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The Jazz Theologian

(Here's another installment from my current writing project)

Frances Xavier Cabrini founded the Missionary Sisters
of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the simple goal of spreading devotion to the
heart of Christ through acts of mercy. 
During her time on earth she established “sixty-seven hospitals,
orphanages and schools—one for each year of her life.”[1]  In the foothills just west of Denver is
the Mother Cabrini Shrine.  For
almost two decades, I have visited this place multiple times a year because it
reminds me that the cross is a way of
life.

            You
see, Mother Cabrini would often walk with her adopted orphan children to the
highest point of the mountain. In 1954, a stairway of prayer was constructed
along this well-worn path.  The three
hundred seventy-three steps to the top lead you to a twenty-two-foot tall
statue of Jesus standing upon an eleven-foot pedestal facing east.  His right hand extends palm up toward
the millions of people who reside below in the Mile High City’s metro area.  With his left hand, he pulls his robe
aside revealing his heart encircled, by a crown of thorns, to the world.  I’ve always found this image
intriguing.  We talk so much about
inviting Jesus into our hearts but
what if the invitation is to enter his?  Is the goal to get Jesus into our
life?  After all, he already took
the initiative to incarnate himself, but it is “in him all things hold together.”[2]  Even in his cross.

The climb up to the statue takes
you past fourteen crosses that mark the Way of the Cross (also known as The
Stations of the Cross).  Attached
to each wooden cross is a stone mosaic depicting an episode in Christ’s Passion.  Benches are placed in front of each
station so you can sit and consider the road of suffering that our Savior
followed.  Among the scenes depicted
are Christ’s condemnation by Herod; Jesus’ taking up of his cross; his struggle
to carry the cross; his humiliation in being stripped bare; and his body nailed
upon the tree.

            On
one of my first dates with my then future-wife I took her to this sacred
place.  At dusk we climbed
hand-in-hand along the way of the cross. 
At the top we watched the sun set behind the Continental Divide to the
west and we prayed as we looked out over our city lights with the statue of
Christ watching over us.  Though
our relationship was young our hearts knew that this was right and that God was
calling us to walk the way of the cross together.

Eventually, the chill of the
evening chased us from the overlook, sending us back down the steps to the
warmth of the car.  When we reached
the exit of the shrine parking lot; however, we were stunned to find the gate
closed.  We were locked in! 

There was a light on in the
nearby stone house so we drove to it and knocked.  One of the Sister’s opened the door and sternly informed us
that the mountain closes at sundown. 
She then put on her boots with her habit, hopped in a near by 4 x 4
truck and unlocked the gate. 
Today, Barbara and I smile every time we drive through the gate in our
fifteen-passenger van filled with our six children and their friends.   As we stand in a circle, holding
hands and praying the Lord’s Prayer before we climb to the top with our
children, we remember how it all began.


[1] http://www.mothercabrinishrine.org/

[2] Col. 1.17
(italics added)

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