Journey of Faith|Stations of the Cross offer way to worship

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 27, 2010

Capt. Tyler Scheidt spends his week juggling phone calls, scheduling conferences, organizing presentations and speeches and making travel plans for his boss, Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division.

By the time Friday rolls around, Scheidt, 26, might be expected to be relaxing at home or heading out to dinner with his wife, Mary.

Instead, during Lent, the Scheidts begin their weekend at St. Paul Catholic Church, retracing, through the Stations of the Cross, the steps Jesus took to his crucifixion.

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A newcomer to Vicksburg, moving last year from his native Luverne, Minn., Scheidt says “I feel it’s very important for the continued development of my faith.”

The downtown church is among several locally that conduct Stations of the Cross during Lent, either weekly or just during Holy Week.

Called the Way of the Cross or the “Via Dolorosa,” the service includes readings, prayers and singing based on biblical accounts of the Passion, beginning with Jesus’ being condemned to die and ending with his triumphant Resurrection.

Fourteen stations placed around the church mark the path. They can be any representative art form — prints, drawings or paintings, plaques or sculptures. The last part of the service takes place at the altar.

“A ‘15th station’ of the Resurrection is added,” the Catholic service book reads, “since the Passion of Christ is meaningless unless the Resurrection is kept in mind. Passion, Death and Resurrection is the new Passover, from the death of sin to the life of freedom in love.”

Both priest or leader and the people participate.

“It gives us the opportunity to accompany Christ through his Passion, and helps us realize the sacrifice that was demanded of him to ransom us from our sins,” said lifelong St. Paul parishioner Shirley Roesch.

“It’s about making the journey of Jesus and remembering it,” said Monsignor Patrick Farrell, pastor of St. Paul. “The Stations of the Cross is a way to apply the journey of Jesus to life, and to life’s challenges to us.”

The Rev. Michael Nation, pastor of The Church of the Holy Trinity, Episcopal, said the original stations, which still draw pilgrims to the “Old City” section of Jerusalem, were established around the 15th century by Franciscan monks.

“It’s very moving to do these on Good Friday, with the hustle and bustle of the Holy City all around,” Nation said.

Gradually, the practice spread to European churches, which set up counterparts to the original plaques.

Participation in the Stations of the Cross has become extremely popular, said Nation. “They’re very flexible,” he said. “There are many different ways to tailor the meditations…to different audiences.”

Nation chooses from a number of different services or meditations for his parishioners including one written from the perspective of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and another featuring music by Aaron Neville.

“The point is for us to have an access into the events,” Nation said.

Throughout, the congregation is able to identify with Jesus’ sufferings and find strength to endure their own, Farrell said.

By the 11th station, people are reliving the point at which Jesus, nailed to the cross, asks God, “Why have you forsaken me?”

But at the 13th, as Jesus is taken down from the cross, hope and promise begin to shine.

“The point is we’re not worthy,” said Skipper Guizerix, a member of St. Michael Catholic who often attends St. Paul. “We’re not going to make it. It’s only through his suffering, in our place, that we’re called to another life.”

All but one of the stations come straight from the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ condemnation, death, burial and resurrection, Farrell said. Number six of the 14, which recalls Veronica wiping the face of Jesus as he carries his cross, is not recorded in the Gospels, but the accompanying meditation quotes from Christ’s instructions to take care of “the least of my brethren” in Matthew 25, and includes proverbs on friendship taken from the Deuterocanonical book of Sirach.

Though usually done as a congregation, the Stations are also often followed by individual parishioners with a service book and are appropriate for any time of the year, Farrell said.

Roesch hopes others, regardless of their church affiliation, will attend the Stations of the Cross and experience its message, especially during the “penitential time” that is Lent.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to relive, so to speak, that Passion and to share that with Christ,” she said. “It encourages us to grow, but also to go out, to share our faith with others.”

Contact Pamela Hitchins at