Above the town of Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia there is a powerful outdoor Way of the Cross at Our Lady Queen of Peace Shrine. It is built on a steep slope with views across the valley to the Purcell Mountains. When you are meditating at the Stations there, you are caught on a two millennia bridge between Jerusalem and Canada. The hills of Palestine become the landscape of Canada.
Jesus’ Passion becomes intermingled with suffering in Canada today. Who are the betrayed in Canada? What form do our crosses take? Who are the fallen under the weight of these crosses? Who offers aid to the suffering? Where does the crash of hammer on spike resound? Where, despite the sorrow, do we glimpse hope?
I stood at the 11th station, looking at the nails for the crucifixion and then looked down on the highway and the town and beyond to meditate on these nails. I started to name the nails to put my basket of nails into this prayer:
Forgive us, for we have sinned.
Forgive our collection of nails for the crucifixion.
Forgive our inventory:
A nail taken from a desk in a residential school.
A nail taken from a sign telling us not to drink the water on this reserve.
A nail taken from the oak door to a “gentlemen’s” club.
A nail taken from the cottage where only white folks could live.
A nail from a frame to a glass ceiling.
A nail forged by Sydney’s tar ponds.
A nail spiked into a BC railway sleeper by an indentured worker.
A nail where the cod fishers used to hang their caps.
A nail used to jam a window shut in a derelict rural church.
A nail that fixed anti-Semitic slogans to a placard.
A nail that spiked tires of a Muslim family’s car.
A nail embedded in a snowball thrown at an autistic boy.
A nail fashioned from a bed that once held a long-term care resident.
And 666 nails used to build walls and manufacture spite.
Forgive us our sins.
Forgive us and give us courage to melt these nails and turn them into ploughshares.
Les Miller, Northern Light, 2020
As we meditate on our Canadian Way of the Cross, let us listen to the resonances between the unjust trial of Jesus and the disproportionate numbers of indigenous and Black Canadians in our criminal justice system. Let us look at the wounds on the back of Jesus and think of the scars on our landscape caused by excessive extraction of minerals and trees. Let us contemplate those carrying the crosses of this pandemic in our long-term care homes and hospitals.
Les Miller retired as Religious Education, Family Life and Equity Coordinator with the York Catholic District School Board and then taught with OISE (University of Toronto), York University and Niagara University. He has written or contributed to more than 20 books in the area of spirituality and Catholic education.