|Joys, sufferings of families focus of pope's Good Friday Via Crucis|
Catholic News Service
Catholic News Service photo
Pope Benedict had asked Danilo and Annamaria Zanzucchi, founders of the Focolare Movement's New Families initiative, to write the meditations for his Way of the Cross service at Rome's Colosseum. The meditations are read over loudspeakers as a cross is carried through and around the Colosseum on Good Friday.
VATICAN CITY — An Italian couple, married 59 years, let the joys and sufferings of families guide the reflections they prepared for Pope Benedict, thousands of pilgrims and potentially millions of television viewers to meditate on during the Stations of the Cross at Rome's Colosseum.
The pope asked Danilo and Annamaria Zanzucchi to write the meditations for his Good Friday service April 6 in Rome. The Zanzucchis, who have five children and 12 grandchildren, are the co-founders and were the longtime leaders of the Focolare's New Families Movement.
"I am not even going to tell you how many drafts we went through," Danilo Zanzucchi told the Focolare's Living City magazine when asked how he and his wife prepared the meditations.
"We wanted to make sure that these texts bore the mark of a lived Christian experience and, at the same time, reflected our understanding of the Passion as it has developed through years of contact with thousands of couples," Annamaria Zanzucchi told the magazine.
The New Families Movement has a special outreach to couples who are hurting because of separation, divorce or abandonment. The movement believes that stronger families will increase peace and brotherhood in communities.
The text of the Zanzucchis' meditations was published in advance by the Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.
The couple looked at how Jesus suffered and died under the weight of human sin —including marital infidelity and abortion — but also how "every single family has its own Way of the Cross: illnesses, deaths, financial problems, poverty, betrayals, immoral behavior, discord with relatives (and) natural disasters."
"But every Christian, every family, on this path of pain can turn their gaze toward Jesus, man and God," they wrote.
Reflecting on the third station, Jesus falls the first time, the couple wrote that Christian husbands and wives vow to care for one another, for their children and for those they meet. But, "how many times have our families fallen? How many separations, betrayals! And divorces, abortions, abandonments! Jesus, help us understand what love is; teach us to ask forgiveness."
For the fifth station, Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross, the Zanzucchis offered prayers for all those who have offered help "when a heavy cross has weighed on us or our family."
The meditations included special prayers for families who "suffer tremendous hardships" in order to profess their Christian faith.
The Zanzucchis prayed that Christians in the developed world would learn to resist the temptation of being "anesthetized by well-being," and would raise their children to accept a simple lifestyle, sacrifice and self-denial.
In their meditation for the 10th station, Jesus is stripped of his clothes, the couple focused their reflection on the dignity of the human person and the human body and on how often people use or abuse others.
The meditations included several references to Mary, her relationship with Jesus and her maternal care for all who follow Jesus.
"Mary's love for each of us is a continuation of her love for Jesus," they wrote. After Jesus' death, she stays with the disciples "to support them, help them, encourage them and lead them to recognize the love of God."
For the last station, Jesus is laid in the tomb, the Zanzucchis focused on the disciples trying to console one another and sharing with each other memories of the things Jesus said and did while he was with them.
"At that moment, they begin to be church while awaiting the Resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. With them was the mother of Jesus, Mary," they wrote. "They gather together, with her and around her, awaiting the manifestation of the Lord."