The Passion of the Christ moved
me to tears. Obviously others
at the movie—mainly young
people when I went—were also
moved. We all left in silence.
But the movie was too violent and
overly graphic for me. Mel Gibson is
a filmmaker, a dramatist. It was the
sources he used and his interpretation
of Jesus’ sufferings. Other dramas,
such as the Passion Plays at Oberammergau
or Black Hills, take a different
Personal Passion Play
The four evangelists are the authentic
source of Jesus’ last hours. On Good
Friday after reading John’s account, we
come forward individually and venerate
the cross. The choir sings the
Reproaches: “My people, what have I
done to you? How have I offended you?
Answer me!” In the liturgies of the
Triduum, we remember and participate
most perfectly in the death and resurrection
To enter more fully into the liturgy, it
helps us to create our own Passion Play,
to reenact for ourselves the suffering
and death of Jesus. The Way of the Cross
devotion allows us—as a group or individually—to become personally involved.
As the traditional hymn asks,
“Were You There When They Crucified
My Lord?” What was it like for Jesus?
What does it mean now for us?
“Christian prayer loves to follow the
way of the cross in the Savior’s steps,”
notes the Catechism of the Catholic
Church. “The Stations from the Praetorium
to Golgotha and the tomb trace
the way of Jesus, who by his holy Cross
has redeemed the world” (#2669).
For centuries pilgrims have walked
the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, gratefully
retracing the painful steps of Jesus. The
Stations help us accept the invitation of
Jesus to take up our cross and follow
him (Matthew 16:24). Christ suffered
for us, leaving us “an example that [we]
should follow in his footsteps” (1 Peter
2:21). We are not innocent bystanders.
It is our story too. For our sins Jesus died.
From grade school on, I have been
moved by making the Way of the
Cross with others in church. I also
like to do it by myself. I can pray at
each station as long as I want. I can
open myself to what that station
means to me and how it applies to
I can identify with Jesus falling
under the weight of the cross and
struggling to get up again. I relive
times when, helpless, I have watched
a loved one in pain, as Mary did for
Jesus. Like Simon of Cyrene, I have
been reluctant to help carry the burden
of another. Like Veronica, I have
been generously rewarded for a small
act of love.
Not all 14 Stations are based in Scripture,
but they do touch our human
experience and offer a way to enter
into the suffering of Jesus. We do not
have to be in church. We can meditate
on his passion in our own way at
home, in the hospital or wherever we
St. Leonard of Port Maurice promises
what we will gain by praying the Stations: “We will be urged to repay such
great love with our own love.”
And in the drama we create, we don’t
want to imitate Mel Gibson’s film
which gave minimal time to the Resurrection.
We can’t neglect the last act,
the climax: Jesus rose from the dead! He
conquered sin and death. We don’t
want to be so absorbed in Good Friday
that we forget Easter Sunday.
Next: May Crowning