Stations in the Street takes church outside the walls and into the city
Today, all believers can make a spiritual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, through prayer and meditation upon Stations of the Cross depicting scenes of Christ’s sufferings and death. And, they can do this right in their own church – or, nowadays, from their smartphone.
The Stations of the Cross can be deeply meaningful to the faithful. However, for many believers, it can be easy to lose sight of how the Stations connect with our daily lives. This is certainly true for people who do not attend church. It can be equally true for those of us who follow in the footsteps of Saints Vincent and Louise.
The suffering of Jesus seems so…familiar
Scott Erickson, an artist in Portland, Oregon, was inspired to bring the Stations of the Cross outside the walls of the church. His Stations in the Street invite participants to walk the road to Calvary in a fresh way.
I think our deepest question isn’t, “Is God real?” I think our deepest question is, “Is God really in the midst of all of this?”
In Erickson’s Stations, Jesus experiences the worst of human suffering. And yet, the suffering Jesus endures seems so…familiar. He is tempted. He suffers the betrayal of a friend. He is mocked and misunderstood. He is condemned in an unjust legal system. Finally, he comes face to face with the thing that most of us fear most, which is dying. The Stations in the Street invite those who meditate upon its scenes to connect Jesus’ suffering two thousand years ago with the the suffering of so many today.
We journey with fresh eyes and ears
As members of the Vincentian Family, these connections are key. We recognize that we live in a sinful world badly in need of God’s love. We strive to meet those who suffer with merciful hearts. We pray that we might see the crucified Jesus in them. And yet, it is so easy to miss the crucified Jesus in our world.
The Stations in the Street invite us to journey to Calvary with eyes and ears freshly opened. They invite us to recognize Christ in new situations, in the lives of different people – and, perhaps, even among individuals or groups we have already judged and condemned.
We should pray God to give us a true spirit of mercy, which is in truth the spirit of God. – Vincent dePaul
Human suffering is not hard to find. Homeless veterans live on our streets. Elderly men and women receive Social Security benefits, but still are forced to choose between buying groceries or paying for their prescriptions. Men, women and children are victims of violence. Families work hard, living paycheck to paycheck, but are just one emergency away from financial ruin. Many are jobless or underemployed.
The “crucified” of today speak Spanish, English, Creole – indeed, all languages. They come from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, and religious traditions. And yet, even those of us who minister to the poor can fail to recognize the crucified Jesus in our midst. The Stations in the Street provide an opportunity for God to surprise us.
As sons and daughters of Saints Vincent and Louise, the Stations in the Street ultimately call us from meditation and prayer to concrete service. This calling is not easy. The Cross of Jesus confronts us with the evil of sin. It takes us to places we would rather avoid. Indeed, it is much easier to ponder sin in the abstract than to confront the ugly, often brutal, reality of human suffering.
For Scott Erickson, the crucified Jesus is “right there in our shoes.” He dwells today in our world, in our neighborhoods, and often in our homes. He lives in people who experience suffering, injustice, and exclusion- even though we often fail to see him in these people.
Yet, after experiencing indifference and injustice, and an agonizing death on the Cross, Jesus is victorious. In the end, the Stations in the Street reveal how the Cross symbolizes God’s merciful love and what God can accomplish in the face of even the worst of human sinfulness.
For followers of Saints Vincent and Louise, the Stations in the Street provide a chance to journey to Calvary with fresh ears and eyes. They invite us to recognize the crucified Christ in new places and among different people. We pray, this Good Friday, that we may meet these people with merciful hearts.
Close-ups of the images Scott Erickson created are found on his website, scottericksonart.com. He makes them available to anyone who may want to bring the Stations in the Street to their own communities.