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Simon of Cyrene, no. V of a set of Stations of the Cross,

by Sr. Ann Catherine Swailes OP

Sr Ann Catherine is a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine’s Convent, Cambridge, and a Catholic Chaplain to Cambridge University.

Station V

Simon of Cyrene: Alexander speaks.

“And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.”


He wasn’t one for talking, the old man.

And yet, it seemed to me his quiet sang,

As though a word, some mighty, labouring word

faltered beside him, and he shouldered it

In silence, made that burden his,

Then chanted it throughout his stumbling life.


You’d sometimes hear it of a Lord’s day, when,

Embarrassed as some men can be at prayers,

He’d throne the living bread upon his palms,

then seem to topple as beneath a weight

unbearable yet longed for, sharp as love.

I’d wonder then what jostled in his mind,

What clanging, stamping memories were there.


I know we never feared to lean on him

When we were growing up. Our friends, half-men,

Would flush, bite lips, rage, blinking at the ground

When iron fathers made up what they lacked,

And loaned them strength they had not yet acquired.

Our father bent, and stooping, soothed our pride,

Exchanging it for glory, like a God’s.


And in his last days, when the milky tears

of age would leak from eyes turned elsewhere, then

I think our father sang his truest note.

I heard it once, one evening when the sun

In dying scarred the clouds with red, the hour

When he would let us touch him. Then, words came

Whether to us, or him, they were addressed:

Go, and do likewise. That was all he said.

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