The Cross We Choose, The Cross We Get

The stats are in for my Easter!

Stomach viruses: 1

Family members who succumbed: 7

Percentage of Triduum liturgies missed by me: 75%

Episodes of vomiting: about 20 (sorry, I lost count)

Episodes of vomiting that missed the toilet or any other receptacle: about 16

Risen Saviors: 1

I’m a terrific martyr for Christ, in my mind. It all seems so abstract and manageable. The crosses in my imagination are ever so tidy, full of PR potential, and most definitely lacking the acrid odor of vomit. And then there’s reality, as in the Paschal Plague of 2015.

Franks BlogWhatever the memes say, the crosses of the real world are often sadly unworthy of epic treatment. Mothers know this all too well: after surviving a day of mopping up and washing up from all the spitting up, we kinda want a medal. OK, I’ll speak for myself: where’s my medal?

But that’s not how it works. Kids, for one, are notoriously insensible to the sacrifices of their elders, and, frankly, that’s fine. If they were otherwise, they would be conscientious adults already. The problem isn’t with them but with us elders. Crosses are simply more satisfying when we get some kind of positive feedback loop from them. We, you know, suffer less from them. But then they are, ahem, less like crosses. And while my Facebook friends gave me lots of sympathy for my colorful Easter—thanks, guys!—I sort of doubt that anyone will be singing of my maternal exploits a few centuries from now. After all, what’s so heroic about doing your duty?

And there’s the rub. While the cheerful daily accomplishment of one’s duty is indeed a quiet kind of heroism, it’s not the kind that gets you written up in history books, which also makes it one of the more unpalatable kind of cross to carry. For this reason, it’s often the small, unspectacular crosses that are really hard to carry.

Peter had to learn this lesson. He was going to die for Christ! Yet, as Cardinal Sean O’Malley put it, Peter couldn’t even endure a waitress with an attitude.

Peter had to come to terms with the fact that God has this tremendous ability to provide us not with the crosses we want but the crosses we need. It appears as though our heavenly Father is not all that interested in making us look good. He is, however, passionately interested in making us holy. And that might just mean allowing us a lot of tedious, unspectacular, un-epic sufferings, in the service of a life of quiet holiness.

So, while “the strife is o’er, the battle won” in the Paschal Plague of 2015, tomorrow will bring new and no doubt equally uninteresting crosses. No one will pen a screenplay about them. But perhaps, if I manage them with a modicum of cheerful and generous love, I might see them transfigured into Easter life by my Savior. So, “praise God from whom all blessings flow,” even the ones that involve gross bodily fluids and lots of laundry.

Angela Franks teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.


5 thoughts on “The Cross We Choose, The Cross We Get

  1. That certainly was a cross to bear.

    I laughed out load at “waitress with an attitude.” I often think that my patron saint screwed up a lot and still turned out okay. There is hope for me yet.

  2. Mentor Angela Franks,
    you, seem like a jovial, down home, strict but loving parent. This blog reminds me of the Biblical Scripture of not advertising prayer, but yet praying in private, between you and the heavenly father. In the ESV Bible, English Standard Version of the Bible, the verse is as follows below:
    “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1) Sister Franks, for this reason alone as it applies to kids, it also applies to adults, that is our reward is not of this world but in heaven. My kids, your kids and anyone else’s kids seek immediate gratification, while adults have to have faith due to wisdom, life experience and seasoned faith- the vital three to pass down to our offspring. Angela what an amazing, thought provoking, yet life applicable piece.
    Thank you for this, for enforcing, reaffirming, and giving me more belief in myself and the Father. I feel you are a real asset and true credit to Saint Joseph, and anchor for the Theological staff. Genius!!! Just Genius, giving faith whether than receiving faith.

  3. I was feeling “down” because I was home on Easter with a sick husband and missed being with my adult children and 6 grandchildren for our annual brunch on Easter Sunday. This put it all in perspective! Thank you, God, for my unspectacular crosses. Thank you, Jesus! Happy Easter!

  4. What a wonderful essay. So down-to-earth AND so profound!! You really hit the mark…refreshing…thank you…Susan

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