The Holding Cross

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

After a recent diocesan event, a nice young lady approached me and handed me a little cross, a simple wooden cross with smooth, rounded edges, just a few inches long. She explained that her father had made it and wanted me to have it. The typed note attached to it called it a “holding cross,” and explained that it was designed to be “held in the palm of your hand when you pray” or when “you are going through a difficult time in your life.” Holding the cross will “remind you that you are not alone,” the note said.

What a wonderful Christian ministry this gentleman has developed – spontaneously handing out little crosses to spread devotion to the cross, and to remind followers of Jesus that it can be a source of inspiration and consolation in trying times. It’s a theme that’s surely central to the Christian Faith.

“Anyone who wishes to come after me must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” Jesus said to his disciples. (Lk 9:23)

The traditional Christian hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” says this: “When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.”

And there’s this: “Why, then do you fear to take up the cross when through it you can win a kingdom? In the cross is salvation, in the cross is life . . . Behold, in the cross is everything.” (The Imitation of Christ)

Thomas á Kempis, author of the “Imitation” goes on to explain how and where you might encounter the cross: “Either you will experience bodily pain or you will undergo tribulation of spirit in your soul. At times you will be forsaken by God, at times troubled by those about you, and, what is worse, you will often grow weary of yourself . . . No matter where you go, you cannot escape it,” Thomas concludes.

It’s true that carrying the cross is an inescapable and painful reality of life, but for Christians, also a blessed opportunity for grace and redemption. I’m very grateful to the man who gave me the “holding cross,” and thus reminded me in a gentle way of that enduring truth.

Something to think about: When you encounter the cross in your life, are you able to embrace it or do you tend to avoid it?


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