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The Way of the Cross with reflections drawn from the First World War Conscientious Objectors

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April 14, 2017

pax christi logo 02REFLECTION - Wilfred Owen, the soldier poet,  recognised how the suffering of  his  men in the First World War  matched the stages of Christ’s own passion and death.  Four months before  he was himself killed in  France , Owen was training troops in England and wrote: For 14 hours yesterday I was at work  – teaching Christ to lift his cross by numbers, and how  to adjust his crown; and not to imagine he thirst till after th e last halt.  I attended his  Supper to see that there were no t complaints; and inspected his feet that they should be  worthy of the nails.  I see to it that he is dumb and stands  at attention before all his  accusers.  With a piece of silver I buy him every day, and with maps I make him familiar  with the topography of Golgotha. 1 Equally vivid descriptions are  to be found in  letters and diaries of the conscientious objectors of  the First World War.  They did not presume to compare their suffering to that of men in the  trenches, and they faced the permanent accusation that they were cowards who had taken the soft  option. But as they endured humiliating and brutal  punishment, and frequent threats of the  death penalty, many were sustained by the  example of Chri st.  In his cell in Richmond  Castle John ‘Bert’  Brocklesby  s ke tched an  image of Jesus collapsing under the cross,  with these words from a hymn: ‘Every cross  grows light beneath the shadow Lord of  Thine’. 2016 is the centenary of the introduction of  conscr iption in the First World War, and with  it the first opportunity in law for men to  declare their conscientious objection to  fighting.  However, few applicants were  actually given the exemption they  requested, which meant that many continued  to resist mil itary service and went to prison as a consequence.  These extracts describing the  experience of the ‘conchies’ are offered as a meditation on the Way of the Cross.

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Source: paxchristi.org.uk

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