Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday in the Village

Last night, some friends and I took part in the annual Good Friday Way of the Cross through New York City's SoHo, East Village and Greenwich Village neighborhoods. It was the second year I walked in this special nighttime procession.

Leaving from St. Patrick's Old Cathedral in SoHo a little after 9 p.m., the group of about 75 (mostly) young adults set out carrying candles, tiki torches and simple wooden crosses. At the head of the procession, a seminarian carried a large image of the face of Christ.

Led by Fr. Luke Sweeney of the Archdiocese of New York Vocations Office, we prayed all 14 Stations of the Cross using prayers and meditations by St. Alphonsus Liguori.

We prayed most of the stations in front of the neighborhood's many Catholic churches, including Nativity Church and La Salle Academy, St. Stanislaus, St. George's Ukrainian, Our Lady of Pompeii and St. Veronica's. But, we also prayed stations in Tompkins Square Park, Union Square Park, in front of the Washington Square Arch and in Sheridan Square.

Remembering the unborn, we prayed the second station in front of the Planned Parenthood office on Bleecker Street. Remembering the sick, we prayed the 13th station in front of St. Vincent's Hospital.

We ended after midnight with the 14th station in front of the University Parish of St. Joseph in Greenwich Village on Sixth Avenue.

We sang as we walked between stations -- thanks in large part to two men who carried the portable amplifiers on their backs. (The biggest concern of the night may have been keeping the amplifiers dry when it started raining.) Our traveling repertoire included "O Sacred Head Surrounded," "Ubi Caritas," "What Wondrous Love Is This?," "Were You There?," "Jesus, Remember Me," "Amazing Grace" and "Open the Eyes of My Heart."

As we walked, it was fascinating to see and hear the reactions of people on the streets and in the bars and restaurants. Most were just curious. Some were encouraging. A few made fun. When asked what we we were doing, we usually responded "It's for Good Friday" or "It's the Stations of the Cross."

At one point in the West Village, my friend Shu-Fy turned to me and said, "Don't you think this is what is must have been like that day in Jerusalem? Some people would have been watching Jesus carry the cross. But other people would have just been going about their day."

Along the way, one slightly nutty guy decided to join us. A yarmulke on his head and a large silver cross on a chain around his neck, he carried a bible in his right hand preacher-style. He managed to get two young blond women dressed all in black to join us for a station.

On Seventh Street, we walked passed the storefront CityLight church. Loud, upbeat music blared from inside. It actually sounded rather fun.

A woman standing at CityLight's door called out to us, "Jesus is alive!" (Apparently, they skipped right to Easter.) We genuinely appreciated the ecumenical shout-out -- but kept on our Way of the Cross all the same.

The image above is from


HowiTown said...

In catching up on your blog after vacation, one quick thought popped out at me. Not to criticize, just to light:

First, you mentioned your friend, Shu-Fy, who made the connection between your pilgrimage and that of Jesus'.

In the next breath, you comment on a "slightly nutty" guy, complete with description.

That to me is the real connection between the two times. The people who were following Jesus on his journey, the people who were crying and distraught, shortly before witnessing their hope of a free Israel being ripped away -- these are the people that back then would have been seen as "slightly nutty" by the calmer, also believers, but possibly more conservative. They thought it was a shame and sad, but didn't see anything in their power to change it, so they walked along and watched.

Your procession was the moderate. There for a good cause, but basically just walking along. When someone different, a little less-moderate came along, he was accepted, but noted as "slightly nutty."

That's the true connection between the two times, and neither one of you recognized it.

The description of your walk and the "slightly nutty" guy also made me think of the two followers of Jesus who were on their way to Emmaus.

Jesus walked next to them and they did not recognize him.

Paul said...

Very good points, Howitown.

You're right.

In fact, in their own times, most of the Saints probably were thought of as mostly nutty. In hindsight, we sometimes call this quality "heroic virtue."