SHE WAS YOUNG, attractive, athletic, dressed in spiffy, hot-pink tennis duds—and crying. As other members of her tennis team gathered around sympathetically, the woman explained that she was “too enmeshed” with her son, a bright boy who had serious problems with social and motor skills.
He was going off independently to school, and she groaned, “My whole life was taking care of him—because if I didn’t do it, he’d have chaos. I don’t know what I’ll do now!”
She continued that she was also concerned about her mom, an elderly woman who lived far away and insisted on driving when she shouldn’t.
“What if she has an accident and kills or hurts someone?” the woman asked tearfully. A classic case of the sandwich generation, I thought, trying not to be too obvious about eavesdropping.
The consolation from the others came swiftly: “Well, at least you have tennis!”?
“Oh, that’s my therapy,” replied the woman.
I’d never criticize another person’s coping mechanism, especially for one confronting such tough issues. But I secretly longed for this woman to participate in our parish celebration of Good Friday that evening. It might have soothed some of her pain, or at least put it into the context of Christ’s suffering.
Many wise traditions know the importance of naming one’s loss or sorrow because suppressing it only makes it worse. Buddhist monk and author Thich Nhat Hanh suggests cradling our broken hearts as tenderly as we would a sick and crying child.
In a particularly Catholic way, an abstraction such as “suffering” is translated to tangible, visible word and gesture in the liturgy. Furthermore, it links our individual stories and struggles concretely, not just verbally, to the overarching story of Christ’s redemptive suffering.
My rule of thumb for Good Friday liturgy is this: when we do something only once a year, pay attention. So I focus on three parts of the service that move me especially.