I’m Not Afraid of the Crucifix Anymore

My eldest daughter, chubby cheeks and wispy hair, toddled up to me with her children’s Bible clutched in her grubby hands.  She was two and a half.  I pulled her considerable weight onto my lap while her baby sister dozed to sleep in my other arm.  She opened the Bible and the first image we saw was that of the Crucifixion.

I cringed. She didn’t.  “Mama, s’dat Jesus?” I nodded and tried to turn the page.  I don’t know what I was looking for, other than I wanted to protect my child from that. The detailed image of our Lord nailed to a tree was not the way I wanted my daughter to think of Jesus.  I never avoided it at Mass, per se, but I focused on other images when trying to keep her quiet.

But she was adamant.  She kept her gummy hand on the page so I couldn’t turn it, not without ripping it, or (heaven forbid) waking her sister, or both.

“Mama, s’Jesus hurt?”  I nodded again, tears clogging my throat.  The crucified Jesus was one that moved me every time, but I didn’t want my daughter to focus on that.  She’s too young for that!  Too innocent!  “Let’s find the picture of Jesus with the lambs, sweetie!  You like that picture, don’t you?”  I managed to croak out this utterly unconvincing plea while I bounced and shushed the wriggling baby back to sleep.  I tried to turn the page again.

“Mama, Jesus die for me?”  This was familiar territory, of course.  She hadn’t come up with this on her own.  Usually, however, in our Bible readings we spent a lot of time on the parables, did a quick skim over death and spent the rest of our efforts rejoicing at the resurrection. Emotion overcame me, and  I heaved great big silent sobs, avoiding her seeking, searching eyes.

In that moment, I realized that all I wanted for my daughter was the joy of the Resurrection.  I didn’t want the pain, or the sorrow, or the anguish of the preceding Passion.  I didn’t want her to feel culpable, implicated in the death of the Word Incarnate.  

That, by the way, is what the world offers us, every day.  Joy without pain, and contentedness without struggle.  Wealth, beauty, power, money: all these things and more will be your Joy!  Who needs the Cross when you can skip right over it and enjoy the bounty here and now?!

Lies.  The world offers us a daily dose of lies. And I was unintentionally offering the same ones to my daughter.

So I shakily took one last deep breath. I opened my eyes and awkwardly wiped my tears on the shoulder of my stained t-shirt.  I looked down at my daughter who, oddly, looked more curious than upset.  I smiled a watery smile and I said, “Yes, baby.  He died for you and for me, for Daddy and for Baby Sister.  Jesus died so that we could all live forever with Him in Heaven.”

 

Her brown eyes solemn, those impossibly long lashed blinking slowly, she nodded and looked from me back down to the Bible.  “S’okay, Mommy.  Don’t cry.”  She turned the page.  “See?  Jesus not dead anymore.”

And it was okay.  Because I had spent those painful few moments at the foot of the cross, it was okay to then move on and be happy in the Resurrection.  My daughter, inquisitive and as yet unafraid of her capacity for pain or fear, knew that instinctively.  She snuggled back against me, warm and comforting, comforted.

I know many people prefer the simplicity of the cross.  I can sympathize, but I humbly suggest that it’s not enough.  The cross alone, powerful symbol though it is, is still only a symbol.  If there is one thing all Christians can agree on, it’s that Christ was not a symbol.  He was the Son of God who came to Earth and suffered greatly at the hands of other men and women.  He had real wounds and suffered a real death.  It follows then that this great and awesome act of love, the crucifixion, isn’t something to fear or hide from, but something to revere and meditate upon.

I’ve heard it said before that the crucifix is a gruesome sight.  I suppose that might be true if you didn’t know the story of the cross, and the Love that put Jesus there.  We do know, however, that Jesus was a study in contrasts: a king born in a stable, a carpenter who taught theology to rabbis and chief priests, a man who is also the Son of God.  Why then should His death be any less of a paradox?  Jesus was bruised, beaten, mocked, defiled, killed, and yet He turned the Crucifix into a symbol of hope and joy for billions of people through the ages and around the world.

“When you are alone in your room, take your crucifix, kiss its five wounds reverently, tell it to preach to you a little sermon, and then listen to the words of eternal life that it speaks to your heart; listen to the pleading of the thorns, the nails, the precious Blood. Oh, what an eloquent sermon!” – St. Paul of the Cross

Jesus showed us His love through the crucifix.  As Catholics, we are a people of life, but we get there honestly.  We know that we have to come through the Passion and the Crucifixion first to fully experience life’s true, everlasting Joy.  Now that I understand that, I won’t turn away from it, and I don’t hide it from my children anymore either. And do you know the strangest thing?  My children, who have nightmares over episodes of Blues Clues and Sesame Street, they’re not even remotely afraid of the crucifix.  I think they know the whole story – love conquers death – better than I did until I was grown.

 

Micaela Darr

By

Micaela lives with her husband and 4 children in Southern California. She homeschools during the day, and stays up way too late at night reading and writing, sometimes simultaneously.  She and her brood are still adjusting to life in California after 2 years in South Korea, so she blames most of her problems on jet lag.  You can read more from her at her blog, California to Korea (and back again).

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • JMC

    Ah, two-year-olds, with their insatiable curiosity. I have one clear memory of my own from that age, and it’s sitting in bed, with my mother reading from my children’s Bible. We had gotten through the OT stories and were most of the way through the life and teachings of Christ. We had reached the Passion. The torment He endured was not strange to me; it was in the day when you routinely saw people flogged in old movies, so the scourging was not an unfamiliar concept. Even the fact that he was nailed to the Cross wasn’t upsetting. (My father was a carpenter and, at that point in my life, engaged in building our own country home while we stayed with an uncle, so I knew what being nailed to something meant.) I do remember Mom having to stop reading at the moment of His death and explain to me just what death meant. Again, it was couched in terms of old movies, where the death of a character from being shot was shown in the cleaned-up manner of 1940s and 50s Westerns. Okay. So it looked like going to sleep permanently. No biggie. We moved on.
    My next memory comes, I am told, from about a year later, when we buried a favorite aunt. Most today would shudder at the thought, but I was taken to the wake and the funeral, along with my seven-year-old brother and my nine-year-old sister, and I clearly remember both events. There was nothing mysterious or scary about it. I don’t remember having it explained to me, but I do remember understanding that the body in the open coffin was “empty,” because the important part, the soul, had gone on. I even understood that that soul could have gone to either Heaven or Hell, and that we had no way of knowing which one, but hoped for Heaven. The body was just a shell and nothing to be afraid of. I remember sitting and staring at it curiously throughout the wake, carefully observing the way the chest DIDN’T rise and fall in the familiar rhythm of breathing.
    Because of all this – which was a common experience with all my peers – by the time I was in the first grade and beginning to learn the Baltimore Catechism, Sister didn’t have to explain to us, to ANY of us, what death was; she went into detail about what going to Heaven or Hell actually meant. I made a lot of promises to myself and to God on that day, promises that I have largely managed to keep over the many years since then. Death still does not scare me, not even the prospect of my own; I look forward, even a little excitedly, to the prospect of going to Heaven and actually seeing Jesus and His Mother with my own eyes.
    To this day, I do not understand the shuddering horror most people I know endure at the very thought of an open-casket wake; a dead body is a thing of terror to them. Some of them will even go blocks or miles out of their way to avoid walking or driving past a cemetery, like children in a Mark Twain novel. I embrace the Latino custom of celebrating the Day of the Dead; if I had children and still lived in the area where all my relatives are buried, I would be bringing them to the cemetery and having a picnic near their graves, sharing pleasant memories of those people. It’s a beautiful custom, one that more of us should adopt.
    I humbly suggest that we – ALL of us – need to stop sheltering small children from the concepts of pain and death. The only thing that sheltering accomplishes is to color their later view with fear, and that is not what death should be.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    Wow, thanks for sharing your story! I remember when family friends died and I wasn’t allowed at their funeral because my parents wanted to shelter me. However, we went to my beloved grandma’s funeral. It was, in fact, my first Mass. To say the least, all those lessons stayed with me and I remember especially being prompted to remember death and to pray for those who had gone before.

    Since then I have lost several people close to me. When I converted I didn’t need to stress about accepting the Catholic view of death and the custom of praying for the dead. I was already doing it, but unconsciously

    So, that’s my long about way of saying that I agree with you. Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Comments like these make me love my duties at CE!

  • ray larue

    Micaela That was the most moving article that I have read in a long time..so appropriate ..thank you very much, please continue to write you are so gifted . children are so open that is why Jesus put so much emphasis on them We can all learn from them Ray

  • Chris B

    Micaela, what a beautiful and insightful article! It brought tears to my eyes too. Thank you for showing us so poignantly the truths that come “out of the mouths of babes”. Keep up the wonderful work.

  • http://www.CatholicAllYear.com/ Kendra Tierney

    Lovely, Micaela. This has been my experience as well. Some of us just had to have kids or we NEVER would have figured this stuff out.

  • http://californiatokorea.com/ Micaela

    I couldn’t agree more. My kids have taught me so much about simple faith. I’m far too (psuedo-) intellectual to figure this out on my own.

  • http://californiatokorea.com/ Micaela

    Thank you so much, Ray, for your kind words. I hope you have a wonderfully prayerful Triduum and Easter season.

  • http://californiatokorea.com/ Micaela

    JMC,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. I think that when we allow children to experience joys and sorrows as children, we better equip them to handle the same issues as adults. After all, it’s not as if children don’t feel these big feelings when they’re small, so it’s disingenuous to try to protect them.

    May God bless you this holy season.

  • http://californiatokorea.com/ Micaela

    Thanks, Chris! I’m so grateful for my kids. They keep me on my toes! God bless you!

  • noelfitz

    Micaela,
    your daughter seems to be a good theologian, However one of my grand-daughter seems to have her theology mixed up, as in church she talks about statues of Holy God and the baby.

    I also have a problem about the crucifixion, I focus on the resurrection, as we really are an Easter people.How could a good God allow his son to suffer so much unnecessarily. When I discuss this with my spiritual director/friend guide he reminds me that if I could understand God I would be God,

    Happy Easter to everyone.

  • NYCFiredog

    You have quite a daughter. Such innate wisdom. We can’t have the Resurrection without the Crucifixion, including carrying our own Cross. This is why we have so many addictions today. We to anything to medicate and avoid our pain, our accountability for our actions. This is so human of course, and so many have extraordinary pain that helps us understand their decline into addictions. But we need strong medicine of Truth. We need to be strengthened when we are weak. That one line from the Anima Christi comes to mind, “Passion of Christ, Strengthen me.”

    And we, as a whole, like to gloss over the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. He did not just “Die” for us. He was beaten and tortured, physically and emotionally from the moment he was in the Garden, sweating blood for us. His love and sacrifice means so much more to us when we really know what he endured for us.

    Thank you for sharing your struggle and your beautiful daughter’s wisdom and purity with us. She still has the baby smell of Heaven on her. I would start a little book of her spontaneous bursts of wisdom. I have a feeling there will be more pearls of wisdom flowing out of her heart.

  • NYCFiredog

    If you want to get a much better idea of what went on and led to Jesus making this ultimate sacrifice for us and what it meant for the defeat of Lucifer, and our liberation, read “The Mystical City of God” by Venerable Mary Agreda. And the account of Catherine Emmerich in “The Dolorous Passion of Christ”. They were given teachings and visions by Jesus and Mary of the entire lives of Jesus. The bible is just cliff notes, as valuable as they are.

  • noelfitz

    NYCFiredog,

    thanks for your reply to me.

    However I prefer to consider the official teaching of the Church, rather than private revelations.

  • NYCFiredog

    They were no more private than those given to St. Faustina, regarding Divine Mercy. Do you discount those as well?

  • noelfitz

    NYCFiredog,

    thanks for your reply to me.

    You ask me do I discount the revelations of St. Faustina as well.
    i never said I discounted any revelations.

    I was in Poland for some time recently and there is a great devotion to Divine Mercy there. But it is of interest to note that initially the writings of St Faustina were suspect.

  • NYCFiredog

    It is the height of wisdom to use caution with revelations, but one of the tests is if it is comparable and consistent with the Gospel, the tests and trials that the recipient endure and their level of obedience to Spiritual Directors / Confessors. Venerable Sr Catherine Emmerich and Venerable Mary Agreda met all of these and prophecies given to Catherine Emmerich have born out as well as archiogical finds have proven her right where her visions were first doubted because of faulty theories as to where certain events have happened. The point I was making to you was for your benefit of further explanation of those issues you had a problem with, which would be cleared up by their revelations. And nothing contradicts any Church teaching which is why they are approved for our reading. Mother Angelica often referred to Mystical City of God in her talks. But it’s your call. And if course use your discernment with the Holy Spirit as well. Have a blessed Feast of Divine Mercy.

  • noelfitz

    NYCFiredog,

    many thanks for your sound reply to me, fully in accord with Catholic teaching.

    I agree completely with you. and am pleased that here in CE we can discuss issues freely. I may have given a wrong emphasis in my posts, and so they may have been ambiguous..

    God bless.

  • NYCFiredog

    It’s a beautiful thing to be able to discuss the deeper areas of our Faith, even when we may challenge each other in such an agreeable way.

    And we are fortunate to have a Church Magisterium that has so many safeguards against false apparitions and false locutionists

MENU