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Calgarians journey on the Way of the Cross

Calgarians journey on the Way of the Cross

MARIO TONEGUZZI, Montreal Gazette
5 April 2012

Friar Louis Geelan on the grounds at Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre near Cochrane. The retreat centre has two different Stations of the Cross in the woods that are popular during the week leading up to Good Friday, and on Friday there will be hundreds who come out to the Mount.

Photograph by: Leah Hennel , Calgary Herald

Hundreds of Calgarians are expected to come together today for the annual outdoor Way of the Cross — an opportunity for them to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and contemplate his suffering.


Jana Drapal, social justice co-ordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary, said people come to walk along inner-city streets and stop at 14 Stations of the Cross to listen to Scripture readings and to reflect on the suffering, passion and death of Jesus on his journey.

The 29th annual Way of the Cross will be a two-and-a-half-hour procession that starts and ends at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral at 18th Avenue and 2nd Street S.W.

“As Jesus shared in our human suffering, and even death itself, so many of us come to walk with Jesus in His suffering and share His pain,” said Drapal. “We also see our own life hardships reflected in the burden of carrying the cross. We contemplate the great love that Jesus showed when He gave His life for all people in the world, so that they may have life.

“The Way of the Cross is more than just a personal journey. Jesus’s death is redemptive and in his dying we are reconciled with God, healed and redeemed. Through our participation in the walk, we ask that Jesus forgive our sins, heal our wounds and transform us more into the image and likeness of God.”

Drapal said at the heart of the practice is also the idea and practice of solidarity as everyone shares the common experience of seeing a loved one or someone close to them suffer.

“As we participate in the outdoor Way of the Cross, we are also in solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters who are thirsting for compassion and justice in the world today,” said Drapal.

The 14 Stations of the Cross represent the major events in the last few days of the life of Jesus Christ, starting with his condemnation by Pontius Pilate on Good Friday morning and ending with His resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Each station is also dedicated to various groups that are involved in serving marginalized people in society — those with disabilities, those persecuted for their political and religious convictions, those suffering from illness, the homeless, the unemployed, the victims of human trafficking and prostitution, refugees, child workers and aboriginal peoples, said Drapal.

More than 1,200 people took part last year and organizers are expecting even more this year.

“I believe that many people continue to attend the Way of the Cross because they want to commemorate the great importance of Good Friday in their Christian faith, which focuses on the redemptive meaning of Jesus’s suffering and death,” said Drapal.

“The event is, however, not only attended by Christians, as many people from all faith backgrounds participate every year and everyone is welcome to attend. The procession is attended by young and old — often you will see grandparents, parents and children walking and praying side by side.”

Father Kevin Lynch of the Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre in Cochrane said many practices and devotions surrounding the Way of the Cross are ways of “walking with the Lord, in his presence.”

“It’s identifying with the sense of walking through the struggle into glory. At the end of the day, he does rise from the dead. If we miss that, there’s no hope,” said Lynch.

The retreat centre has two different Stations of the Cross in the woods.

Lynch said the devotion is popular during the week leading up to Good Friday, and on Friday there will be hundreds who come out to the Mount.

Calgary’s Roman Catholic Bishop Fred Henry said the Christian must not only accept suffering but must make it holy.

“Nothing so easily becomes unholy as suffering. Merely accepted, suffering does nothing for our souls except perhaps to harden them. Endurance alone is no consecration. True asceticism is not a mere cult of fortitude. We can deny ourselves rigorously for the wrong reason and end up by pleasing ourselves mightily with our self-denial,” said Henry.

“Suffering, therefore, can only be consecrated to God by one who believes that Jesus is not dead. And it is of the very essence of Christianity to face suffering and death not because they are good, not because they have meaning, but because the resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of their meaning.

“The redemption of all people is only accomplished by the death of Jesus upon the cross. This truth is the foundation of all transformation and holiness in us. Because Christ’s cross is the price of our redemption, we must treasure this gift unceasingly throughout life. Joy and gratitude to God for the work of the cross must be the bedrock of any Christian spirituality.”

Henry said Christ calls people to apply the power of the cross in their lives so that they may truly “take up our cross and follow him.”

“The Good News is that Jesus has saved us through his cross and gives us the means to be fixed with him in death to sin and life of grace leading to eternal bliss with the risen Lord,” explained Henry.

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