By Deacon James N. Dunbar
FAIRHAVEN, Mass. — Asked to consider how adult evangelization might play a part in the ongoing diocesan celebration of the Year For Priests, Deacon Bruce J. Bonneau worried about adding another event to the already busy calendar of most parishes.
“Then it came to me that the Stations of the Cross traditionally held in parishes during Lent, mostly on Fridays, would be a good forum, because they are all about loving the heart of Jesus, which is what the priesthood is all about,” Deacon Bonneau told The Anchor a week before Lent began.
“The Stations and the priesthood reflect Christ’s passion too,” he added. “There is a cost to discipleship, and it usually is the way of the cross, often called the road to salvation,” he said. “And we begin to realize, as we make the Stations, it is more about falling down that raising ourselves up.”
In his mediations for the Third Station, when Jesus falls the first time, Deacon Bonneau wrote: “Lord Jesus Christ, creator of all the universe, you fell beneath the weight of the tree and, in the sight of all, lay humbled in the very dust from which we were created. Reveal to those priests of yours brought low by weakness the surpassing power of your grace deployed in infirmity, for when they are weak, you are their strength, and when they fall, you raise them up.”
For Deacon Bonneau, his new Way of the Cross began last December.
“I thought, after all their duties as pastors, administrators, programmers — and often as counter-cultural leaders, the deeper level of the priesthood is their personal journey loving Christ, an important dimension, and one frequently overlooked by those around them,” he explained.
“We need to pray for our priests,” he asserted.
As the assistant director of Adult Evangelization and Spirituality for the Diocesan Office of Faith Formation, Deacon Bonneau’s authoring of a new set of prayers for use in making the Stations while keeping priests in mind is aptly entitled “Priesthood Is the Love of the Heart of Jesus.”
While the readings are richly based on Scripture, the deacon has innovatively chosen texts that offer new reflections on the pertinent Stations in their traditional format.
The prayers and meditations, along with anthems and music, have received the hearty endorsement of Father Marcel H. Bouchard, director of the Year For Priests in the Fall River Diocese, as well as the Presbyteral Council.
“The total effort is not altogether mine, as the footnotes explain,” said Deacon Bonneau, who was ordained to the diaconate on May 22, 1993, and who ministers at St. Mary’s Parish in Fairhaven.
“Some parts were adapted from the magazine Magnificat, and the Year for Priests Companion. The music, “Lord, By Your Cross and Resurrection,” is by Jesuit Father John B. Foley, and used by permission,” he said. “I don’t want to miss thanking Rose Marie Saraiva, administrator at the Faith Formation Office, who helped to put it all in a format.”
As something of a premiere for the new Stations, Deacon Bonneau will lead them himself at four parishes in coming Lenten weeks.
They will be held at St. Joseph’s in Fairhaven on February 19; at St. John the Evangelist in Attleboro on March 12; at St. Mary’s in Mansfield on March 19; and at Corpus Christi in Sandwich on March 26.
“All we ask of those parishes is that they provide lectors and altar servers,” Deacon Bonneau explained.
He will be assisted by Philip Pereira, an organist and musician, who ministers at St. Michael’s Parish in Fall River and St. John Neumann in East Freetown.
“‘The Priesthood Is the Love of the Heart of Jesus’ Stations is available for anyone or any parish to use by going online, fallriverfaithformation.org,” Deacon Bonneau reported. “While we can print the eight-page booklets in color for them, there will be a minimal cost. But they can be obtained free online and then people or parishes can print them inexpensively themselves.”
Asked how priests have reacted to the Stations of Cross, he said, “Very positively. I think they are happy to know they are remembered in people’s prayers — even as the priests themselves might be leading the Way of the Cross.”
The reflections for the 14th Station, Jesus is Laid in the Tomb, especially petitions the Blessed Mother: “… let the prayer of your Virgin Mother enfold the priests of your Church and sustain them in the valley of the shadow of death, that by always carrying your passion in their bodies, they many contemplate your face in faith’s dark night and rejoice in the revelation of your glory.”
For the closing prayer, Deacon Bonneau used the prayer for priests authorized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It too, asks the Mother of God to sustain those her son has called to follow him.
It reads in part, “Dear Lord, we pray that the Blessed Mother wrap her mantle around your priests and through her intercession strengthen them for their ministry.”
CLICK HERE TO SEE A PDF VERSION OF DEACON BONNEAU’S STATIONS OF THE CROSS