Brighton, MI

The Good Friday Hike Making Brighton Men Feel Closer to Jesus

Joseph Serwach Image by Robert Allmann from Pixabay.

Why do Christians call their darkest day “Good Friday?” Rory Clark invited neighbors to bear their own cross in a two-hour, three-mile hike.

“When Jesus went into His passion, His followers were crushed, just devastated,” Clark, founder of Brighton, Michigan’s Men on Fire movement, explains. “A word came to me: ‘surrender.’ ‘Sur’ means ‘high above’ and ‘render’ means to give away. God totally gives Himself.”

Clark challenges men to walk similar steps to give themselves up for their families and community as they pray sacred prayers together.

In 2019, Clark inspired a group of local Catholic men, mostly from St. Patrick and Holy Spirit parishes in Livingston County, to start Good Friday morning by carrying a long cross-like beam through the woods, while praying the Stations of the Cross.

The 2020 Pandemic, which suspended Holy Week Masses and Lenten services around the world, inspired the men to build something new. Church left its buildings:

  • They took beams normally used for supporting wooden backyard decks and turned them into large, heavy crosses of all sizes (my own cross weighs 27 pounds, filling my car’s front passenger seat).
  • Each man held his own large cross, carrying it three miles up the wooded, hills of Penosha Hiking Trail at Brighton State Recreation Area near Bishop Lake.
  • After completing the 2020 Stations of the Cross hike, hikers were asked to take their new cross home and bring it back for the 2021 hike.
  • The Brighton men assembled new crosses to add more men to the hike this year.
“Christmas and Easter can be subjects for poetry, but Good Friday, like Auschwitz, cannot. The reality is so horrible it is not surprising that people should have found it a stumbling block to faith.” ― W.H. Auden.

Pope Francis: Cross is ‘non-negotiable,’ present from the beginning

Preaching the Gospel “is effective — not because of our eloquent words, but because of the power of the cross,” Pope Francis said in his latest April 1 Chrism Mass homily.

The cross “is non-negotiable,” he stressed, and it can be found throughout the Gospel, “from the very beginning of Jesus’ life.”

“It makes us understand that the Cross is not an afterthought, something that happened by chance in the Lord’s life,” Pope Francis said. “It is true that all who crucify others throughout history would have the Cross appear as collateral damage, but that is not the case: the Cross does not appear by chance. The great and small crosses of humanity, the crosses of each of us, do not appear by chance.”

The Cross, including misunderstanding, rejection, and persecution, is always there, the pope said, not as an afterthought or “something that happened by chance in the Lord’s life.”

The pope called the Cross “an integral part of our human condition, our limits, and our frailty. Yet, it is also true that something happens on the Cross that does not have to do with our human weakness but is the bite of the serpent, who, seeing the crucified Lord defenseless, bites him in an attempt to poison and undo all his work.”

The “bite” of evil calls us to be selfish, telling us in our suffering to “save yourself,” the pope said, trying “to scandalize — and this is an era of scandals — a bite that seeks to disable and render futile and meaningless all service and loving sacrifice for others.”

The Cross, he added, showed Jesus’ “infinite meekness and obedience to the will of the Father,” providing us the example of ultimate humility — showing us “the antidote that neutralizes the power of the evil one.”

“If Christ is God, He cannot sin, and if suffering was a sin in and by itself, He could not have suffered and died for us. However, since He took the most horrific death to redeem us, He showed us in fact that suffering and pain have great power.” ― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly.

The lessons of the Brighton hike: No Easter without Good Friday

Carrying a wooden cross three miles through the woods on a cold morning isn’t easy, but it’s nothing compared to the sacrifices Jesus made on Good Friday. None of our sacrifices measure up to the one made on Good Friday.

Ephesians 5, the key Biblical passage on marriage, says men are called to sacrifice their very lives for their family the way Christ suffered on the cross for His bride, the Church. He shows us the Way.

Father Chris Alar, the University of Michigan graduate who is director of the Marian Helpers, calls the Bible “a love story about God (the Groom) who is “passionately trying to woo his unfaithful Bride,” the Church.

In his book Understanding Divine Mercy, Alar explains the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve — and its aftermath — made us untrusting, “scared, skittish creatures. We’re afraid; we’re skeptical; we’re broken.”

A loving God keeps trying to woo us back by humbling Himself and allowing us to become humbled through our own crosses. As the Marians explain it: God answers our suffering with love, creating a greater Divine Mercy.

Good Friday also marks the start of a nine-day Divine Mercy Novena leading to Divine Mercy Sunday, the Sunday feast after Easter called “a refuge and a shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners.”

Why is Good Friday good? Because it marks the day Christ’s plan to defeat the devil is set in motion with His death, leading to His Easter Resurrection.

Good Friday: When the Worst Thing Happened to the Best Person

The worst thing happened to the best person on Good Friday so why do we call it good? Because Catholics are romantic, Father Ryan Mann explains:

We believe that the biggest jerk can become the holiest person in our lives. We believe that the lowly are the ones who will be raised... We believe that joy changes lives. That a piece of bread and a cup of wine transforms into the Body and Blood of Christ and consuming that Body and Blood will transform us.”

Ultimately, Christians see Good Friday, suffering, and death as a door rather than a wall, a beginning rather than an end. We call this Friday of Holy Wek “good” because we are an Easter people.

As St. John Paul the Great said, “We do not pretend that life is all beauty. We are aware of darkness and sin, of poverty and pain. But we know Jesus has conquered sin and passed through his own pain to the glory of the Resurrection … We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song.” Photo by Wim van 't Einde on Unsplash

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