Grown-ups hoisted children on their shoulders to help them get a better look during a Good Friday gathering, known as Via Crucis, during the lunch hour at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
Members of the Catholic laity organized the dramatic reenactment of Jesus’ condemnation and crucifixion on the parish grounds. Sung and spoken almost entirely in Spanish, the event began with dozens of actors, young and old, on two stages set between the church sanctuary and school as hundreds of the faithful looked on.
While not one of the Masses that make up the Holy Week calendar, the reenactment marks the most solemn moments before Easter Sunday.
Friday’s reenactment began with handing of Jesus Christ over to the Roman Empire, from the reluctant proclamations of Pontius Pilate to the crowd’s cries of “crucify him!” When it came time for the journey with the cross, the faithful joined the actors in a chant-filled procession around the church grounds, genuflecting at some of the stations.
Scholars credit a 17th century Franciscan, Leonard of Port Maurice, with the creation of the current 14 Stations of the Cross. The stations follow Christ’s journey from the Garden of Gethsemane, where he is betrayed by Judas and arrested by the Romans, through to his laying in the tomb.
Catholics worldwide observe the stations through meditations and other ways as part of Lent, the 40 days of preparation before Easter. Scholars believe the laity’s tradition of dramatic reenactments originated in Spain and spread via that country’s colonial occupations, particularly in North and South America.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, some of the most elaborate Via Crucis stagings are hosted each year in Chicago, San Antonio, El Paso and other cities with strong Hispanic Catholic communities.
This year, the NCR noted, processions in seven cities are being sponsored by Communion and Liberation, a lay Catholic movement founded in Italy in the 1950s to unite and liberate humanity through faith. In downtown Chicago on Friday morning, for example, the Catholic faithful walked about 2 miles from Daley Plaza to Holy Name Cathedral for “The Way of the Cross.”
Denton’s reenactment ended at a mound on the north side of the parish grounds, where the actors recreated Jesus’ death on the cross and the final station — his journey to the tomb.
A woman’s a cappella soprano voice resounded in Spanish and in English as the procession finished.
“He wore a crown of thorns,” she sang.