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The Way of the Cross as pilgrimage
In fact, the Way of the Cross is the most sublime pilgrimage in human history because it was the pilgrimage of God himself which did three unforgettable acts for the whole humanity – it sanctified the way, it sanctified the cross, and it sanctified Calvary, Golgotha, the place of skull.
By Joe Palathunkal
It is in Gujarat I first came across such a devotional practice – making the Way of the Cross, a pilgrimage. One day I heard a Gujarati Catholic announcing in my parish church at Naroda, Ahmedabad, inviting people to give names for visiting 14 churches during Lent for the Way of the Cross. In each church people will pray the fourteen stations of the Cross and will move to the next. For the last ten years or so, they have been continuing this practice.
This year 50 of the parishioners from my Saint Antony’s parish went for this devotion to a hill station church in Maharashtra, on the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, travelling seven hours at night. They visited other churches while returning.
I don’t know how this practice started among the Catholics of Gujarat, perhaps it might have been introduced by the Spanish Jesuit missionaries who established the Catholic church in the state around 1600 AD, or it may be inspired by the Hindus who keep on going for pilgrimage to different temples on foot. Whatever may be the origin, I found it a beautiful devotional practice.
Such a pilgrimage makes the Way of the Cross a popular devotional exercise. When more and more people from other parishes see this, they too are inspired to do this devotion or replicate this practice. Remembering the Passion of the Christ in this way, makes them to look into deeply the sufferings Jesus went through for his vision and action for the liberation of humankind.
Visit to different churches establishes a bond between people of two parishes and it reinforces the catholicity of the Catholic Church. It also reminds them that they are members of a pilgrim church, a church that is in constant journey even bearing the crosses that historical imperatives bring before it.
Pilgrims will learn the courage and grace with which Jesus moved towards Calvary because he loved us with a love that did not waver. Courage is the hallmark of true love. Every station of the Cross tells us in a powerful way the Greatest Story Ever Told. It will make us ask the question like the fleeing Peter, Quo Vadis, and will tell us that running away from the cross is not the Christian way. When we do the Way of the Cross as a pilgrimage, the meaning of the Cross in its numerous hues sinks into our soul giving us a new strength and a new perspective.
In fact, the Way of the Cross is the most sublime pilgrimage in human history because it was the pilgrimage of God himself which did three unforgettable acts for the whole humanity – it sanctified the way, it sanctified the cross, and it sanctified Calvary, Golgotha, the place of skull; and changed human outlook towards suffering, and Cross became a universal symbol of healing prominently being displayed in hospitals and medical institutions.
A pilgrimage like this will help us to understand the multiple and deeper meanings of the cross. It would be a good practice if people follow this practice of Gujarati Catholics elsewhere also.
(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)
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