Over the course of four hours, as we did the 14 Stations, we walked through the Lower East Side and the East and West Village — as far east as Tompkins Square Park, as far west as Washington Street, and as far north as Union Square Park. Wherever we went, the wooden cross went first, lifted high by one of the men. A few other participants carried tall torches, which also served to relight walkers’ candles. Many walkers carried palm leaves; a few palm leaves were also draped around the cross.
We did the Stations mostly outside churches — Catholic ones — including a Latino church, a Polish one (St. Stanislaus), and one that I think was Slovenian (St. Cyril’s). The diversity of ethnic churches within a few square miles was a beautiful reminder of Catholicism’s universality.
We did most of the other Stations at parks. At Union Square, we found ourselves beneath a stunning statue on a high pedestal of Mary holding the baby Jesus, with John the Baptist standing by. (I cannot find any mention of this online and would love it if someone could tell me more about it.) I’ve walked by that spot numerous times , mostly during the years before I was a Christian, and I don’t recall ever noticing it before. It’s a mysterious reminder of Jesus and His Mother, placed in one of the city’s most famously anti-Christian locations (which has hosted countless communist and socialist protests over the years).
We also did one Station, the second, at a place where thousands of innocent people had been killed. It was at Margaret Sanger Square, at the side of Planned Parenthood of New York City’s headquarters.