by Jessica Langdon
LEAWOOD — “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“It is finished.”
The very words that congregations hear during Holy Week services are the focus of a devotion that has become a significant part of the Lenten journey for some local Catholics.
“The Seven Last Words of Christ,” presented in several area parishes this Lent, focuses on seven brief phrases Jesus spoke on the cross.
In most of the presentations, reflections and/or a musical piece follow each scriptural quote.
“One of the reasons I love the program so much is because it just has such gritty themes that I think so many people can identify with, like forgiveness and abandonment,” said 17-year-old Genevieve Frank, a member of Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee. “And it just shows the humanity of Jesus so much.”
Genevieve produced and directed the two performances Good Shepherd’s youth group presented of
“The Seven Last Words” this Lent — one on March 28 at Church of the Nativity in Leawood, and the second on April 13 at Good Shepherd.
Several different faith groups were invited to attend the performance at Good Shepherd.
Genevieve, who also played the violin, cherishes using music in this way.
“The music just expresses so much of what is unsaid in the program,” she said.
The children of the Frank family, six of whom were trained in classical music from childhood, were instrumental in creating this event a few years ago, building an hour-long performance on the structure of the lengthier one composer Joseph Haydn was commissioned to write in 1785 for the Diocese of Cadiz, Spain.
Molly Frank, the oldest and now studying at Loyola University in Chicago, arranged the musical pieces and wrote one of the works herself. She also compiled the spoken reflections, writing several of the pieces.
The reflections include a piece from Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkota, describing her work with the poor and sick, as well as a reflection on suffering, which the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin wrote as he battled cancer.
Mary Plumb, a parishioner of Church of the Nativity, found the performance touched all the emotions — from sorrow to anticipation of the Resurrection — that are part of the season.
“It really allows you to feel everything that Easter and this Lenten time period are,” she said.
Father Francis Hund, pastor of Church of the Nativity and previously pastor of Good Shepherd, was excited about the opportunity to offer this gift of time and talent to parishioners.
“What an inspiration it is to have young folks lead us in prayer and reflections and beautiful music — even music that they composed themselves,” he said.
The devotion has become a tradition at a number of parishes during Lent, and each makes its presentation its own.
Genevieve believes the service offers something to every person who attends.
“It’s a great thing to come to because you can just sit and listen,” she said. “You don’t have to talk; you don’t have to do anything except take in what speaks to you.”
“It’s a great pause on the Lenten journey,” agreed Father Hund. “I think sometimes people don’t make enough time for quiet, and tonight — between the music and the reflections — it was a great pause on the journey.”