SASKATOON — A diverse crowd sang and prayed through the streets of Saskatoon on Good Friday morning, continuing the annual tradition of an outdoor Way of the Cross connecting the passion, suffering and death of Jesus Christ to injustice and suffering in today’s world.
The event began with a reflection on Jesus’ agony in the garden, in light of the agony of refugees around the world who are displaced by violence or persecution. “They know what it is to pray for some other option, to have that cup removed; yet, no matter how difficult, these courageous people arise. They stand up, and like Jesus, face what lies ahead with steadfast courage and initiative,” reflected Christine Zyla, co-ordinator of the diocesan Office of Migration in the Diocese of Saskatoon.
Frances Stang, president of the diocesan council of the Catholic Women’s League, led the reflection at the second station, Jesus’ betrayal and arrest, with a reflection about the looming legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.
“Today we are facing betrayal by those whom we should trust: our lawmakers, health care professionals, family members, our own pride and arrogance,” said Stang. “We pray for true compassion for those who face this ultimate betrayal — that they have been deemed to be not as worthy of life as others. We pray for a change of heart for those who believe it is their right to choose when to end a life.”
Members of the Saskatoon L’Arche community carried the cross to the third station, praying for welcoming and open communities that respect the dignity of all people.
Reflecting on Peter’s denial of Jesus at the fourth station, Pastor George Hind, trustee of Saskatoon Native Ministry, recalled others like Peter who have “seen justice distorted and compassion extinguished,” including indigenous peoples, as revealed through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “Against this force of history, it is difficult for First Nations people to speak. In the face of neglect, injustice and abuse they, like Peter, feel compelled to deny who they are and what they value.”
Members of the Micah Mission, an ecumenical restorative justice ministry, led the reflection and prayers at the fifth station, focusing on Jesus being judged by Pilate, and on the unhealthy thirst for vengeance in our society.
MaryAnne Morrison of the Diocesan Council for Truth and Reconciliation and Rev. Deb. Walker of the River Bend Presbytery of the United Church led reflections and prayers about murdered and missing women, affirming “there is no life that does not find its source in God. We are all struck down, wounded and broken when we fail to remember that every person is beloved by God.”
The need for palliative care and preserving the dignity of the vulnerable was the theme of prayers at the seventh station, “Jesus takes up the cross,” led by members of the Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan and the St. Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild.
Members of the Friends of Loa prayed at city hall, recalling how Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry his cross and reflecting on the call to solidarity with people around the world.
Caring for the earth as our common home was the theme of the reflection and prayers presented by Caritas Canada/Development and Peace at the ninth station. Members of Sacred Heart Chaldean Catholic Church led prayers at the 10th station, reflecting on Christian persecution around the world
The vulnerability of newcomers who come to Canada in search of peace and security was the focus of a reflection by members of Couples for Christ at the 11th station, while peace and peace-building was the theme at the 12th station. The Hispanic Catholic community then carried the cross to the 13th station for a time of silent reflection on Jesus’ death.
Faith leaders of Saskatoon led the prayers at the final station on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, reflecting how love can be at work even in moments of darkness and suffering, and looking to the hope of Easter.
“Where are the places where death reigns, and what can we do there while we wait for the bigger narrative to interrupt death’s victory?” asked Bishop Donald Bolen. “Where can we prepare the tomb and bring the spices and watch and pray in our day? How can we, as witnesses to the bigger narrative, bring hope into the places of despair, light into the darkness? And how can we be witnesses, together, of the bigger story at work, God’s story, love’s victory?”
The event concluded with the assembled reciting the Lord’s Prayer in their own language before being blessed by the faith leaders. A soup and bannock lunch prepared by Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish was served in St. Paul’s Parish hall after the event.