Grey skies and a rainy forecast didn’t deter hundreds of people from taking a special walk in downtown Columbus this morning.
“A Journey Toward Peace” is an annual Good Friday walk throughout Downtown that is sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Columbus and organized by its Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry and Office for Social Concerns. Participants stop at 14 locations on a three-mile route not only to recognize Jesus’ suffering as he carried his cross to his crucifixion, but also to reflect on current areas of social concern. Each stop was sponsored by a youth group from various Catholic parishes in central Ohio, including Saints Simon and Jude in West Jefferson, St. Joseph in Circleville, and St. Timothy in Columbus.
For centuries, Catholics have prayed the Stations of the Cross. This popular Lenten devotion grew in popularity as a way for pilgrims who could not travel to the Holy Land and journey to the chief places where Jesus suffered and died to make a spiritual pilgrimage in their hearts. Traditionally, the Stations are a series of 14 pictures inside a church that represent certain scenes in the Passion of Christ, before which the faithful pray and meditate. As they pass from one Station to the next, they often sing a stanza of the 13th-century hymn, “Stabat Mater.”
To begin this walking version of the Stations of the Cross, The Most Reverend Frederick F. Campbell, Bishop of Columbus, led the group in prayer at St. Joseph Cathedral. Then, they began their journey, singing “Jesus, remember me, when You come into Your Kingdom.”
At Faith Mission, they considered the plight of the homeless, then continued to the Topiary Park, also known as the Old Deaf School Park, to focus on environmental stewardship. In the vicinity of Grant Hospital, they prayed for those with illnesses, and for the injustice of abortion.
I joined the group at Nazareth Towers, an affordable housing community for low-income senior citizens. Young people from St. Peter brought issues of the elderly to mind by reading excerpts from a homily Pope Francis gave on September 28, 2014 and a quote from Blessed Mother Teresa about the importance of spending time with the elderly so they do not feel forgotten.
Then, young people from Parroquia Santa Cruz surrounded a man portraying Jesus carrying his cross and led the group to Holy Cross.
Inside this beautifully restored first Catholic church in Columbus, we thought about discrimination in society and prayed to adopt a welcoming attitude, a positive outlook towards diversity, and a better understanding of different cultures.
We also took time to think about hunger and poverty, represented by neighboring St. Lawrence Haven, a ministry of the St. Vincent de Paul Society that my cousin, Msgr. Lawrence Corcoran, helped to organize. On weekdays, the organization provides a free lunch to hundreds of needy people in the basement of the former Holy Cross School.
Young people from St. Margaret of Cortona led us as we reminded ourselves not to become impatient with ourselves when we fail and not despair over small things. “Help me when things seem difficult for me,” we prayed. “Even when it’s hard, help me get up and keep trying as you did.”
Students from Bishop Watterson High School took up the cross and led the procession past the Prayer Garden, on the north side of Holy Cross, a place for meditation where outdoor Stations of the Cross surround the original cross from the church’s original steeple.
Humming the processional tune that would remain with me throughout the day, I left the group and headed east on Town Street, as they went west on Town Street to the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund Memorial Park. There, across the street from the Greyhound bus station, they remembered runaways, refugees and human trafficking. Then, the group reflected on economic responsibility and joblessness at the Downtown business district, justice outside the Supreme Court of Ohio, and the importance of using media responsibly outside the offices of The Columbus Dispatch. On the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse, they reflected on peace and the death penalty before returning to the Cathedral to honor the Church and the need for Christ’s presence in the world.
During this Lent, I read Way of the Cross, by Pope Benedict XVI; Way of the Cross, by Pope John Paul II; and Stations of the Cross, Stations of Light, by Ann Ball, which I discovered at Holy Cross. It includes original meditations and artwork for the traditional Stations, as well as the new devotion known as the Stations of Light, or Via Lucis, which is practiced during the post-Easter liturgical period. For more on St. Lawrence Haven and the St. Vincent DePaul Society, click here to see “Feeding the hungry for more than 50 years” and “St. Vincent de Paul Society helps people close to home,” beginning on pages 5 and 6 of the September 2, 2007 issue of The Catholic Times. It includes quotes from Msgr. Corcoran and photos of our friend Bob Specht, who volunteered at St. Lawrence Haven, which is special because now they are both deceased.
I think Msgr. Corcoran would be pleased to know that my post-Easter spiritual reading will start with Apostle in a Top Hat: The Life of Frederic Ozanam, by James Patrick Derum. This is a biography of the Frenchman who founded the St. Vincent DePaul Society in 1833 and was beatified in 1997. The society’s principal objective is to advance the spirituality of its members through doing good for those in need.