In many cities around the United States, communities of the Communion and Liberation movement hosted processions of the Way of the Cross on Good Friday. This particular version of the Way of the Cross is based on one Fr. Giussani used and focuses on the Passion account from the Gospel of St. Matthew. (Visit Stephen's blog, Being or Nothingness!, to read some of the texts we use.)
This was our second year hosting a Way of the Cross through the downtown streets of Chicago, this time from Daley Plaza, through the Loop to Millennium Park, up Michigan Avenue to the Water Tower, and then finally to Holy Name Cathedral. (Here are two links to posts on last year's version.) As soon as I have pictures, I will add them to this post. It was a beautiful gesture and I was struck by many things.
First, I was struck by the grace of God. We had tried to obtain a permit (although one was not needed for the event) because we hoped to have assistance from the police in crossing the busy intersections. Well, as should surprise no one who is familiar with our city government, we never received an official response to our permit application. In fact, the city lost it. (But not before taking the check for the application review fee out of the envelope and cashing it. Nice, huh?) We chose to take it as a blessing, on the assumption that it was better to have no answer than to get an official "no" to an event that didn't need a permit in the first place. Half way through the procession, some police were near an intersection that we were crossing. And of course, we had trouble getting through the intersection because of cars not following the signals, creating a backup of cars making a left-hand turn onto the street that we were trying to cross. Momentary worry that we were all going to be told to disband was cast aside as the two police officers cleared the cars through the intersection and then stopped traffic to let us through. They followed our procession the rest of the way, stopping traffic each time so that we could cross the streets. Apparently, someone handed our program to them when they were near us and they saw the letter from Cardinal George inside the cover, giving his blessing to the event. It was all these good officers needed to see to decide to help us. So where normal means failed to obtain us a police escort, Providence stepped in!
Second, I was struck by how many people joined us. We had probably twice the crowd of last time and there were quite a few people who joined us along the way. I saw a Franciscan friar from St. Peter's join us for most of the journey. Friends from the neighboring CL communities in Peoria, IL and Milwaukee, WI made the pilgrimage to Chicago to join us. Fr. Mayall, the pastor of the Cathedral, welcomed us to use the Marian courtyard as the place of our last station and joined us. It was a wonderful expression of the connectedness of our witness to Christ's passion with that of our local Church and Bishop, and that of the whole Church.
It was also quite striking to see the expressions of the people that we passed by. Some had expressions of shock. But for many, there either was a certain expression of approval or quiet acknowledgment that they were being reminded by our public display of the meaning of this day.
Fr. Agostino came from D.C. to preside over the Way of the Cross. He commented that he thought during our procession that maybe the reason for why Christ had to suffer in such a public and dramatic way was to make visible for us the depths of God's love for us. Because, as Fr. Agostino said, for men and women if they do not see something it often is as if it did not exist. Thus, through our gesture of the Way of the Cross, we were contributing to the Church's continued witness to that love, the continuation of the effort to make that love visible to all.
And this making of Christ's love visible through our procession of the Way of the Cross didn't just stop on Good Friday. As it happens, a few photographers showed up. Splashed on the front page of the Chicago Sun Times this morning, a large photograph of our procession as we made our way up Michigan Avenue, with the caption:
"Way of the Cross winds through city: People walk during the second annual Way of the Cross procession from Daley Center Plaza to Holy Name Cathedral. The event, organized by the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation, included the re-enactment of Christ's walk to Calvary."