By Riley Manning
TUPELO – The passion of Jesus came alive for attendees of St. James Catholic Church’s annual Stations of the Cross service on Friday.
The bilingual service drew around 250 onlookers, many carrying children or holding hands in the light rain, as actors portraying Jesus, Mary, two prisoners and centurions, enacted Jesus’ last journey to Calvary.
The 13 stations recount his condemnation, the three times Jesus falls, through his removal from the cross into the arms of Mary. For attendees, to see these steps in the flesh makes the scriptures all the more real.
“I get a lot out of it,” said St. James member, Jose Ortega, who has acted in the service in previous years. “It’s way more involved. The image is a better way to actually see how it all went down. He could have set himself free any time, but he died for us.”
Father Lincoln Dall, priest at St. James, led the largely Hispanic crowd from station to station, explaining each moment in more depth. Dall said Catholics perform this service in the tiniest of Latin America’s Hispanic communities, the more rural of which lack a priest.
“It’s perfect for those kinds of situations because the Stations of the Cross service doesn’t necessarily need a priest,” he said. “Religion in Latin America is very family-based, and the service is a way for them to live out their faith and take ownership of it.”
A Stations of the Cross service has been offered at St. James each Friday of Lent, the 40-day season leading up to Easter. Dall said the practice arose around the 13th century. Up until that point, Christians traditionally traveled to the holy land in a pilgrimage to retrace Jesus’ steps. When the crusades made trips to Jerusalem unsafe, the service was conceived by St. Francis of Assisi to allow Christians the sensation of the journey without having to venture into Jerusalem.
This year, Dall said St. James drew heavily on the youth to carry out the active service.
“They did a really great job,” Dall said. “The past year or two, we’ve been trying to involve people in more leadership roles. During Lent, we’ve had a few lay people reflect personally on the gospels in front of the church, and they’ve all said it was a fulfilling experience.”