"Veronica," Doris Frass-Heckermann, All rights reserved
At 14 he was an altar boy and already a full-blown junky. I didn’t know him then. When I met him more than twenty years later, he was off narcotics and getting clean in NA. He had never believed in God, even when he was an altar boy, but he believed what they told him in NA – that he needed a Higher Power. It didn’t matter who or what his Higher Power was, they told him. He needed to believe in it and be able to turn “his will and his life” over to it.
He found himself thinking about his altar boy days. He told me he had liked being an altar boy during Lent when they opened up the church at night for the Stations of the Cross. There were 14 Stations depicted in oil paintings that were hung in order around the nave of the church. Each painting commemorated an event in Jesus’ final hours -- from his condemnation by Pilate to his crucifixion on Calvary to his entombment. He accompanied the priest, who led the parishoners slowly though the Stations, stopping to pray at each one.
His favorite was Station 6: “Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.” At that point in the story Jesus had already been whipped by the Romans and crowned with thorns. He had been forced to carry his heavy cross up the long hill in the heat, and he had fallen down, exhausted. Veronica, a woman from the neighborhood who barely knew Jesus, stepped out of the crowd and wiped the sweat and blood off his face with a cloth. Then she disappeared back into the crowd.
“The priest told us Jesus was supposed to be a regular man and the son of God,” he said. “But I decided Veronica didn’t care about the God part. Maybe she didn’t even think about it. She wiped Jesus’ face because he was in pain. He was beat up and bleeding. He knew it was over. He was crying. He was going to die soon. Jesus was scared.
“So, all those years later, I realized: OK, maybe I still don't understand about Jesus, but I can start to understand Veronica," he told me. "Veronica was being kind. She was doing a simple, kind thing. And I realized there was more to it than that. Because, remember … Veronica was supposedly wiping the face of God. She was wiping God’s face! She was comforting him. And that made sense to me. I liked that. So I decided as part of my recovery I would try to be kind too. And being kind to the people in my life -- that would be my Higher Power.”