Christ is down in the dust. This second fall is harder than the first; He is nearer the end of His tether now, more dependent than before on others to help Him to get up and go on. It may have been something trifling, almost absurd, that threw Him down. Perhaps something as small as a pebble on the road; yes, that would have been enough to send Him hurtling down, with that terrible burden on His back, and His own exhaustion as He nears the end of His bitter journey.
It is the same today, the same for those "other Christs" who have gone a long way on the road and who fall, not for the first time now, under the heavy cross of circumstance--those who have carried this cross for a long time, who have become exhausted by the unequal struggle and fall, who with Him are down in the dust. It is for them that Christ falls for the second time and lies under the crushing weight of His cross, waiting for those who will come forward to lend their hands to lift it from His back and enable Him to go on to the end of His way of suffering and love.
Caryll Houselander, The Way of the Cross
Since I began writing this series, I've always had CH's meditations turning over and over in the back of my mind. I read them about a day before I write, and then I mull over them. The "something small as a pebble on the road," struck me when I first read it, but I wasn't sure that I would write anything about it. Then something happened when I was on the way home from Mass this morning--something small. I was praying the third mystery when I realized that although I had started out thinking about the mystery in terms of myself, I had pretty soon turned to the faults of a friend. Almost immediately I hit, not a pebble, but a small hole in the road that jolted the entire car. Aha! Thoughts like this may be small, but they add up. And it's not just the thoughts, although those are really difficult to catch, but all our little habits, all through the day, day after day. And on the right day, they can cause a fall that much more serious that we can imagine.
So, we have to learn to be watchful, and that's so hard. How can we even begin to be aware all the little faults and habits. It would be nice if we could get a little jolt every time we did something, or even better, when we were about to do something, but how can we achieve that? The one thing that I've found that helps at all is frequent Confession. When I got really serious about a particular fault, I decided that I would go to Confession and confess it every week, no matter how embarrassing it might be--and it was. However, I noticed after a while that a little space, a very little space seemed to open up between the temptation and the action. It was just long enough for me to make a conscious decision. That was several years ago, and I don't always go to Confession every week. There have been periods when I haven't gone for several months, but I can always tell the difference in the way my life is going.
Well, I didn't start out to talk about Confession, and this has gotten to be much longer than I intended, but I also wanted to say something about CH''s second paragraph above. There are always so many people who are in those crushing circumstances, and perhaps there are even more in our current economic and political situation. I'm sure we all feel crushed from time to time. I think that we all need to be aware that those around us may be suffering much more than we know, that they may be on the brink of falling at any time, and that we need to be careful not to be the pebble that makes them fall. We never know what small word or careless unkindness might be enough to send [them] hurtling down, with that terrible burden on [their] backs.