Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 22:
Millstreet 5: Jesus
is aided by Simon

Station 5 at Saint John’s Well, Millstreet, Co Cork … Jesus is aided by Simon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In my Lenten journey this year, as part of my meditations and reflections each morning, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations.

The idea for this series of morning Lenten meditations came from reading about Peter Walker’s new exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ inspired by the Stations of the Cross, which opened in Lichfield Cathedral last month and continues throughout Lent.

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are inspired by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. They are the stations in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at Saint John’s Well on a mountainside near Millstreet, Co Cork, and in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

In my meditations, I am drawing on portions of the Stabat Mater, the 12th century hymn of the Crucifixion (‘At the cross her station keeping’) attributed to the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi. Some prayers are traditional, some are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

For these two weeks, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross at Saint John’s Well in a forested area on the slopes of Mushera, outside Millstreet in north Co Cork and close to the Cork/Kerry border.

Saint John’s Well is 8 or 9 km south-east of Millstreet, on the slopes of Mushera, on the Aubane side of the mountain, opposite the entrance to Millstreet Country Park. The Stations date from 1984 and were designed by Liam Cosgrave and Sons, Sculptors, of Blackpool, Cork.

Millstreet 5: Jesus is aided by Simon

The grave of Simon Gewurtz (1887-1944) from Bratislava, who was Limerick’s last rabbi (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

In the fifth station by Liam Cosgrave in Millstreet, Christ is now showing how he is weighed down by the weight of the Cross. Simon, for his part, seems to be almost effortless in his grip at the other end of the Cross and as the two continue through the streets of Jerusalem.

When I think of Simon of Cyrene this morning, I think too of Simon Gewurtz (1887-1944) from Bratislava, who was Limerick’s last rabbi, and wonder how much he must have grieved during his time in Limerick about the sufferings of the Jews of Bratislava.

I first heard these stories in 1999 when I visited Kahal Shalom, the oldest surviving synagogue in Greece, and the last remaining synagogue in ‘La Judeira,’ the old Jewish quarter in Rhodes.

There have been Jews in Rhodes since at least the time of Herod the Great. When the Jewish community in Rhodes was at its height in the 1920s, there were 4,000 or more Jews living on the island. A plaque in the courtyard lists the names of 100 Jewish families from Rhodes who were wiped out in the Holocaust.

By the end of the 1930s, there were still 2,000 or more Jews on Rhodes, struggling to maintain their religious and cultural life. A boatload of 600 Jews from Bratislava and Prague fleeing the Nazis reached Rhodes in 1939. There they were fed and quartered by the local community, and provided with fresh water for their onward journey to Palestine. But as the boat sailed out it caught fire, and the refugees were eventually washed up on the island of Samos. They returned to Rhodes, where the local Jews helped them to buy another old boat, and this time they made their way safely to Palestine.

The refugees from Bratislava and Prague survived, but the Jews of Rhodes who helped them escape were to perish a few years later. On 23 July 1944, 1,673 members of the Jewish community were rounded up in Rhodes, shipped to Piraeus and sent on by train to Auschwitz. The community that had survived the Crusades and the Inquisition and prospered under both Ottomans and Italians was decimated: only 151 survived.

The city square where the Nazis rounded up the Jews of Rhodes has been renamed Plateia Martyron Evreon, the Square of the Hebrew Martyrs, and the Sea Horse Fountain was erected in memory of those who died in Auschwitz.

From Stabat Mater:

Jesus Christ, crucified, have mercy on us!
Is there one who would not weep
Whelmed in miseries so deep
Christ’s dear Mother to Behold?


Stranger. Neighbour. Friend.
Simon takes up your cross. In so doing takes up his own.
Another innocent man joins the procession to Calvary.


Suffering Servant, beaten beyond human semblance, through the Good Samaritan you taught us that everyone in need is our neighbour. Help us to follow in your way of love that we do not need be compelled to take up the cross of another when they cannot bear their burdens alone. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our crucified Lord, the King of Glory, the King of Peace. Amen.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

Jesus, the soldiers are becoming impatient. This is taking longer than they wanted it to. They are afraid you will not make it to the hill where you will be crucified. As you grow weaker, they grab a man out of the crowd and make him help you carry your cross. He was just watching what was happening, but all of a sudden he is helping you carry your cross.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

Holy God,
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.

Tomorrow: Station 6: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

Yesterday’s reflection

The Seahorse Fountain in the Square of the Hebrew Martyrs remembering those members of the Jewish community of Rhodes who perished at Auschwitz (Photograph: Carlos Delgado)

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