Via Media

Via Media

Yesterday, we attended the Stations of the Cross, recreated by the Hispanic community of St. Patrick’s parish.

I’d always wanted to go before but could never catch it – it’s a little earlier than you’d expect – 11 am (but goes until well after 1).

It was well done, busy, crowded, and solemn. The crowd was overwhelmingly under  50. I’d say that by the end, there were over 300 people following along.

A guitarist and sound system lead the scene from a pickup. We began at the side of the church – near where the crucifixion would happen, then slowly made our way out and around the block for the stations. Scripture readings, meditations (read from the Spanish-language Magnificat, in case anyone’s interested), Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and then, procession with music – very simple music. with repetitive refrain – two songs, both with a variation of perdone as their theme.  Even I could sing along after a couple of times.


The players did a fine job – soldiers mocked and beat without hesitation, women mourned loudly (and led the music, effectively, naturally), Pontius Pilate was brooding and thoughtful. The crucifixion was done this way: The two thieves stood in place, their arms wrapped around the back of the crossbeams of their crosses, holding them upright that way, but Jesus grasped two looped ropes on his, which kept him in place as they hoisted his cross – pretty high into the air, too.

It was hot, it was long – it was what a Via Crucis should be. Absorbing, a little challenging, tiring. Along the way, in the houses along the block, people stood on their porches or looked out their windows. I wanted to go up to them and tell them to join, to invite them to be a part of it.  It may look strange, but it actually makes the most sense of anything in the world. In fact, for some of us, it’s hard to make sense of life without it. Come – walk with us.

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posted April 15, 2006 at 9:49 am

We had processions yesterday as a first (at least in a long time). Our parish and the next parish south joined in a Via Crucis from their church to ours, probably about 3 miles. It was not an enactment but a Stations of the Cross spread out over the walk. I understand it about 250 people participated. After the evening liturgy, we did a “procession to the sepulcher” with a near-lifesize statue of Jesus reclining in death on a bier. For some reason, the clergy and bier brought up the rear of the procession. I would have expected them to lead. Maybe 200 people did that one (including me), then an all-night vigil was kept before the bier.

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Jennifer N.

posted April 15, 2006 at 10:27 am

Wow, Amy, that sounds wonderful. What a great way to help me to understand more deeply what Christ’s passion was like. (Especially since I’m too big of a chicken to have watched Mel Gibson’s movie)
I wonder if there is something like that in SE Michigan?

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Mila Morales

posted April 15, 2006 at 11:06 am

The meditations for the Stations of the Cross in the Spanish-language Magnificat are the ones composed by Pope Benedict XVI for last year’s stations at the Colosseum.

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posted April 15, 2006 at 12:21 pm

Amy, I participated in the Way of the Cross by Communion and Liberation yesterday in Downtown Washington, D.C. Our Way of the Cross is not a reinactment, but rather a meditation of four stations that includes readings from the Gospel, poetry of Peguy, Paul Claudel, and Msgr. Giussani and Fr. Julian Carron. It’s also marked by beautiful songs (Tallis chants, spirituals, Italian songs) and silence along the procession.
As we made our way down the Mall to the Washington Monument, the many tourists would stop and look, some would join in for a few minutes, most would try to avert their eyes. I too wanted to go up and invite them to the even in front of them. By the end, some 20 people had joined us along the route.
I couldn’t help but imagine that this is what it was like at the original Via Crucis as well. Most would stop and look, wonder, be struck by that man and his cross, but then they wouldn’t want to get to close, to involve themselves too much, and they would look away. It’s amazing how a simple cross can be so provoking.

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Gerard E.

posted April 15, 2006 at 12:26 pm

Stephen- the cross still does that sign of contradiction thing. To paraphrase Paul Simon, still contradictory after all these years.

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posted April 15, 2006 at 2:55 pm

Recreations of the Stations of the Cross are very traditional in Mexico, there are several in every city in the country. There were at least two near where I live, one at a Franciscan Chapel a few blocks from my house, and another at a church nearby. They are nearly always at 10 or 11 AM.
The most spectacular Stations of the Cross ever, in my opinion, takes place in Ixtapalapa, in Mexico City. It was attended by more than 2 million people, and it has been done for 162 years. It begins on Thursday, with a re-enactment of Jesus’ trial in Pontious Pilate’s palace, then the actor representing Jesus spends the night in jail. The next day they go through the scorging, and then the way of the cross, and finally the scene of the crucifixion. Not only that, but there will be a big resurrection scene as well, today at 8 PM.
This representation is broadcasted live with a priest explaining each of the scenes on TV, which is beyond cool. Also, the man who plays Jesus is selected among several candidates at least a year beforehand, and he must prepare spiritually for his role by fasting, going to daily mass, receiving confession and such for several months before the play.
It is a good remainder of what being Catholic really is about. :)

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posted April 15, 2006 at 3:27 pm

Coolness, Amy! The students at our Univ. put on a similar Way of the Cross on Tuesday. Always an interesting, prayerful experience! [The student newspaper’s coverage of the event was beyond hilarious, however!]

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posted April 15, 2006 at 3:46 pm

In Italy, Ways of the Cross ceremonies are still vital to many community spiritual traditions in rural Sicily . They are extremely elaborate taking months to prepare and days to perform..
Blessed Easter to all. Glenn ( in Italy )

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posted April 15, 2006 at 3:49 pm

While we did not have a procession we did have stations yeasterday at our parish. I have been attending this service for about the past 10 years. When I first went a decade ago there 50 or so people, mostly elderly. Yesterday,…STANDING ROOM ONLY. It was packed with families, young old etc. I’d say there about 400 people there. And it was so reverant, you could have heard a pin drop. Oh, except for my five year old who learned how to whistle yesterday. UGH!

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posted April 15, 2006 at 3:50 pm

sorry about the typos

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posted April 15, 2006 at 4:06 pm

Jennifer N.
A Catholic church in Lansing, MI does the stations outdoors annually. I went at least once. I can’t remember which church since I no longer live there. I can get the details if you are interested.

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Jimmy Huck

posted April 15, 2006 at 7:09 pm

Amen! When I lived in Reading, PA, the Hispanic community there also put on a wonderful and similar Way of the Cross. It was always as you described. This tradition of outdoor procession and theatrical reenactment is an integral part of Latin Catholic Community life. I’ve participated in such events on many occasions in Latin American. And I bet many Latinos in the US who attend these events are also probably illegal immigrants. If illegal immigrants help to revitalize the Catholic Church in the United States, then I say it’s worth having them here with us.
Happy Easter!

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Jennifer N.

posted April 15, 2006 at 7:10 pm

Thanks, Anne! If it’s no trouble, I’d love it if you could email with any details. I’ll ask around my Lansing diocese friends, too. It would certainly be worth the drive to experience a living stations of the cross.

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Elizabeth M

posted April 15, 2006 at 7:43 pm

New Orleanians, as is the custom down here, had numerous Stations of the Cross processions. It’s a custom here as well to visit 9 churches on Good Friday (a bit more difficult nowadays, but people still did it). Link to Times Picayune article on Good Friday custom:

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posted April 15, 2006 at 9:57 pm

I would like to do this with my students (at our Catholic high school) next year. Can anyone point me towards some resources for putting together a reverent, substantive Passion play/via Crucis?
Thanks –

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tony c

posted April 16, 2006 at 12:22 am

Great post.
They did a Spanish Via Crucis in my old neighborhood in Boston (Jamaica Plain).
Through the streets between 2 churches. Police escort. Pastor praying through a bullhorn. Our Father n Hail Mary n Gloria in the walk between stations. No actors or anything. Just a guy carrying a big painted-brown styrofoam cross for iconic value.
Good tunes on the guitar courtesy of a Franciscan Friar. Wore the habit. Heart felt Puerto Rican and Dominican singers.
I did the “Way” back when I was a shaky re-vert and worried that my “college buddies” would see me. Hah! Even better! I had to make a choice which mob I was gonna run wit. Yo.
Man. I miss that neighborhood. Adoration on Fridays and pork k-bobs (Pinchos) on Saturdays, bought off a lady on the sidewalk. $2bucks a piece. (Licensed vendor, if you’re keeping score) Old dudes, in hats, playing checkers or dominoes on a folding card table across the street.
Viva Christo Rey!

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Mary Ruebelmann-Benavides

posted April 16, 2006 at 1:25 am

In my city all the Catholic churches do a city wide procession. Each Church is station one and they slowly walk towards the Town Square in Anchorage to finish together with the last station. It is a truly beautiful experience!

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posted April 17, 2006 at 9:51 am

Jennifer N.
It will take me a while to contact my friends for the details and get back to you.

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