Everywhere across the globe Christian communities are participating in Holy Week traditions. Here in “mission country” St. Francis of Assisi School in Lumberton has a highly visible tradition: The Stations Walk. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect, but having just returned from this 3-mile walk with Jesus I must say that I was moved and inspired.
Jesus may not have walked 3 miles to Calvary (it was less than a mile by some accounts, and just a fraction of a mile by others), but this 3 miles is significant to this community. It became significant to me today. St. Francis Church is in Lumberton, off the Reservation, while our sister parish, St. Patrick’s, in on the Reservation in Dulce. The praying of the Stations of the Cross begins inside St. Francis Church and ends inside St. Patrick’s with a 15th Station, The Empty Tomb. Between the two Catholic churches we stop along the way to reflect on each of the 14 Stations.
Along the way I tried to help keep people off the road and kids out of arroyos and ditches. I also tried to remain reflective and prayerful. Difficult! I was reminded of the marches with the CIW that I participated in while in Florida; walk at a slow pace, three-by-three, and pass out water and snacks along the way. God bless the wise elders in our Dulce community for the donated water, juice & oranges at Stations 4 & 8!
Our Jesus was rather fit this year. By the 3rd station many of us were lagging far behind, huffing and puffing, and ready to jump in the “rescue Jeep” leading our procession. At Jesus’ pace we would have reached St. Patrick’s by 10:30 instead of the estimated noon-time arrival! With a gentle suggestion, a bit of pace-correction, and a firm teacher gaze, we soon settled into a more prayerful pace that suited the older participants, one pregnant mother, and several families pushing strollers.
Once I was able to breath again, relax, and observe (I’m getting over a severe sinus infection this week), I noticed amazing things on this journey. First I found myself toward the end of the 130+ procession imagining myself actually following Jesus on his way to Calvary. That made me want to cry. Then, just as we began to climb a slight incline, I realized that I couldn’t see Jesus, but I could see the tip of the cross. I found myself calling to children who were straying off the path “Keep your eyes on Jesus! Stay on the path!” Soon I found that I couldn’t see Jesus or the cross. At first I felt a sense of loss and even fear, but then I realized something amazing. We were all moving forward and following Jesus. I reflected on my own life and what happens so often in everyone’s life. How often do we lose sight of Jesus? How often do we lose our way? How often do we feel lost and alone? The best thing to do is to find people who are on the path following Jesus, and follow them. When I feel lost and struggling with my faith and hope, I should always look to those whose faith is strong for help. Eventually I will find Jesus again and be given strength for the journey.
Another gift I found on this Stations Walk is a woman named Dulley! She subbed for me so that I could be with my family when my grandmother died in late January. I love this Apache woman! What an amazing spirit! She walked the whole way & brought the oranges earlier on our walk today. When nature called, she stopped at a gas station in Dulce and picked up a mother and her two young girls from Boulder, CO who were just passing through. Several others in Dulce joined our procession around the 12th Station. Again I imagined what Jesus’ actual journey must have been like. I imagined those who knew Jesus and who had followed him for the last three years following him on this last journey. Then I imagined people who didn’t know Jesus asking “What’s happening here?” During the last 3 Stations I saw several faces that I had not seen before; rather like the workers in the vineyards. It doesn’t matter when we arrive to help, we all are called to do the Father’s work, and we are all invited to share in God’s love.
So, in the end I thoroughly enjoyed the 3-mile Stations Walk followed by this evening’s Holy Thursday Mass. I think the key to any of the Triduum traditions is to cast yourself in the role of someone who may have actually been there. Mary Magdalene is my patron saint. At the end of mass this evening I found myself in church, almost alone, feeling very much like Mary Magdalene at the tomb; lost and uncertain. As the Gomez family was locking the Sacristy and getting ready to leave, I asked if they were locking up the church or coming back later to lock up. I said that I would go home if they were locking up, but if nobody was staying with Jesus, I didn’t want to leave. This was a new feeling. It was decided to lock up the church, go home and prepare for Good Friday. I truly felt like Mary Magdalene without her Lord.
This was by far one of the richest Holy Thursday I have ever experienced.