The Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus to Carry the Cross

For the last fourteen days of Lent, I’m posting one Station of the Cross per day, taken from Pope John Paul II’s 2003 Good Friday meditations, and Pope Benedict’s 2005 Good Friday meditations, both delivered at the Colosseum.


V. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi. [We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee.]
R. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum. [Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.]

Pope John Paul II

From the Gospel according to Mark. 15:21-22

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. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.


Simon of Cyrene, called upon to carry the Cross (cf. Mk 15:21; Lk 23:26), doubtless had no wish to do so. He was forced to. He walked beside Christ, bearing the same burden. When the condemned man’s shoulders became too weak, he lent him his. He was very close to Jesus, closer than Mary, closer than John who – though he too was a man – was not called upon to help. They called on him, Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as we learn from the Gospel of Mark (Mk 15:21). They summoned him, they compelled him.

How long did he continue to resent being forced into this? How long did he continue to walk beside this condemned man, all the while making it clear that he had nothing in common with him, nothing to do with his crime, nothing to do with his punishment? How long did he go on like that, torn within himself, a barrier of indifference standing between him and the Man who was suffering? “I was naked, I was thirsty, I was in prison” (cf. Mt 25:35-36), I carried the Cross. “Did you carry it with me?” “Did you really carry it with me to the very end?”

We do not know. Saint Mark simply records the names of the Cyrenian’s sons, and tradition has it that they were members of the Christian community close to Saint Peter (cf. Rom 16:13).


Christ, Good Samaritan, neighbour to the poor, the sick, the lowly. R. Christe, eleison.
Christ, Servant of the Eternal Father, you consider done to you every act of love towards the exile, the outcast, the stranger. R. Christe, eleison

Pope Benedict XVI

From the Gospel according to Matthew. 27:32; 16:24

As they went out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry his cross.

Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.


Fifth Station of the Cross, Saint-Jean-Baptiste au Béguinage

Simon of Cyrene is on his way home, returning from work, when he comes upon the sad procession of those condemned – for him, perhaps, it was a common sight. The soldiers force this rugged man from the country to carry the Cross on his own shoulders. How annoying he must have thought it to be suddenly caught up in the fate of those condemned men! He does what he must do, but reluctantly. Significantly, the Evangelist Mark does not only name him, but also his children, who were evidently known as Christians and as members of that community (cf. Mk 15:21). From this chance encounter, faith was born.

The Cyrenian, walking beside Jesus and sharing the burden of the Cross, came to see that it was a grace to be able to accompany him to his crucifixion and to help him. The mystery of Jesus, silent and suffering, touched his heart. Jesus, whose divine love alone can redeem all humanity, wants us to share his Cross so that we can complete what is still lacking in his suffering (cf. Col 1:24). Whenever we show kindness to the suffering, the persecuted and defenseless, and share in their sufferings, we help to carry that same Cross of Jesus. In this way we obtain salvation, and help contribute to the salvation of the world.


Lord, you opened the eyes and heart of Simon of Cyrene, and you gave him, by his share in your Cross, the grace of faith. Help us to aid our neighbors in need, even when this interferes with our own plans and desires. Help us to realize that it is a grace to be able to share the cross of others and, in this way, know that we are walking with you along the way. Help us to appreciate with joy that, when we share in your suffering and the sufferings of this world, we become servants of salvation and are able to help build up your Body, the Church.

Fifth Station of the Cross, (detail) Pfettisheim Saint Symphorian

Pater noster, …
Quis est homo qui non fleret,
matrem Christi si videret
in tanto supplicio?

Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed by Thy Name
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our Daily Bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

1 Comment

  1. Simon the Cyrene, a Jew hailing from Libya in North Africa, becomes a Christian himself, probably when the news reaches him of the resurrection of the One he helped that day. Perhaps he was there for Pentecost. Was he amongst those who carried the good news to North Africa, who helped birth the church there? It was the North African Christians like Tertulian & Augustine who contributed so much to early Christianity. Were those who first reached th Greeks his very sons? Have you encountered Jesus yet? What might He do with your life?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *