Living the Way of the Cross

Living Way of the Cross at St Raphael
Catholic Church, Raleigh, NC

For over 2000 years people have been modeling their lives in the way Jesus taught us. For over 500 years a book called The Imitation of Christ, written by Thomas à Kempis, has provided comfort, understanding, peace and been a source of prayer for millions of people. In the seminary we used to read a short meditation from that book each evening. Fr. Norman Butler, M.S., wrote from Argentina about how some people, while meditating and enacting the Way of the Cross, came to an understanding of Christ’s presence today in their lives:

For Holy Week in Argentina most parishes put on what is called a “Living Way of the Cross.” Teenagers and young adults get together to act out the passion of Christ. Costumes tend to be the “classic” Roman soldier fare, while tunics and shawls serve for Jesus, the apostles and the chief priests.

This year I saw a very special and original presentation. It was put on by young drug addicts who are in a recovery program. This program takes place on our La Salette property in Pilar near Buenos Aires.

Living Way of the Cross in front of St.
Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, Australia

The special way of the cross had two parallel sets of actors: one set to act out Jesus’ way of the cross, and another to illustrate a drug user’s way of the cross. When Peter denied knowing Jesus, the drug user denied being a blessed and loved creature of God. When Jesus fell under the weight of his wooden cross, the drug addict fell under the weight of a cross he was carrying with the words “drugs, theft, sickness, and abuse”. But here a very significant gesture united the two sets of actors. Jesus got up from his fall and limped over to the drug addict to help him get up! Then Jesus returned to his own cross, and others continued to help the addict where Jesus left off. Then for the crucifixion scene, the good thief who was promised paradise was none other than the young man who had been the drug addict.

Living Way of the Cross in
Basilicata, south central Italy

Finally Jesus was taken down from the cross and embraced by a veiled woman actress, who then moved aside to make way for the real mother of the man playing Jesus. She, the mother of a real-life drug addict, wholeheartedly embraced he actor-addict son. Her son had just finished playing the role of Jesus! She was clearly moved, and so was he. The background music had already turned to resurrection Alleluias, and Jesus came back to life to return his mother’s loving embrace.

It was clear that he too could hardly believe that he had just finished playing the part of Jesus in this “Living Way of the Cross.” What a striking bit of amateur theater! And what a way to illustrate the Pascal Mystery: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? (1 Cor 15:55)”

We have been rescued from sin and death by the cross and resurrection of Jesus.


Living Way of the Cross on Good Friday
at La Salette National Shrine,
Attleboro, MA, with Hispanic actors and their
families and Fr. John Sullivan, M.S. (right)

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