BANGOR, Maine — Hundreds of Catholics re-enacted the final hours of Christ’s life along streets in Brewer and Bangor on Palm Sunday afternoon, turning heads of motorists and stopping passers-by.
It was the second consecutive year of the Way of the Cross procession, a live portrayal of the 14 Stations of the Cross, or the events leading up to Jesus’ condemnation, crucifixion and death.
Last year’s Stations of the Cross event was one of the first to be held outdoors in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, which covers the entire state. Processions of this sort are relatively hard to come by in the United States, but are common in other parts of the Catholic world, according to the Rev. Seamus Griesbach.
“I think in the United States in general we tend to have a pretty private sense of our beliefs. We don’t tend to talk about our beliefs much,” Griesbach said, adding that revealing our faith in public can make us feel vulnerable.
“We really believe that our faith is not about what we say or what we think, but also about what we do,” he said before the procession set off Sunday.
“When you follow Christ through these steps, you really kind of … make that come alive for people.”
More than 100 members of St. Paul the Apostle Parish were involved in planning and presenting the event.
Men carrying spears and dressed as legionnaires flanked Justin Vroom, who portrayed Christ in this year’s event. Vroom carried a cedar cross the two miles from Brewer’s St. Joseph’s Catholic Church to Bangor’s St. John’s Catholic Church.
“It’s a way to become more intimately familiar with what we believe,” Vroom said. “Holy Week is such a powerful time liturgically in the church.
Vroom was a legionnaire in the first Way of the Cross. The man who portrayed Jesus in the inaugural event was a legionnaire this year.
“It was incredibly powerful, incredibly moving to see that representation of the end of Christ’s life,” Vroom said. “To be able to bring that to Christians in the Greater Bangor area is something that I’ve looked forward to.”
Vroom, with his blond hair and light eyes, didn’t much resemble his long, dark-haired predecessor, but Griesbach knew he would serve well in the role.
“We can manage with a blond-haired Jesus, that’s just fine,” Griesbach said with a laugh.
Other members of the parish served in the procession as important characters to the story of Jesus’ death, townspeople, readers and altar servers.
Catholics, many carrying palm fronds from that morning’s Palm Sunday Masses, followed behind, singing “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” as they walked. The entire group stopped at pre-arranged points to enact various Stations of the Cross.
A group of volunteers had shoveled paths in parks and grassy areas along the way so the procession could access the Station sites without having to trudge through the shallow snow.
Sunday’s procession drew Catholics young and old.
“I’m proud to be a part of this,” said 13-year-old Tessa Yardley before the event. Yardley and her sister, Kira, were altar servers in the procession. The girls’ father, Shawn Yardley, the City of Bangor’s director of community health and services, portrayed Nicodemus.
“It’s something where you can show how we each have to bear our own cross,” Tessa Yardley said.
“During Holy Week, we really celebrate how Christ loved all people — all of us — even to the point of death,” Griesbach said. “And that’s the model, that’s the example for every Christian, for every Catholic.”
Stations of the Cross
1. Jesus is condemned to death.
2. Jesus takes up his cross.
3. Jesus falls for the first time.
4. Jesus meets his mother.
5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross.
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
7. Jesus falls for the second time.
8. Jesus meets the weeping women of Jerusalem.
9. Jesus falls for the third time.
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments.
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross.
12. Jesus dies on the cross.
13. Jesus is taken down from the cross and given to his mother.
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.