (and His Church).  The second crisis is the NDP’s 21st century attempt at a little caesaropapism here in Alberta, striving to push a confused agenda on Catholic schools.

With these two issues fresh in my mind, I was watching Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ with my RS 25 class this week.  As we were watching the scene of Christ’s carrying the Cross, something struck me that I had never reflected upon before.  Our Lord, whose Body has suffered innumerable wounds from the abuse and scourging He has received, is unable to continue His trek to Golgotha alone.  Thus the Roman soldiers demand an innocent bystander, Simon of Cyrene, to lift the weight of the Cross for Him and assist in carrying it to the site of the Crucifixion.  As I sat watching the movie, tears rolling down my cheeks, I was struck by the fact that Holy Mother Church has often had recourse to St. Simons throughout Her history.

The Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, has often been scourged and wounded by enemies within and without.  In such times, the Church, much like Our Lord’s body, is almost unable to complete its apportioned tasks by its own strength.  Thus the Holy Spirit raises up new Simons who, by the grace of God, take the weight of the Cross upon their shoulders and carry it while the Body of Christ is temporarily weakened.

As I read through the second volume of Warren Carroll’s magnificent history of Christendom, I was struck by two “Simons” in particular: St. Alfred the Great of England and King Alfonso III the Great of Spain.  These two men, living during the true dark ages (late 800s), kept and spread the Faith when the Church and the Papacy were in shambles, while fighting off almost constant attacks by barbarians or Muslims.  If we have only a bit of the virtue of such men, perhaps we too can be “Simons”, helping the Church today.  If Bishop Athanasius Schneider is correct that, “We are in the fourth great crisis of the Church,” then the wounds in the Body of Christ may require us to carry a little more of the weight of Our Lord’s Cross here on earth.