29th Annual Outdoor Way of the Cross
Good Friday, April 6th 29th Annual Outdoor Way of the Cross
Social Justice Office, Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary
By Jana Drapal, Social Justice Coordinator
We come to walk along the inner city and stop at 14 Stations to listen to scripture readings, and to reflect on the suffering, passion and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The 29th Annual Outdoor Way of the Cross is a two-and-a-half hour procession through the inner City of Calgary that starts and ends at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral on 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. 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’ 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.
At the heart of the Outdoor Way of the Cross practice is also the idea and practice of Solidarity. We all share the common experience of seeing a loved one or someone close to us suffer. We wish that we could take on their burden. It is this idea of loving someone so much that we would like to take away his or her suffering by sharing in this person’s experience. In the case of Jesus, God loved us so much that he allowed Jesus to share in humanly life and suffering, even in death, except for sin. 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.
Themes We Contemplate Along the Way
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, aboriginal peoples, etc.
How Many Participants Attended Last Year & How Many we Anticipate Will Attend this Year
More than 1200 participants joined last year to take part in the 2011 Outdoor Way of the Cross, and I anticipate that more will join this year, as this traditional practice continues to draw more people every year. More than 2000 booklets will be distributed this year.
I believe that many people continue to attend the Annual Outdoor 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’ suffering and death. 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.
The procession also continues to draw many people every year because those who attend want to share in Jesus’ suffering and relive the events that brought our redemption and salvation. Others come to be in solidarity with their brothers and sisters who are suffering and are persecuted in the world today. They unite their suffering with the suffering of Jesus.
Historical Facts about the Outdoor Stations of the Cross
Since the early centuries Christians visited holy places in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Pilgrims to the Holy Land engaged in this religious practice from the earliest centuries. While visiting some of the more significant places of Christ’s suffering and death, Christians retraced and contemplated on the events of his last days.
By the 15th century, the practice of commemorating the events of the passion of Jesus Christ became fairly common. In the 16th century, the 14 shrines or stations, remembering the events of Jesus’ suffering and death became the accepted number of stations.